If you’re new to yoga or have been practicing for 20 years, chances are you’re pretty familiar with Warrior II pose. This is one of the fundamental poses, introduced to us in our first yoga class, but one that will be a constant companion to our yoga practice.
Different Every Day.
I’ve been practicing yoga for 7 years and my Warrior II feels different every day. Some days when my hips are open, I feel a wonderful sense of release. Other days, my arms feel weak and I can barely hold them in a long, straight line. I constantly have to remind myself to move my bent knee towards my pinky toe to avoid it caving in. I kindly challenge my hips to open to the side rather than the front of my mat. I coax my shoulders to relax down my back despite the usual tension I hold there. The truth is, even if you find yourself in Warrior II every day, there’s always room for progress. Whether your challenge is to get a little deeper physically, or keep your breath calm, or even focus your mind.
Why Warrior II?
It’s no mistake that this pose is such a popular one. It works so many of the major muscles, by incorporating the legs, arms, core, and every thing in between. It opens the hips which allows us to release both physically and emotionally. It demands us to stay strong and focused while our arms burn or legs shake. It often challenges our balance and tests our patience. Depending on the class, you may find yourself in this pose 10 times, or for up to two minutes at a time. Warrior II becomes very familiar, perhaps even too familiar in our practice. But, becoming friendly with this pose will serve you well. Being able to overcome all of its challenges will only help to carry that strong presence of mind and body into other and more advanced poses.
Getting into the pose.
In Warrior II, the stance is long with one foot at the top of the mat, the other close to the back. The front toes should point straight ahead, the back foot will be at a 90 degree angle, with toes pointing towards the long end of the mat. The heel of the front foot should be in line with the arch of the back foot. The hips should be working towards opening to the long end of the mat. The front knee should be bent at a 90 degree angle and moving towards the pinky toe. The arms should be reaching in opposite directions, shoulders relaxed down, and the gaze is over the front fingers. To protect the back knee, think about engaging the back quad muscle. It is also good to engage the core here by tucking the tailbone and bottom ribs.
There’s a lot more going on in this pose than meets the eye. There have been plenty of times in yoga classes where the teacher will adjust my footing, raise my back arm, or turn my torso slightly. While perfection is never the goal in yoga, finding poses in an anatomically appropriate way means that we are providing our bodies to utilize the benefits, and gain strength and flexibility in a safe way.
Moving on from Warrior II.
Once we become comfortable with Warrior II, it becomes a happy middle place between other poses. From here, we can flow to side angle, reverse warrior, triangle, half moon, and many more advanced poses.
When we think of the pose only as a resting point or transition, it’s easy to become too comfortable or even lazy. When this happens, we can cheat ourselves of all the wonderful benefits that this pose has to offer, and create a pattern of unsafe movements for our joints and muscles. Having a solid and safe Warrior II is a wonderful way to ensure that you’re protecting yourself and properly building strength to move into other poses.