Virabhadrasana II--Warrior II

Often it's the postures we do the most that we understand the least. When was the last time you held Warrior II for more than five breaths? (Iyengar students, you can put your hands down.) I'm guilty of it too, but if you have a regular yoga practice there's a good chance you drown out your teacher's instructions in familiar postures like Warrior II and just settle into what's most familiar. The main reason my own practice and teaching took a big leap last year is because I gave myself time to focus on the basics. I got subtle with my practice and it changed everything! 

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Let's get nitty gritty with Warrior II and check out some areas that often need further investigation:

Foundation

  • Align the heel of your front foot with the arch of your back foot. Doesn't feel right? Well luckily this isn't a one-fits-all kind of practice and you can experiment with the position of your feet. But this is a good starting point.
  • Angle your front foot straight forward to the front edge of your yoga mat.
  • Angle your back toes slightly forward toward the front edge of your mat. You can play with not angling your foot forward and instead line up your back pinky toe with the back edge of your mat. The latter isn't my preferred alignment, but, again, it might be worth trying. 
  • Press down through the center of your heel and the base of your big and little toes on the front foot evenly.
  • Press more through the back edge of your back foot while still firmly pressing the big toe side of your foot into your mat. 
  • Ideally the weight between each foot will feel evenly distributed. If it doesn't feel balanced, experiment! 

Legs & Pelvis

Misalignment: Front knee dropped in.  Tip: Be mindful of the front knee. Abduct it toward the pinky toe side of your front foot.

Misalignment: Front knee dropped in.

Tip: Be mindful of the front knee. Abduct it toward the pinky toe side of your front foot.

Misalignment: Front hip dropped lower than back hip.   Tip: Keep your frontal hip points level to each other. 

Misalignment: Front hip dropped lower than back hip. 

Tip: Keep your frontal hip points level to each other. 

  • Press through the back foot to straighten and engage the back leg.
  • Bend your front knee to a right angle at its deepest. Not all bodies are able to get this deep, so only go as far as your body allows without pressing the front knee beyond the front ankle. 
  • Guide the front knee slightly toward the pinky toe side of the front foot. Often the knee collapses down, but by engaging your outer hip and thigh muscles you'll be able to abduct your knee into a more sustainable alignment. 
  • Your hips definitely do not have to be square to any specific point. Forcing your hips square to the long side of your mat isn't attainable for most bodies without putting unnecessary pressure on the front knee. Let your back hip turn slightly forward if it naturally wants to go there.  
  • You DO want your frontal hip points level to each other. The tendency is for the front hip to sag. 
  • Keep your lower spine in its neutral curve. No need to over tuck the pelvis, but most bodies can benefit from a slight draw of the frontal hip bones up toward the ribs. 

Torso, Arms, & Head

Misalignment: Reaching too far forward with the front hand.   Tip: Stack your shoulders directly over your hips and reach in opposition with both hands. 

Misalignment: Reaching too far forward with the front hand. 

Tip: Stack your shoulders directly over your hips and reach in opposition with both hands. 

  • Stack your shoulders directly over your hips and square your chest to the long edge of your mat. (Notice that the shoulders are square to the long edge, but NOT the hips.)
  • Draw your ribs in and your navel back toward your spine to contain your abdominal core. 
  • Play with your gaze. Traditionally the gaze is forward over the front hand, however, in my own practice I prefer not turning my neck. 
  • Reach with strong opposition through both hands. It's common to reach too far forward with the front hand.

Final thoughts

That was a lot of information for one posture! There's a lot going on in Warrior II. You probably visit this posture in most vinyasa yoga classes so it's easy to fall into habits, but why not take on some of the more subtle details? Perhaps in one practice you focus primarily on your legs then, in another practice, focus primarily on your arms. Tackling everything at once can be maddening, but taking the time to get subtle and emphasize details can bring some life into even the most mundane postures.