Fierce is defined as: a feeling, emotion or action, showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.
Powerful and intense are two accurate adjectives to describe chair pose. Chair pose has many aliases such as utkatasana, awkward pose and my personal favorite, fierce pose. This pose was my nemesis when I think back to our first encounters.
In the early days of my yoga practice, the teacher would call out the pose and instruction and I would inwardly groan. My legs would go weak and wobbly and I would soon succumb to the burning, painful sensation and straighten them out. I would tap out every time, giving up because it got too uncomfortable. It seemed like I couldn’t hold the pose for very long and I believed my thoughts that said, “You can’t.”
You know what they say about believing your own thoughts—they’re not always true. Many times, the ego starts to feed you these stories—often negative ones—and they replay in your mind. “You can’t do it. You’re not strong enough. You’re not enough.” We all know how that repetitive pattern of negativity goes.
Through yoga practice and this particular pose, I experienced this. I became aware of the messages that I was believing. I began to question these false messages. Why couldn’t I do it? Why not me? What was stopping me? The messages and thoughts turned to, “I am strong. I can survive the discomfort. It is temporary. I’m capable of doing anything I choose to do.”
I began to sink deeper into my chair pose and focus on my breath. Whatever discomfort I encountered taught me that my breath would get me through it—through anything. And it does. When I’m upset or anxious, I go back to my breath. At first, I feel a gut reaction and my stomach starts to tie in knots but then I catch myself. I notice this and I turn to my breath.
Once I began to embrace fierce pose, I began to tap into my inner strength and courage. I began to embody that fierceness that the pose is aptly named after. I would smile and encourage myself to dig deep. Yes, you can do it. Sit into it. Keep breathing. You are strong. You can. These became the new messages. Chair pose symbolizes a fierce belief in yourself. You are only as strong as you believe you are. You are only as capable as you believe you are. What falsehoods is your mind telling you? What are you choosing to believe about yourself?
There’s an opportunity for growth when we move through the pain and discomfort of life.
A change in the way that I approached challenges came with time. Rather than run away from challenges, we can learn to move through them, learning something new about ourselves along the way. I’ve made friends with my dear chair pose because it has taught me that I’m strong and fierce. I can handle the challenge and discomfort. The painful burn is temporary. Even if it feels like the pose drags on for what seems like an eternity, in the scope of things, it’s really a nanosecond. What lasts is the persistence and intensity with which you pursue anything in life. I now accept challenges with grace and ease.
In life, I apply this to the tough situations. I’m getting the best training on my mat for real life. When I’m uncomfortable, rather than operating out of fear, I choose to trust and move forward with confidence. I look back at all of the challenging experiences in my life and how much I was able to learn as a result. Many times, as a young mom and navy spouse, I didn’t know how I could manage. My husband was deployed over the years and I managed to raise kids, complete my degree and work. When I was in it, just like when I was in fierce pose, I didn’t know I could do it. But, I persevered and I kept moving.
Through my practice of self-love, I continue to shut down every last one of those limiting “hater” thoughts in my head. As I shut them down, the floodgates open, allowing me to give loving kindness, compassion and patience to myself. I’ve learned more about myself and my inner resilience as a result. Initially, I felt it most on the physical, primal level. That was all superficial. But, then as I went deeper I learned that I had control over my thought patterns. I could overcome the limiting beliefs as I exposed the deep conditioning and patterns. Over time, I began to embody the pose.
Now, I’m able to share the experience with my own students in my yoga classes, knowing that it’s a gift. To be able to stamp out the self-doubt and tap into our limitless potential is a gift. To continue to learn and grow is a gift. To look at each experience as an opportunity to learn and grow is a gift.
These virtues of self-love and compassion will endure much longer than a little ache in my thighs. So, I sit deeper in my utkatasana, as fierce as a warrior, calmly breathing, making it look easy with a soft Buddha smile on my lips.
Author: Karla Rodas
Editor: Catherine Monkman