One thing is for certain about chair pose, students have a definite preference for either keeping their feet together or standing with their feet hip width apart. Both of these variations can be safe for our knees, but not if we try to combine the two. By that I mean, if you are going to start with your feet hip width apart, your knees will need to stay tracking over your ankles. Don’t cave your knees in to touch each other just because half the class is doing that! That is a prescription for injury to the ligaments along the inside of the knee (Medial Collateral Ligament)! I’m perfectly happy to see a wide-base chair pose, but you bet I’m going to correct you the minute your feet start to roll in and your knees follow inward. Just like when you do a squat, most people need to think about an active “pressing out” of the knees, generated from the lateral quads and the abductor muscles along the outer legs and hips.
The second major alignment fault that I observe frequently is when students lean their weight too far forward over their feet, this forces most of the load through the ligaments and soft tissues of the knee. If you can shift your weight back (like you were actually going to sit *back* in a chair), your bodyweight is better supported by the bones of your legs since your knees are stacked closer to vertical over your feet. Bones are designed to support weight. Muscles and ligaments are designed to move bones and control how far they move. Which would you choose to support your weight? My bet is on bones!
One bonus tip, if a chair pose twist comes next in the sequence, you will have better luck starting the twist in the chair pose variation where your feet are together. Once you twist, look at the front of your knees. If you are twisted to the left, your right knee wants to scoot forward. Inch it back so it’s even with your left knee.
Now that we know how to “sit”, let’s look at how to “stand” in Friday’s pose: warrior II.
Photo attributions: Chair pose By lululemon athletica (Flickr: Utkatasana is back) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Chair pose 2By lululemon athletica (Flickr: Utkatasana Side View) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons