Marcus Veda IS THE MAN ON THE MAT
One-Legged Fierce (aka Chair) Pose (Eka Pada Utkatasana)
As I get older, dad-asana (postures which allow me to get down and play with my two-year-old) are increasingly becoming key poses for my daily practice. Eka Pada Utkatasana is a peak pose for actively opening the hips, a gluteal stretch that improves core strength, proprioception and balance, strengthens the legs, ankles and feet, preventing falls, plus gives us heightened focus and concentration (dharana). It’s a great preparatory pose for arm-balancing postures such as Eka-Pada Galavasana (which I cannot do without this one first and at l east 3 0 minutes warm-up). For me, this is a much more beneficial pose than the often more popular one-legged pigeon on the floor as it is an active stretch where you control the pressure, rather than a passive stretch on the floor at the mer cy of gr avity and bone structure.
The top foot can put pressure into the ankle and, worse, the knee. The top ankle should be kept ‘everted’ and the f oot flex ed to dir ect the movement to the outer hip. It should be the ankle, not the foot, pressing into the standing leg. This is not an ankle or knee stretch so you should not be feeling it in these areas at all; stability is key. As with many poses, concern with ‘how deep you can get’ can override the focus and awareness of sensation at a more subtle edge. Go for quality not quantity.
Sit ‘back’ into an imaginary chair to activate the glutes. Push the top ankle down to activate the stretch (rather than passively resting it there). Bring the chest towards the shin as the seat moves back to get lengthening in the spine and more juice to that outer hip. Keep the knee on standing leg tracking over the toes, not over to one side, and ideally so you can still see them (i.e. not too far forward). With hands in prayer you can add benefits f or the back as well , countering the forward slump, strengthening often weak upper back muscles, increasing scapular control. (Add to the engag ement of the back muscl es with ‘airplane’ arms outstretched.)
Focus on the breath while spreading your awareness around the whole body, not just the ache of the leg or glute. Establish a stable connection through the foot on the ground: root down, and lift the gaze without falling forward. Keep anjali mudra (prayer to chest) lifting so the awareness can move from the base of the spine (muladhara) up through anahata to the crown
Marcus Veda’s retreats and trainings can be found at marcusvedayoga.com and his new book ‘How To Win at Yoga’ with Hannah Whittingham is out on Penguin this month