How to nail the warrior series

23 May 2017

The warrior series – Warrior I, II, Reverse and Humble Warrior – are staples in Vinyasa Yoga’s flow sequences. But what are some of the common alignment cues to nail to get the most from your flow and protect your body.

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

NamasteCJ-21.jpg

Purpose:

  • Strengthens legs and stretches hips

Common misalignment:

  • Feet positioned on a tightrope impacting balance and strength
  • Back knee falls to mid-line
  • Hips not square to front of mat

What to remember:

  • Before rising-up into Warrior I, heel and toe your front foot towards the side of your mat so you’re not on a tightrope (front and back heels don’t need to be in one line). This allows your hips room to square off on the mat, if that’s available to you.
  • Energetically press down the blade edge of your back foot while lifting-up the inner arch of your back foot. This protects the knee and engages the legs. Back foot is at about 45 degree angle.
  • The hip of whatever foot is at the front of your mat has a tendency to jut forward, so draw that hip back and the opposite hip forward. Over time, your body may allow you to square your hips off to the front of your mat i.e. both hip points are pointing straight ahead and even. For some bodies this won’t be possible due to anatomical differences and the back hip will be pointing at about a 45 degree angle to the side.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

NamasteCJ-22.jpg

Purpose:

  • Hip opener and and all over body strengthener

Common misalignment:

  • Front knee juts out over toes or collapses to mid-line
  • Back knee falls to mid-line
  • Torso twists to front of mat
  • Tension in neck and shoulders

What to remember:

  • Send you front knee towards your pinky toe. Gently rotating your front inner thigh in this direction will help.
  • Energetically press down the blade edge of your back foot while lifting-up the inner arch of your back foot. This protects the knee and engages the legs. Back foot is parallel with short edge of your mat.
  • Torso is side on to the mat. Front/side ribs gently rotate towards belly. Back/side ribs gently rotate towards your lower back.
  • Shoulders back and down away from ears. Rotating palms to ceiling then back to the floor can help relieve tension.

Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

NamasteCJ-24.jpg

Purpose:

  • Lengthens sides of body, strengthens body and stretches hips

Common misalignment:

  • Back hand puts too much pressure on back knee
  • Core not engaged to provide stability and avoid back strain
  • Neck strain

What to remember:

  • If you have been practicing Yoga for some time, aim for only 20% weight on the back hand or none at all if you want to use your Transverse Abdominals (abdominal muscles at the side of your torso). Back hand show trace the side of the back leg as the front hand ‘paints’ the ceiling.
  • Think back-finger-tips to side of thigh or for super flexies, back-finger-tips to side of calf.
  • It’s okay to look towards you back foot rather than to your upper hand. Do what feels right for your neck.

Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana)

Purpose:

  • Strengthens body, stretches shoulders and inverts head lower than heart

Common misalignment:

  • Butt juts out to side
  • Palms not touching overhead
  • Tension in neck

What to remember:

  • Bow down so your head is square on to the front of your mat, not pointing to a corner. Squeeze front most butt check to mid line by squeezing adductors (inner thigh) to mid-line and squeezing outer hips in.
  • With straight arms, press palms together drawing hands towards the front of mat while overhead.
  • Head is heavy, no neck hold needed. Let it be.

In our Yoga practice, we aim for our poses to be stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha) (Sutra 2.46). Correct alignment will help you to establish sthira and the depth in which you go into the pose will help you determine your level of sukha.

While seemingly easy, there is a lot going on in our warrior series. If it feels overwhelming, work on two or three alignment cues each class.

Enjoy.

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