Chair Pose (Utkatasana) is excellent for building strength in your thighs and stretching out stiff shoulders.
(Pronounced as "oot-kah-TAHS-anna")
In Sanskrit, utkata means "fierce" or "powerful." Here you build a lot of stamina quickly by sitting on an imaginary chair.
Stand up straight in Tadasana. Your feet are together, legs straight, chest lifted, shoulders rolled back and down. Now on an inhalation, raise your arms up straight above the head so that your fingers point toward the ceiling. Keeping your shoulders back, extend up and join your palms together.
As you exhale, bend your knees down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. If you cannot descend this far, then just hold the position when you've bent down as far as you can.
While descending, keep your chest lifted with your arms behind your ears. Although your arms will want to come forward, keep pushing them back and extending them up.
The knees will extend in front of the feet somewhat, and your torso does lean slightly forward. However, the goal is to try to form a right angle between your thighs and torso. Keep your feet flat on the floor with your weight more on your heels.
Tuck your shoulder blades firmly into your back to give your arms the support they need to extend up fully in the air above you. Extend your back up all the way from the tailbone through the tops of your fingers. Your tailbone should not curve back; rather, the tailbone elongates and points down toward the floor.
Breathe normally. Hold this position for 30 seconds. When you become more proficient in this posture, then you can gradually practice holding it for longer amounts of time.
Inhale as you straighten your knees to come out of the pose. Exhale as you drop your arms back down to your sides in Tadasana once more.
To help train your thigh muscles to support you more, place a yoga block in between your thighs just above your knees. Squeeze the block tightly with your legs as you bend down into Chair Pose.
The secret to holding your balance in Chair Pose is to keep your weight on your heels without letting your chest collapse forward. One way to get this feeling is to press your palms together behind your back in Namaskar position as you hold Chair Pose. This way, your hands force your chest to stay lifted and open while you restrain your shoulders from caving forward. You can also hold your elbows behind your back with your hands if you can't press your palms together behind your shoulder blades.
Lift yourself up on the balls of your feet while bending your knees. Then sit down with your buttocks on your lifted heels. Stretch your arms forward to balance, keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
As you practice Chair Pose, ask a partner to help press your heels down into the ground using their hands.
The best way to learn yoga is to take lessons from a professional teacher. Want to see the yoga classes near you?