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Five Pillars Yoga

Yoga Lab: Warrior What?

Breaking Down Warrior One + Warrior Two

Aside from Down Dog, Virabhadrasana I and II are some of the most commonly practiced asanas in a yoga class. This doesn’t mean they’re easy. In my mind, Virabhadrasana I is one of the most challenging postures out there — it’s a potpourri blend of stability, balance, flexibility, alignment, strength and grace. Try embodying all of those things in just one inhale and exhale before dropping to the floor for chaturanga. That’s not to say that these poses aren’t great in a flow, but it’s important to break them down first, and really understand how they feel in your body, before throwing them into the vinyasa mix.

Warrior One

warrior one

Feet: Hip-width distance (or wider) apart. The common analogy here is a train track. Place your feet wide, one on each track, to allow your hips to square to the front of the mat. If your hipbones had headlights, they’d be beaming out straight in front of you. Pro tip: If coming into this posture from downward facing dog, place your right foot to the outside of your right hand (or left foot, left hand) before coming to stand. That way you’re already starting the pose with a wide base.

Back foot: Toes angled in, toward the top corner of your mat, at a roughly 45-degree angle. The outer edge (pinkie toe-side) of the foot is pressing into the mat.

Legs: Front-knee bent at a ninety-degree angle, knee over ankle. To ensure your knee isn’t collapsing in, look down and make sure you can smile at your front big toe. The back leg is really where it’s at in this posture. The inner seam of the leg is going to want to sink toward the floor. Resist the temptation and press up from the inner arch. Take a tiny bend in the back knee to avoid locking it, and think about turning the kneecap and the inner thigh flesh up and out, away from the opposite leg.

Hips: Square! Or with the intention of square. They may never get there, and that’s okay.

Upper body: Arms raised, shoulders down the back, gaze at your thumbs. Angels sing.

Warrior Two 

warrior two

Feet: Get off the train tracks and find a tightrope. Here the feet are in one line: The heel of the front foot bisects the arch of the back, which means you’ll have to do a little shuffle to get your feet into position if coming into Warrior Two from Warrior One. The angle of the back toes is the same as in Warrior One.

Legs: Back leg is long and strong. Play with increasing the distance between your feet, from the top of the mat to the back. You may be able to bend a little bit more deeply into the front knee. Check out your first few toes.

Hips: Warrior Two is a hip opener, and the action comes from allowing your thighs to open out and away from each other. A strong foundation in the legs will allow you to sink safely into the hips. Tuck your tailbone underneath you instead of letting your butt poke out behind you, and again, ensure that your bent knee isn’t collapsing inward.

Upper Body: The shoulders love to creep up to the ears in this pose. Drop ’em! Float your shoulders over your hips, draw your shoulder blades together, and open through the collarbones. It’s also common for the torso to creep forward as the front hand reaches. Explore centering your body right above your hips

Arms: Think about making one long arm from the tips of your front fingers to the tips of your back fingers. The back hand likes to go a little wonky here, so sneak a peek and see that it’s extending out evenly from the wrist. Turn your gaze back to your front hand and ask yourself, “What is my life’s purpose!?”

 

And, a little yoga PSA: Remember Right Movement! What makes it “right” is that it’s right for you. Always feel free, in any class, to slow down and come into right alignment, even if the teacher is urging you on. Finding these poses in your own body is more important than finding them in someone else’s flow. Namaste.

Photos: Reposted from the awesome Instagram account Where Is My Mat