Warrior 2 (Vīrabhadrāsana 2)
Warrior 2 is the second āsana in a series of three standing poses that embody the mythic warrior Vīrabhadra from ancient Vedic texts.
Warrior 2 is a core standing āsana that requires seamless coordination of the entire body, highlighting the harmonious balance between strength and lightness.
This pose is grounding and strengthening, it calls for a calm and focused mind, as well as steady breathing, to hold the posture without any strain.
Benefits of Warrior 2:
- uplifting & energising mentally & physically.
- strengthens the legs, back, shoulders, arms and core.
- opens the chest & shoulders, allowing for improved breathing capacity
- builds balance.
- develops mental and physical stamina
- improves the ability to find ease in effort.
How to practice Warrior 2:
As with many postures, there are numerous ways to practice Warrior 2. This is but one; a simple way where you can focus on finding stability and the feeling of the pose, before adding it into a sequence etc.
- Stand sideways on the yoga mat, with the feet wide apart – about four to five feet, although this needs to be individually optimised. Check that the heels are aligned with each other.
- Turn one foot out 90 degrees, so that the toes are pointing to the short end of the yoga mat.
- Pivot the opposite foot slightly inwards, or leave it facing straight ahead. It is best not to turn the foot outward.
- Allow the pelvis to rotate forward a bit towards the front foot, rather than squaring the hips.
- Ground evenly through both feet, lifting the arches of the feet.
- With your weight evenly distributed through both feet, lengthen through the spine.
- Inhale and while maintaining the stability of the back leg, bend the front knee and raise your arms to shouder height. Often we see the palms facing down to the floor, but when the palms are allowed to face up it can avoid shoulder tension – either is fine.
- Exhale and straighten the front leg, by pressing into the front foot, while lowering the arms.
- Move in and out of the posture a few times, with your breath and then experiment with staying in the pose for a number of breaths:
- ensure you keep your shoulders engaged, but relaxed.
- as you inhale, feel the torso lengthen and lift up from the pelvis, and as you exhale ground the through the feet.
- come out of the pose on an exhalation, by pressing through the front foot to straighten the leg, at the same time, lowering the arms.
Please remember, if you have any pain or discomfort in any of these variations, come out of the posture straight away.
Personalising the posture: making it your own:
Warrior 2 is accessible to most beginners, but not everyone can do the full pose immediately. There are plenty of ways to modify it and work up to the full asana. For instance, you can increase the angle in the front leg. The knee doesn’t have to be at 90 degrees. Straighten the front leg a little to relieve pressure on it.
If balance is an issue, you can do the pose with hands on hips instead of extending them. You can also keep the head facing forward if you have neck pain or limited neck mobility.
You can also use a chair:
1) Warrior 2 on a chair
This version of Warrior 2 is useful for people who are working on developing strength and steadiness in the lower body, and find the standing version too challenging for their current ability.
It will help is balance is a challenge, and enable you to stay in th epose for longer without as much fatigue. This will enable you to explore muscular engagement in the pose.
If you have long legs, try resting the front foot on a block or folded blanket. This gives you additional space to fully extend the back leg.
Pressure can be taken off the arms and shoulders with various hand positions e.g. arms apart (as shown), hands in anjali mudra at the heart, hands on the hips or thighs.
2) Using a chair as support:
Rather than sitting on a chair, placing a chair in front of you (back of chair towards you). You can rest your hands on the back of the chair, which will create a stable platform to work with improving stability and strength in the legs, and balance.
In this version, we need to be careful that the weight through the hands to the back of the chair is minimal. Make sure the chair feels sturdy, having at least the back to legs sitting on the yoga mat is a good idea, so that doesn’t slip.
3) Arm Positions:
Various arm / hand positions are accessible in this posture. Some will require more effort and others will reduce the effort required, which provides an opportunity to work on the lower body without stressing the shoulders. Some examples are:
- arms stretched out at shoulder height – turning the pams of the hands up can reduce tension in the shoulders.
- allow a slight bend at the elbows, rather than straining to keep the arms straight.
- hands on the hips
- arms in cactus position – opens across the chest
- hands in anjali mudra – reduces effort on the shoulders, and is useful for mental focus
- hands in reverse anjali mudra (behind the back) – opens across the chest and collar bones
- arms raised above the head with the hands clasped and palms turn up to the ceiling – elongates the spine
- be mindful where there are recent injuries to the back, knee, ankles. A yoga therapist or therapeutic yoga teacher may be able to adapt the pose to make it more comfortable.
- after knee surgery, ensure that you are following your rehab specialists advice.
Practice & Teaching Tips:
- It is important to maintain strength and steadiness through the back leg and foot when practising Warrior. Keeping the outer edge of the foot in contact with the floor, rather than allowing the foot to pronate will help keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the whole of each foot and between both feet. It will also help keep the knee stable.
- There is no need to square the hips; doing so can bring discomfort and poor alignment to the knees and hips. As with any asymmetric posture, allow the pelvis to orient naturally.
- It is common to see practitioners reaching and leaning forward in this pose; however keeping the spine extended vertically helps with strengthening the back and core muscles, and faclitates good breathing. Keep the weight evenly distributed through both legs with both arms evenly reaching from the shoulders.
- Because everyone’s hips are constructed uniquely, the degree of rotation in the back hip and leg will look different for everyone. Personal alignment needs to be felt from the inside; when both legs and hips are in healthy alignment, you will be able to distribute the weight evenly between both legs and the hips, knees and ankles will feel comfortable and balanced.
Warrior 2 is a versatile and beneficial pose for every one to try. It can be adapted to suit all levels of experience and where additional support may be needed. As with any of the ‘warrior’ poses ot is upligfting and energising; a great pose to add into morning yoga sequences.