On Wednesdays our Chair Yoga practice usually revolves around strengthening the core, through abdominal exercises (traditional and non-traditional) and exploring the ideas of reinforcing our center. I read a word today that I found intriguing when in comes to describing personal power and strength: resolve. I like the way it implies fortitude and resilience but also a flexibility/malleability, stick-to-it-ive-ness but also level-headedness about itself. Also, a carpet cleaner (respective of nothing related to yoga, but funny).
Bearing that idea in mind, I suggested that everyone perhaps find an affirmation that reflected their own sense of power, whether it be something akin to "I am strong," or anything that was uplifting, to help celebrate, reinforce, and focus on the idea of fortifying our passion and strength.
We sat quietly for 10 long inhales and exhales, with the suggestion to speak aloud their affirmation/mantra, then sit quietly while we waited for the group.
I then read a passage "chair pose" (Utkatasana) and how it embodies this resolve and strength, but also requires an awareness of not putting in too much effort, to understand what your "edge" is.
On the beneficial side, Utkatasana done mindfully is a wonderful energy generating pose that conditions the leg muscles, core muscles, works balance (esp. standing version), builds endurance, mobilizes the leg joints, hips, shoulders, creates mental focus (drshti) and preps the body for more work. It takes practice and mindful resolve to know how, what, and when to commit to each and every action.
There are a number of caveats with the physical posture-including and certainly not limited to being mindful of knee placement and bend, low back position to ensure no lordosis nor slouch, shoulder position to ensure upper back health, head and neck position - and on top of that utilizing the breath to maintain a steady heart rate and keep blood pressure even while not fatiguing the glutes, hamstrings, etc.
Even in a chair, this pose can be "overdone" with too much flexion at the hips, which could create low back issues, strain in the shoulders or neck, or stress the hip flexors. One might start clenching their jaw, round their shoulders, and/or end up creating body alignment that harms rather than helps. A pose of this intesity needs extra mindfulness!
All the sequences and postures I led in class were tied back to power of chair pose. One basic exercise was awareness of the movement of the transverse abs (I can thank my Physical Therapist for that). We had a seated sequence that combined arms overhead, with single knee lifts to target our transverse abdominals. We had a standing sequence that moved us from chair pose, to lunges, to single leg lifts to challenge balance, but also (yes) to target the abdominals and also draw awareness to the psoas.
We even tackled a 60-second plank (class is on Zoom with no cameras to students so I have no idea if anyone else did this with me, but I walked the walk!), focusing on the power in our center and as always, coming out of the pose if there is any undo strain. We do not develop our strength and power through pain, or force; we must be aware of how we work our body.
We then went back to our chairs and did some seated lunges with side bends and twists to help open up those psoas and side body muscles, and even the quads. After building the heat, now we wanted to start let the fire die down a bit.
Our ending sequence brought us back to where we started, sitting with our power, reflecting on our affirmations. After seeing how powerful our bodies are, I reminded everyone, always take the time to thank it, honor it, breathe. I repeated for them my affirmation which was "I am strong." Why should we resolve to be any less?