One of the foundational poses in Ashtanga Yoga, and the very last standing sequence pose, is Virabhadrasana, or Warrior Pose. This standing pose not only builds strength and flexibility but also instills a sense of inner power and focus. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the steps of performing Virabhadrasana with proper alignment and vinyasa count, helping you integrate it seamlessly into your Ashtanga yoga routine.
Vīrabhadrāsana will take you further into the realm of balancing strength and focus, control and engagement. You’ll certainly be working and feeling your legs and glutes and back, but you’ll also feel your arm muscles (triceps), your inner thigh muscles and well all the muscles in between! If you do this posture properly, it will ask that you engage everything in your body, with its own weight, as you hold and then move that weight through space. Not only does it eliminate the need to actually lift weights as you begin to use your body properly as a weight to train with, but it also teaches your body how to work with gravity, not fight against it; which will serve you well as you age.
Benefits of Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose):
Strength and Stamina: Virabhadrasana strengthens the legs, core, and upper body, enhancing overall physical strength and stamina.
Flexibility: This pose stretches the hips, groin, and thighs, improving flexibility and range of motion in these areas.
Improved Posture: Regular practice of Virabhadrasana helps correct postural imbalances and promotes a tall and strong spine.
Balance: The pose challenges balance and stability, improving coordination and focus.
Mental Focus: The concentrated gaze (drishti) required in this pose fosters mental concentration and presence.
Inner Confidence: As the name suggests, Virabhadrasana invokes a sense of inner strength, confidence, and determination.
Hip Opener: The pose opens the hips, which can relieve tension and discomfort in the hip area.
Chest Expansion: The lifted arms and open chest promote expansion in the chest and shoulders, counteracting the effects of hunching.
Contraindications and Cautions:
While Virabhadrasana offers numerous benefits, there are some contraindications and cautions to consider:
High Blood Pressure: Those with high blood pressure should be cautious while practicing Warrior Pose, especially Virabhadrasana II, as the extended arms can potentially raise blood pressure.
Heart Conditions: Individuals with heart conditions should approach this pose with care, avoiding excessive strain on the heart and maintaining moderation.
Knee Issues: If you have knee injuries or issues, avoid deep bending in the knee of the front leg, and keep the knee in line with the ankle to prevent additional strain.
Neck and Shoulder Issues: Individuals with neck or shoulder injuries should avoid excessive strain on these areas while lifting the arms.
Pregnancy: Pregnant practitioners should modify the pose by widening the stance and avoiding deep lunges to accommodate their changing center of gravity.
Hip Issues: If you have hip issues, modify the pose to avoid excessive external rotation of the hip joint and make sure to consult with a qualified yoga teacher or healthcare professional.
Lower Back Issues: Those with lower back problems should be cautious while practicing Virabhadrasana, maintaining proper alignment and avoiding overarching the lower back.
Recent Surgery: If you've recently had surgery, particularly on the hips, knees, or shoulders, consult your doctor or physical therapist before attempting this pose.
Remember, individual bodies vary, so it's essential to listen to your body and work within your own limitations. If you're new to yoga or have any underlying health concerns, it's recommended to practice under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor or healthcare professional. Always prioritize safety and comfort in your practice.
Click here to watch a Yoga tutorial breaking down Virabhadrasana
Step-by-Step Instructions for Virabhadrasana I & II (Warriors) with vinyasa count:
Virabhadrasana comes right after Utkatasana in the Ashtanga Yoga standing sequence. We will begin the vinyasa count for today’s posture from Downward facing dog or position #6 (sat):
Virabhadrasana A (or I)
Sapta (Vinyasa #7) - from down dog, pivot your left foot flat (45 degree angle) and step your right foot forward between your hand. Inhale raise your arms up over head and press your palms together.
Lookup to your hands (hastagrai Drishti).
Take five deep breaths
Make sure you continuously press your feet down and out and lift your chest upwards.
Ashtau (Vinyasa #8)- Exhale, straighten your right leg and reverse your feet so you are facing the back of your mat. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees. At the same time, try to keep your arms in the air overhead with palms together, and your eyes up to your hands.
Look up to your hands (hastagrai Drishti)
Take five deep breaths
Virabhadrasana B (or II)
Nava (Vinyasa #9)- Inhale - take your arms out to the side in line with your feet. Keep your left knee bent. Externally rotate your right hip out to the right and left knee to the left. Engage your back and extend through your arms and fingers.
Look to the fingers of your left hand (hastagrai drishti)
Take five deep breaths
Dasa (Vinyasa #10)- Inhale - straighten your left leg, reverse your feet and bend into your right knee 90 degrees. Keep your arms extended, your back engaged and reach out through your fingers. Press your feet down and out.
Look to the fingers of your right hand (hastagrai dristhi)
Ekadasa (Vinyasa #11)- Inhale - At the end of your fifth exhale, lower your arms to the floor placing your right hand to the outside of your right foot and left hand outside your left foot. In a more advanced version, press your hands into the floor and lift your lower body off the ground to jump back.
Dvadasa (Vinyasa #12)- Exhale - step or jump back into Chaturanga Dandasana.
Trayodasa (Vinyasa #13)- Inhale - Upward facing dog
Caturdasa (Vinyasa #14) - Exhale - downward facing dog
Click here to watch our Yoga tutorial breaking down Virabhadrasana
There are several modifications you can explore for Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) to adapt the pose to your body's needs and limitations. Here are some modifications for both Virabhadrasana I and II:
Modifications for Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I):
If reaching the arms overhead causes discomfort, keep your hands on your hips or place them in prayer position at your chest.
If you have difficulty with balance or hip flexibility, shorten your stance by bringing the feet closer together.
Back Foot Angle:
Instead of pivoting the back foot at a 45-degree angle, keep it parallel to the back of your mat. This reduces strain on the hips and allows for greater stability.
Modifications for Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II):
If balance is challenging, reduce the distance between your feet to create a shorter stance.
If looking over your front hand strains your neck, maintain a neutral gaze forward or downward.
If raising the arms parallel to the floor is uncomfortable, rest your hands on your hips or maintain them in a prayer position.
Remember that modifications should be tailored to your individual needs and any existing injuries. It's essential to communicate with your body and prioritize safety over achieving a "perfect" pose. Yoga is about listening to your body and finding what works best for you in each moment. If you're unsure about which modifications to try, consider practicing under the guidance of a knowledgeable yoga teacher who can provide personalized assistance and adjustments.
Virabhadrasana, or Warrior Pose, is an essential component of Ashtanga yoga standing sequence. Its dynamic nature not only enhances physical strength and flexibility but also cultivates mental focus and determination. Remember to pay attention to your breath and alignment as you flow through Virabhadrasana I and II, and smoothly integrate the vinyasa count for a harmonious practice. With consistent effort and mindful practice, you'll find yourself embodying the qualities of a warrior on and off the mat.
If you would like to practice Virabhadrasana interactively and on demand, click here to check out our YouTube tutorial on the warrior poses.
Practice with The Yoga Shala
If you want to join us for LIVE classes, The Yoga Shala offers virtual and in person classes every weekday morning. Owner, Krista Shirley, also offers virtual or in person private sessions (Yoga, Meditation, Breath-work, Nutrition, Life Coaching and Mentorship). Visit theyogashala.org for details.
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We hope you find this video series helpful to you in creating or maintaining your yoga practice!
Krista Shirley is a level II authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher. She is deeply passionate about sharing these teachings with all who wish to learn.
If you want to join Krista in person she teaches daily classes at The Yoga Shala in Winter Park, Florida. She also offers virtual sessions in Yoga, Meditation, Breath-work, Nutrition, Life Coaching and Mentorship. Check out www.theyogashala.org for more details.
If you do not live in Central Florida and want to find an authorized teacher in your area, check out our teacher, Sharath Jois’ website, for a list of all teachers authorized and certified by his yoga centre in India.