Utkatasana is a great blend of strengthening the legs as you squat while keeping your heart open as you lift your arms to the sky. Add in a twist to each side for great cleansing benefits as you release energy and massage the internal organs. It builds a lot of heat in the body, and fast!
Benefits (from yogajournal.com)
Strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
Stretches shoulders and chest
Stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Stand with your feet together, with your big toes touching. Beginners can stand with their feet hip-distance apart.
Inhale and raise your arms above your head.
Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your torso will form approximately a right angle over your thighs.
Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears. Do not puff your ribcage forward. Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long.
Bring your hips down even lower and lift through your heart. There will be a slight bend in your upper back.
Shift your weight into your heels. Enough weight — approximately 80 percent — should be transferred to your heels so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to.
Spread your shoulder blades apart. Spin your pinky fingers toward each other so your palms face each other, rotating your arms outward through your thumbs.
Gaze directly forward. For a deeper pose, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.
To come into a twist, take your left elbow to your right thigh looking over your right shoulderTo go deeper, open out your arms like you were going to give someone (yourself) a big hug
If you have more shoulder flexibility, press your palms together overhead.
It can be challenging to bring weight into the heels at first. To help learn this weight distribution, practice the pose near a wall. Stand with your back a few inches away from the wall. As you bend into the pose, your tailbone should be only slightly supported by the wall.
For a deeper challenge, lift onto the balls of your feet with your knees bent. Extend your arms straight forward and sit your butt even lower toward your heels.
Use a yoga block between the thighs to increase thigh strength (think thigh master!)
Hands to hips for stability
Women who are pregnant should stand with their feet as far apart as necessary for balance.
If your arms are not yet strong enough to maintain an overhead hold, extend your arms forward at shoulder-height instead. Reach directly forward through your fingertips. Practice this way until you can straighten both arms and extend them overhead.
If you have shoulder pain in this pose, bring your palms together in prayer position, resting your thumbs at your sternum.