Virabhadrasana (fierce warrior) II, or Warrior II pose is an empowering posture which strengthens the body and mind. This powerful stance evokes a sense of confidence and integrity. Virabhadra is the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger’s skin.* Have fun visualizing that in your warrior II pose!
Warrior two is a strengthening posture for the lower body, legs, angles, and can be therapeutic for the knees as the action of tracking the knee open over the toes engages the quadriceps responsible for knee support. Warrior II also stimulates abdominal organs and elongates the chest, arms and upper back. It’s really a whole-body pose!
HOW TO PRACTICE
You can begin standing at the top of your mat, facing forward in “tadasana”, or standing mountain pose with arms down by your sides. Stand at your tallest height with feet rooted to the mat. This pose can also be integrated into a flowing, vinyasa yoga style practice.
STEP BY STEP
- From standing, step your right foot back about three feet, or a little shorter depending on your height
- Check to see the outer edge of your back foot (right foot) is pressing to the mat firmly, and is parallel with the back edge of your mat
- Bend your left knee over the heel, mindful to not extend the knee beyond the heel, and track the knee open toward the pinkie-toe side of the foot
- Be mindful that your bent knee does not sickle or collapse inwards — the knee and the toes should be pointing straight toward the front of your mat.
- Check to see that there is an approximate left heel-to-right arch of the foot alignment
- Press the four corners of both feet down and apart to engage up through the legs
- Lift and extend both arms with fingertips lengthening away from shoulder sockets, and palms facing the floor
- Lengthen from hip creases up into the upper ribs/underarms
- Lift the right hand slightly to ensure that both arms are parallel to the floor
- Turn your gaze to look beyond the left fingertips
- Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, breathing deeply
- Swicth legs and perform Warrior II on the other side
WAYS TO MODIFY
Warrior II is often a great pose for beginners since it is quite safe to explore and find proper alignment. However, if you experience too much discomfort in Warrior II here are some tips on how to modify:
- Ease the bend of the front knee, until the leg is almost straight, and then try sinking back in more slowly and gradually, continuing to track the knee open toward pinky toe. Find an accessible edge to hold.
- Shorten the stance between the feet to see if that feels more stable and be sure to left the inner arch of the back foot while keeping the four corners of your foot pressing to the floor.
- If you have neck issues, gaze straight ahead rather than turning your gaze to look beyond the exended arm
- Use a kitchen chair or folding chair, and slide the edge of the chair beneath the bent leg for some support
One great tip I heard years ago was to imagine that you’re not just lengthening our through the fingertips in either direction, that you’re also lengthening out from in between the fingers. This evokes a deeper broadness across the upper back and chest that is very freeing. The shoulder blades soften away from ears onto the upper rib cages, and there is a buoyant space in between the blades.
Before turning your head to look over the fingertips, take a moment to draw your head back and up a little bit so that you can visualize a long line from the back of your head down through your tailbone. Then pivot the gaze slowly, maintaining that long line from crown to tail.
A great way to explore Warrior II is thorough a “flying warrior II” sequence where you inhale to straighten the front leg and reach arms up overhead, and then exhale to bend the front knee and return to warrior II. Repeat this 3-5 times using your breath to guide the length of the movement. Be sure to practice warrior II and/or your flying warrior sequence on both sides.
As with all poses, aim for steadiness and ease. If your breath is strained, come out of the pose and take child’s pose or rest on your belly until you return to a sense of calm.
Supplemental Resources for the Whole Pose feature include Yoga Journal and Yoga International.