The BEST Squats - Uktasana (chair pose)
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There are many movements in yoga that create opportunities for varying degrees of knee flexion (bending the knee), few however go below 90 degrees. One particular yoga posture, chair pose or uktasana mimics a squat without weights. In this particular posture, knee flexion never goes below 90 degrees, and the heels remain on the floor. Chair pose would equate to a partial squat or a parallel squat at the extreme. This abbreviated range of motion existing typically between 100-130 degrees of knee flexion is supported by much literature as a safe zone for squats for healthy maintenance, less stress, shear force and ligament strain on the knee joint [1,2,3].
Entry into the pose from neutral standing (feet hip width apart) is a controlled synchronous movement between trunk and legs much like back squats. In a strong chair pose, knee flexion would approximate 90-100 degrees with corresponding trunk/hip flexion between 60-80 degrees, flat spine, with anterior pelvic tilt (sit bones draws back), and arms actively reaching in a forward-to-upward position or hands held together at the chest. Imagine a zig-zag from a lateral view. Done correctly, the lower flexion angles for knee and trunk are inter-related. As with squats in the weight room, the degrees of flexion can change considerably depending on training, capability, and goals [1,3].
Chair pose can generate considerable conscious action throughout the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius and gluteus maximus muscles [1,2,3] as well as activate core body stabilizers (abdominals and spinal; via global contraction). Research has shown that muscular activity during dynamic squats increases in quadriceps (rectus femoris, vasti muscles) and gastrocnemius as flexion angle decreases and as flexion increases, the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, activity increases [2,3]. Chair pose like squats are stimulating and strengthening and are considered a staple in yoga movements [2,3].
 Lecture on Squat Depth, Dr. Rhea, Functional Biomechanics. A.T. Still University
 Escamilla, R. (2001). Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33(1), 127-141.
 Schoenfeld, Brad. The biomechanics of squat depth. National Strength and Conditioning Association, Hot Topic series. nsca-lift.org
About the Author
Mia Taylor is the Founder and President of The Yoga Learning Center, which has provided yoga online instruction for over 8 years.
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