This month, I am giving you two poses that we tend to think are far more similar than they actually are. The ways to get in and out of these poses, and what they are best paired with, vary depending on which teacher you ask. One thing is certain across the board, though: The alignment of each pose once you are in them. I give you...Warrior I and Warrior II!

Virabhadrasana I:

  • Your stance is as long as if you were in a high lunge. Depending on your own hips, you may be able to align your back heel to your front heel, or you may need to step your back foot to the side 6 or so inches. Try both, and see which one feels more natural for your own body.
  • Your back foot plants at about a 45 degree angle. What is most important is that your back toes, knee, and hips are all in the SAME diagonal line. Yes, your hips are included. It is nearly impossible for the human body to "square" one's hips straight forward in this shape--especially if you want to keep practicing for many more years! With your back leg at this aligned angle, ground your back outer ankle down through your heel. You will feel a stretch here. 
  • Ignite every muscle throughout your back ankle and leg. This will keep your whole body safely supported.
  • Your front knee stacks directly on top of the ankle, not in front of or behind. This stacking brings in more support for your body to remain in this shape. Reach your knee toward the pinky toe of your foot to ensure that your knee isn't collapsing in toward the center of your mat.
  • Note your pelvis! You may be tilting it forward, creating pressure in your low back. Think front of pelvis toward sternum to keep your pelvic bowl from spilling forward.
  • Shoulders square straight forward as your shoulder blades reach down your back. From this strength center, reach your arms toward the sky. You can play with interlacing your hands, looking up, or reaching your hands toward the back of your mat IF your shoulders and neck feel healthy enough to do so. Otherwise, look forward, keep your hands apart, and maybe even lower your arms to be parallel with your mat, reaching straight forward. As in all yoga poses, take care of the body you have at this moment.

Health Benefits: 

  • Strengthens: Thighs, arms, back, calves, courage to open your heart
  • Stretches: Back ankle, calf and thigh, psoas, shoulders, chest, lungs

Virabhadrasana II:

  • Separate your feet into a very wide stance, nearly as wide as your mat, much wider than in Vira I. Angle your back foot slightly toward the front of your mat. See that your back knee and hips are matching this angle. Again, this angling creates a much more sustainable shape for your body for years to come.
  • Stack your front knee on top of the ankle, reaching your knee toward the pinky toe to further open your hips and even the weight between inner and outer ankle. Get your thigh low! See if you can make it fully parallel to your mat. It may sound like more work, but this actually streamlines your energetic, skeletal, and muscular lines for greater stability for longer. 
  • If you feel like your front leg is doing all of the work, then lift that outer hip up while reaching the outer hip of your back leg downward. This redistributes weight into the back leg and eases up on the front. 
  • Your shoulders are the only element that square to the side of the room. They stack directly on top of your hips. No leaning into the future or past, but remaining present. Over your hips. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and toward each other, turning your palms up to assist this, if needed.
  • If your neck feels up to it, steady your gaze softly past your front hand. Otherwise, you can look toward the side, to the direction your shoulders are squaring toward.

Health Benefits:

  • Strengthens: Ankles, calves, thighs, shoulders, arms, stamina, ability to relax in times of great effort
  • Stretches: Back ankle, calf and thigh, groin, psoas, neck

The Story Behind the Name

It is said that there once was a princess named Sati, and she wed Lord Shiva. This union greatly upset Sati's father, King Daksha, so he held a great ceremony and did not invite his daughter or Shiva. Sati went to this event anyway to confront her father, and was met with immense ridicule for her marriage. In response, Sati decided to sever all ties with her father, including the bodily form he gave her. She used yogic exercises to increase her agni, or inner flame, so much that she combusted and died. When word of her death reached Shiva, his hot-headed rage grew to the point where he tore off one of his dreads and sent it down the mountain to the ceremony where King Daksha was. This dread emerged as warrior Bhadras, who killed King Daksha. In sanskrit, viraBHADRAsana translates to heroBHADRASpose. This fiery story may be surprising for us peaceful yogis, but it holds great insight. Instead of acting as passionately as Shiva, Sati, and Daksha acted, we learn from them and move from a place more in the middle, without need for bursting ourselves into flames. We must practice the path of peace, but we mustn't be a doormat. Basically, do no harm but take no shit!