Awkward Pose

News 31 October 2012

Awkward Pose is the third posture in the Bikram series. This posture activates every muscle in the body. Awkward pose prepares the muscular system for the entire class. Your arms and legs may burn like crazy for a while, but the more you practice and find your strength, the more you will be able to sustain this posture.

The background:

  • Utkata = above the usual, intense, heavy
  • Asana = posture

The exercise: There are three parts in Awkward Pose.

Awkward Pose

For the first part it is like you are sitting in a chair (no higher and no lower than the - imaginary - chair), with your feet flat and the weight on your heels. At the same time you are stretching your fingers forwards, towards the mirror.

Like my mentor Mary (Jarvis) from San Francisco says: “Your fingers are reaching forward and your hips backward, but I can’t see it!”. You keep your balance by reaching your fingers forward and sitting your buttocks back as much as possible.

Make sure your hips are in the chair and your spine is backward bending. Ideally your knees stay above your heels/ankles (the tendency is to let the move knees forward, towards the mirror).

Keep your toes, heels, knees and hands about 15 centimeters apart throughout the posture. The posture helps improve the alignment in ankles, knees an hips.

Should the list of benefits below fail to convince you of the importance of this pose: this anecdote might just do the trick…

“Ladies, specifically, are familiar the burden of using public toilets. Public toilets are hazardous cubby-holes to be navigated with extreme caution. Techniques are taught at an early age to endure the hardships, but no amount of nest-building prowess has ever prepared you for the horrors of the late-night bar.

The scenario: You accompany three of your friends to an after-dinner drink. After an unusually classy evening, you are in heels(!!!), the comfortable atmosphere is perfect, low lighting, easy banter and the drinks are about as chill as you are feeling. After an hour you excuse yourself from your sedate surroundings. You push open an unassuming wooden door to find yourself within the ranks of hell. Wet toilet paper litters the floor and the toilet seat looks as if a blind person has been shooting it with a water pistol for months….and it must have been a Super-Soaker 100.

You build a nest 13 layers thick knowing that it is no match for the pestilence laying beneath it. Then, calm comes over you. You have got this. Thinking back to your yoga class, you strike a pose. The thigh strength and balance you have been building over the course of your practice has paid off. You wash your hands and exit the restroom (using a paper towel on the handle as you leave) with buttocks as fresh as when you walked in. Congratulations. You have conquered plague with yoga.”


For the second part it is important to focus on one spot in front of you. This will help maintain your balance. Then stand on your toes as high as possible, keeping your spine long and straight and sit down until your thighs come parallel to the floor. You should still be on your toes, with your spine perfectly straight (Bikram says: “Like you are leaning agains The Great Wall of China behind you.”). Pull your belly in, focus on your lower abdomen and let the posture be sustained from here. For the third part of the posture: Stand on your toes a little and bring your knees together. For this part also, keep your spine straight (leaning against the same “wall” as in the second part). Come down slowly until you have a five centimeter gap between your hips and your heels. Push your knees down and forward, thighs parallel to the floor, spine long and straight. The momentum of the spine is moving continuously upward and your hips stay off your heels. This part is very good for the knees, your coordination and your balance.

The benefits:

  • Improves circulation in knee, toe and ankle joints
  • Helps relieve rheumatism, arthritis and gout in the legs
  • Helps cure slipped disc and lumbago in lower spine
  • Improves alignment in the legs, preventing lower back pain
  • Increases hip joint flexibility
  • Strengthens and firms muscles in upper arms, thighs, calves and hips
  • Increases hip joint flexibility
  • Tones arms, getting rid of fat deposits under the arms
  • Reduces fat under the buttocks
  • Reduces flat feet, bunions and bowed legs
  • Relieves menstrual cramps
  • Cures chronically cold feet

10 Tips to improve your Awkward Pose:

For all 3 parts:

  1. Keep your breathing calm, in and out through your nose. Sounds simple enough, but because of the strength you require from your legs here, it is common to hold your breath; effectively cutting off your own energy supply.
  2. Stay in the posture. You must make up your mind (even before you go into the posture), not to give up. Your mind will play tricks on you here. Remember, the longer you stay in, the faster you will get stronger, the easier it gets.
  3. Suck your stomach in by pulling you belly button in and back (towards the front of your spinal cord). This helps you keep length in your spine and stabilizes your posture (especially in 2nd and 3rd part).
  4. Keep your shoulders down, away from your ears.
  5. Keep your arms straight, stretching forward (the more energy you keep in the arms, the lighter your arms will feel). When you focus more on the arms, it will take away some of the discomfort in your legs.
  6. Keep five fingers of each hand together; this helps your balance. For the first part:
  7. Think: Buttocks back and down and chest up at the same time (creating a back bend in your lower spine). The challenge is to keep your buttocks down (“on the chair”) when you lift your chest up. For the second part:
  8. Once you sit down, only come higher on the toes; this will help take the pressure off you knees and get your knees in line with your hips. For the third part:
  9. Keep pushing your knees together and down (hips slightly higher than your knees); this gives you more control and balance and takes the pressure off your knee joints. For the second and third part:
  10. Keep your eyes forward at all times; this helps maintain your balance.