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Virabhadrasana II: Warrior II Pose


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 yoga practices. As you continue to explore this posture you’ll begin to notice how Warrior II opens up new doors for discovery, in both physical and subtle bodies.

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 used 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:

  • If the pose is too intense, shorten your stance
  • For added support, use a folding chair under your front thigh
  • Press your back heel into a wall for improved balance and support
  • For more intensity and to deepen the posture, widen your stance so that your front thigh is parallel with the ground
  • Rather than looking over your front hand, look straight ahead and maintain length in both sides of the neck

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • High blood pressure
  • Vertigo and other medical conditions that affect balance
  • Diarrhea
  • Neck pain or injury

TIPS:

Getting the alignment just right in Warrior II is part of the pose’s power – it asks you to turn your mind to your body and breath. Engaging the correct muscles is another learned skill in Warrior II. While the legs do most of the work in this posture, the arms are equally important. To engage them correctly, and to increase the way they are lengthened and strengthened, try turning your palms upward once you’ve entered the pose. As you do, rotate the inner creases of the elbows so that they point up towards the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and then, without losing any of this, turn your palms back down to face the floor.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Begin in Mountain pose. Step your right foot back about four feet. Turn your right foot out slightly towards the right side of your mat. Align your front left foot parallel with the long edges of your mat. The heel of your left foot should be in line with the arches or heel of your right foot.
  2. Extend your arms out with the left arm reaching towards the top of the mat and the right arm reaching towards the back. Your arms should be parallel with the ground and in one straight line with each other. Turn your palms face down. Rotate the outer left thigh towards the ground to help position your left knee joint directly over the center of your left ankle.
  3. Exhale and bend your left knee. Your knee joint should come right over your left ankle — never beyond. Your left shin will be at a ninety-degree angle with the floor and, if possible, your thigh should be parallel with the floor. As you bend your left knee, find strength in your back leg by grounding through the outer edge of your right foot.
  4. Continue extending the arms away from each other, engaging the muscles of your arms so that the triceps hug against the bone of your upper arm. Keep your torso upright, resisting the urge to lean towards the front of the mat. Your shoulders should be situated directly over the bowl of your pelvis.
  5. Bring your gaze to the fingertips of your left hand. Keep your gaze steady and your breath even as you stay for up to 60 seconds. Use an inhale to bring yourself out of the posture and back to Mountain Pose. Repeat on the other side.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Baddha Konasana
  • Supta Padangusthasana
  • Vrksasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Bakasana
  • Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
  • Utthita Trikonasana

SANSKRIT:

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

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens shoulders, arms, thighs, legs, ankles
  • Stretches groins, thighs, ankles
  • Expands chest, lungs, shoulders
  • Stimulates abdominal organs and digestion
  • Improves stamina and endurance
  • Relieves back aches
  • Improves balance

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

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

MANTRA:

“So Ham Mantra”

So Ham, which can be translated to mean “I Am”, is a mantra that is used to help bring balance to your emotional and physical bodies. When chanted or recited repeatedly, it creates a grounding, calming, steady effect.

MUDRA: Rudra Mudra

Use this hand position to energize your physical body and empower your mind. To practice, bring your thumb, index, and ring fingers together. Allow your middle and pinky fingers to extend up.

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