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Beginner Yoga Series: How to Sequence for Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Warrior 2 is practiced regularly in most yoga classes - often transitioned into dynamically from a lunge, or Warrior 1. Like most yoga poses, Warrior 2 has a host of subtle alignment and muscular actions that aren't regularly explored. We think this pose deserves a moment in the limelight and more thorough preparation for yoga students - especially those who are new to the practice.
Healthy Hip Alignment in Warrior 2
There is a lot of debate in the yoga community about what is "correct" hip alignment in Warrior 2. The old way of teaching the pose was to force the fronts of the hips to be parallel to the long edge of the mat - a superficial landmark that used to mean you were aligned properly. I remember being taught to imagine I was in between two panes of glass - forcing the hips to be perfectly square to the front.
The problem with forcing the hips to face the same direction is that, for most bodies, this puts a tremendous amount of strain in the SI-Joint, as well as not being that healthy of a position for most student's hip joints. Forcing the hips to align horizontally with the mat becomes problematic when continuously transitioning dynamically in and out of the pose. Doing this pose with less than ideal alignment a few times probably won't cause too much of an issue - it's the repetitive stress and force on the joints that accompanies dynamic transitions that we are concerned with.
In order to avoid this issue in your own practice, we recommend finding a healthier alignment in a static position. That way you'll be able to remember that feeling of alignment in a fast-paced class and avoid injuring yourself over time.
To find a healthier hip alignment in Warrior 2, allow the hips to rotate towards the bent leg. Lift up the front hip so the pelvis isn't spilling toward the front - drawing the tailbone down towards the ground and leveling the two sides of the pelvis. This will also help protect the lower back from compression.
Warrior 2 Prep Poses Sequence
Below are our favorite poses to use when preparing beginning yoga students for Warrior 2. Read below to find out why we chose these yoga poses.
1. Bound Angle Pose
Baddha Konasana will prepare the muscles of the outer and inner hips for the external rotation needed to properly practice Warrior 2. Placing support under the hips create space for a longer spine - especially for those with a tighter lower body. Blocks or rolled up blankets under the outer thighs can also be of benefit to tighter bodies.
Practice the action of the feet, legs and spine in Tadasana - the alignment and actions of each body part will translate later to Warrior 2.
Start by lifting the toes off the ground - feel how the ball of the big toe presses down firmly into the ground. Press down just as firm with the inner edge of the heel.
While focusing on grounding the inner line of the foot, also press down (with a little less effort) into the ball of the pinky toe and outer edge of the heel. Keep the engagement of the feet as you lower your toes back down.
Make sure the knees are not locked - soften the knees into a micro-bend and think of lifting up the knee caps in order to engage the quadriceps.
Draw the belly button towards the spine to activate the muscles of the abdomen. Draw the tailbone down towards the ground.
The spine should feel light and the top of the head should reach up towards the ceiling. To add an extra challenge to the pose, take the arms overhead for Urdhva Hastasana.
3. Tree Pose
Tree Pose challenges balance and focus while introducing external hip rotation - all of which come into play in Warrior 2.
Emphasize keeping the hips level by firming the outer hip in and down - feeling a connection from the outer hip and standing heel.
Keep the hips facing forward, even if this brings your knee more in front of you.
Find the same action of the feet from Tadasana here - grounding down through the ball of the big toe and inner heel firmly, and then a little lighter in the outer edge of the foot.
Try to maintain balance as you bring the arms up overhead.
4. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
This pose lengthens the hamstring muscles and teaches the leg actions needed in the back leg of Warrior 2. There is a slight internal rotation of the back leg in Warrior 2, as well as in Prasarita Padottanasana.
When practicing this pose, make sure to keep the legs working - a common mistake is to think this pose is completely passive. It is not! You should feel as though you are trying to split the mat apart with your feet when practicing this pose.
We also like to practice this pose with the heels at a wall and a chair for support under the hands or upper body. If working at a wall, press your heels actively into the wall.
5. Lunge with Chair
This version of lunge does a number of wonderful things. First, it stretches the lower leg muscles of the back leg which can sometimes inhibit yogis in Warrior 2.
Next, it lengthens the hamstring and posterior hip muscles of the bent leg which may help you come a little deeper into Warrior 2. And finally, it challenges balance. For even more challenge, try bringing your arms overhead and away from the support of the chair.
6. Warrior 1
Practice Warrior 1 to warm up the hips of both legs for Warrior 2. Warrior 1 lengthens the hip flexors and calf muscles of the back leg while teaching you how to track your knee over the center of the front foot.
7. Triangle Pose with Support
We like this supported version of Triangle Pose because it allows you to really focus on externally rotating the front thigh and grounding down through both feet - and not worrying about going "deep" in the pose which often means losing integrity in your alignment.
Focus on pointing your front knee towards the center of the front foot. This can be a subtle action to find as the leg is straight - but the position of the hand on the chair should lift the torso and create more space for you to find this action. This is the same muscular engagement as needed for Warrior 2.