Warrior I & II (or Virabhadrasana I & II) are probably some of the most instantly recognisable yoga poses there is. It’s thought that the poses originated from the stances that warriors took before they went into battle.
They’re undoubtedly very powerful poses and are good to do if you ever need a little self-esteem pick-me-up. Not only that, they’re great for opening the hips, increasing the blood flow to the reproductive organs and lower body and also build strength in your legs.
These poses may look simple, but perfecting them can take years of practice. Here are six of the best tips for helping you achieve powerful warriors to build strength and minimise injury.
How to improve your warrior pose
Measure your stance
We’ll start off with the foundation. Often we come into warriors after lungeing forward from downward facing dog, with little thought to the distance between our two feet. Initially, it’s important to take time to measure up.
As a benchmark, try having five of your foot lengths between each foot. The best way to do this is to grab some chalk and measure out five of your foot lengths along your mat (that’s heel-to-toe lengths).
This is the foundation that we learn in yoga teacher trainer, but it doesn't suit all bodies. Play about to where feels most comfortable. This distance might seem really wide at first, so if you need to, bring your back foot in slightly until you build the strength and flexibility to work deeper into the lunge. Similarly, if it actually feels a bit short, edge your back foot out to a more comfortable stance.
Remember - everyone is different, so what works for someone else may not be the same for you.
Top tip: When adjusting your stance, move the back foot rather than the front. This stops you taking the front knee too far over the front ankle and risking injury.
Now to move into the Virabhadrasana/warrior stance, stand with the outside edges of your feet alongside the lines you’ve drawn (both toes pointing towards the long side of your mat)
Inhale, lift the toes of the front foot and pivot on the heel, bringing your toes facing the front of the mat. Exhale, lower the toes. If you need, shift your back foot so that it’s at a 45-degree angle, facing the long edge of your mat. Lunge gently into the front leg, taking care not to let the knee go past the ankle. Work towards bringing your thigh parallel to the mat.
You won’t do this measuring every time you get into the pose, but it’s a good way to perfect your stance when you're starting out.
Perfect your foot position
Now, let’s take a look at your feet. Your front foot will be facing towards the front, short edge of your mat, while the back foot will be at about a 45-degree angle, facing towards the long edge of your mat.
Make sure to straighten through the back leg and push the outside edge of your back foot firmly into the mat. This will stop your ankle rolling in and keep your knee safe.
Keep your knee above your ankle
As mentioned early, one very important point in the warrior poses is to ensure your front knee is above the ankle. If your knee goes past your ankle, you risk injury to your knee.
Look for your big toe
On the theme of knees, have a look down at your front foot and see if you can see your big toe. If your knee is rolling in, you won’t be able to see your big toe, again risking injury. Use your thigh muscles to draw the knee out, until you can see your big toe.
Check your shoulders and hips
The key difference between Virabhadrasana I and Virabhadrasana II is the position of your shoulders and hips.
In Virabhadrasana I, your shoulders will be directly over your hips, and both will be facing the front (short edge) of your mat.
In Virabhadrasana II, your shoulders will again be directly over the hips, but your hips and shoulders will be facing the long edge of your mat instead.
Position your arms
Another difference between Virabhadrasana I & II is the placement of your arms. In Virabhadrasana I, the arms are lifted over your head and, if possible, with your palms together. You can either keep your head neutral or, if it’s comfortable for your neck, you can gently look up to the hands.
In Virabhadrasana II, the arms are lifted out to your sides at shoulder height, parallel to the floor. Your gaze will be past your hand, just looking out over the front middle finger.
If you suffer from shoulder problems, or it’s uncomfortable to lift your arms in these postures, place the hands on the hips instead, or in namaste (prayer position) at your chest.
Adapted from Amy Samantha Yoga