Virabhadrasana II: Warrior II Pose

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Warrior II, or virabhadrasana (veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna) II, is a strengthening pose that improves physical and mental endurance. Its ability to stretch your upper legs and ankles while also expanding your chest and shoulders makes it an essential foundational pose for most asana-based (pose-based) yoga practices.

Philosophy + Origin

While warrior II is a strong pose, it also requires balance and steadiness. Although many origin stories for virabhadrasana II describe the shape of the pose as the stance Virabhadra took as he drew his sword to remove the head of his enemy, any student who has practiced the pose will learn that, while fierce, there’s also a gentleness within the physical lines. The yogic philosophy of sthira sukha, or balancing effort with ease, can be applied when practicing warrior II. How can you harness your warrior spirit while not losing sight of your gentle spirit and your commitment to ahimsa, non-violence?

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Option to shorten the length of your stance or bend your back knee to relieve pressure in the knees.
  • For added support, use a folding chair under your front thigh.
  • Press your back heel into a wall for balance and support.
  • Rather than looking over your front hand, look straight ahead and maintain length in both sides of the neck.
  • Flip your palms face up to help soften the shoulders, then flip your palms back down.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Step your right foot to the top of your mat, and your left foot 3-4 feet behind you. Point your right toes straight forward, and your left foot about parallel to the back of your mat. Draw an imaginary line from your right toes, to right heel, to left arch.
  2. Bend your right knee so it stacks right over your right ankle. Press equally into your feet.
  3. Square your shoulders to the left side of your mat and extend your arms out wide, parallel to the ground, palms face down.
  4. Keep your torso upright, shoulders stacked on your hips.
  5. Keep your gaze straight ahead, or turn your gaze to the fingertips of your right hand. Keep your breath even as you hold for up to 60 seconds. Inhale to straighten your front leg and release the posture. Repeat on the other side.

PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Crescent lunge | Anjenayasana
  • Gate pose | Parigrahasana
  • Goddess pose | Utkata konasana

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

  • Wide-legged forward fold | Prosarita paddotanasana
  • Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Virabhadra = fierce warrior, incarnation of Shiva
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches groins, thighs, ankles.
  • Expands chest, lungs, shoulders.
  • Improves balance.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Increases mental focus and concentration.
  • Builds mental stamina and endurance.


Parsvottanasana: Intense Side Stretch Pose

parsvottanasana nicoluce

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

From lengthening the spine to stretching the legs to calming the mind, there’s a little bit of everything in parsvottanasana (parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-ah-nah) Also known as intense side stretch pose or pyramid pose, this shape is helpful for finding balance while stretching hamstrings.

Parsvottanasana requires a combination of flexibility, strength, and patience. With the help of props such as blocks or a wall, the\is pose becomes accessible for everyone.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Blocks: Place hands on blocks to help keep the torso long.
  • Wall: Place hands on a wall in front of you to work on strengthening the muscles of the back.
  • Heart opening variation: Take the hands in reverse prayer position behind the back to stretch and open your shoulders and chest while also challenging your balance. If reverse prayer isn’t accessible, you can still bring the arms behind the back, reaching for opposite elbows instead.
  • Adjust your stance: If the back heel is lifted off of the floor, shorten the stance so you can push through the heel to activate the back leg. For more stability, widen your stance.
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