HOW TO PRACTICE Warrior I Pose IN YOGA (Virabhadrasana I)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Warrior I Pose
Named after the fierce mythical warrior, Virabhadra, the Warrior postures (Sanskrit names: Virabhadrasana I, II and III) can be helpful for finding and using our inner resources, particularly when mindfully and skillfully executed.
Warrior I Pose draws on strength to balance several complex and interacting forces. When the back foot is grounded and the leg is fully engaged, there is an energetic link created from the base to the crown. Many arm variations make this a versatile and useful pose for beginners to advanced yoga students alike.
Warrior yoga poses are great reminders of how to draw on our inner resilience and strength when life’s chaotic ups and downs make us feel like we might topple. Virabhadra I requires wise alignment, keying into our bodily sensations, and maintaining full and even breath—all extremely useful skills that we can take with us off the yoga mat and into our lives.
Benefits of Warrior I Pose
Virabhadrasana I is both grounding and energizing, a perfect example of the yogic concepts of Shtirra (firm foundation) and Sukha (lightness). Warrior 1 requires active engagement of the entire lower-body kinetic-chain which, in turn, allows the upper body to soar in strength and freedom.
Stability is created by both legs working actively but toward opposite ends. With the back leg primarily in extension and the front leg in flexion, the deep hip flexors, gluteals, abductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, soleus and intrinsic muscles of the foot are in play and active.
Warrior 1 is a gentle backbending yoga posture. With the spine in graceful extension and the torso in a slight rotation to maintain the hip stability, both the spinal extensors and flexors are activated, as are the oblique muscles and serratus. Via the breath, activating the core muscles should add to the stability and grounding of the yoga pose. Many arm variations bring the shoulder girdle into play, making Warrior 1 a total body strengthener and energizer.
How to do Warrior I Pose
- Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) by grounding down through all four corners of both feet. Connecting with the lower body is the foundation for this yoga pose.
- Place the hands on the hips.
- Bend both knees and take a big step back with your left leg, stepping the foot straight back so that the feet are hips-width apart from left to right. Your stance from front to back should be about one leg’s length apart. If you have sacroiliac (SI) joint instability or dysfunction, practice with a narrower stance.
- The back foot should be grounded down completely, pointing out at a 45-degree angle. Keep the outer edge of the foot pressed down.
- Allow the pelvis to orient itself naturally (i.e., don’t try to square your hips to the front). Trying to square the hips when one hip is flexed and the other one is extended can compromise the integrity of the hip and sacroiliac (SI) joints. It can also cause torquing in the knee of the back leg. For people with broader hips (i.e. most women), trying to square the hips to the front in this pose will be especially counterproductive.
- Make your buttocks heavy. Lengthen your tailbone down, while still retaining a neutral pelvis. Engage your lower belly in and up.
- Without losing the grounding in your back leg, begin to bend your front knee into the pose. Only bend as far as you can without losing strength in your back leg and/or compressing your low back. Make sure your front knee is pointing straight forward, not moving to either side. Also check that your knee is aligned over your foot, not forward of it.
- On an inhalation, reach your arms up in line with your ears, fingertips to the ceiling, elbows straight.
- Pay attention to the following actions in Warrior I:
- Remember not to turn your front knee out, keeping the side of your front hip firm.
- Press the whole triangle of your foot evenly into the ground (big toe mound, little toe mound, heel).
- Let your buttocks be heavy, so your back ribs have a foundation to lift from.
- If possible, challenge yourself to bend the front knee a little deeper, aiming for a full 90-degree angle between your thigh and shin, unless you are practicing with a narrow stance.
- Bring the right side of your body even with the left.
- Rotate your right ribcage toward the inside of the left knee.
10. Feel the rooting and rising in the pose as you breathe steadily. Stay for several breaths.
11. After a few breaths, place the hands back onto the hips and step the back foot forward to Tadasana. Close your eyes in Tadasana and feel the effects of the yoga pose.
12. Repeat on the other side.