Warrior 1 Pose is a fundamental standing posture seen in most Vinyasa, Hatha and Ashtanga yoga classes. It’s one of the primary postures in the Sun Salutation B sequence. This standing foundational yoga pose is packed with benefits for the body and mind.
Although Warrior 1 Pose is considered a beginner’s pose, finding proper alignment will continue to challenge even the most experience yoga practitioner.
There are three poses in the Warrior series: Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Warrior 3. Warrior 2 is the most commonly practiced, and is also a foundational standing pose. Warrior 3 is a balancing standing pose.
And while Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 may look similar at first glance, the many differences between the two poses are what you should focus on in this yoga pose tutorial. There are key postural nuances between Warrior 1 and 2, such as the shoulder, hips, and heel alignment.
There’s a lot that goes into getting your Warrior 1 Pose set up correctly. Read on for all the details you need for a safe and powerful Warrior 1 Pose, as well as benefits, contraindications, modifications and variations.
Warrior 1 Pose at a Glance
Sanskrit Name: Virabhadrasana 1 or Virabhadrasana A
Pronunciation: veer-ah-bah-drahs-anna one
Targets the Body: Full body engagement that strengthens and stretches while improving balance and concentration
Muscle Groups Involved: Shoulders, Arms, Spine, Hip Flexors, Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings
Nuances: Alignment of feet and squaring of hips
Want to learn more about Sanskrit? Here are 30 Sanskrit Words Commonly Used in Yoga Defined and Explained
Here’s How to Access Warrior 1 Pose:
- Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) facing the front short end of your mat with your hands on your hips
- Take a medium size step back with your left foot
- The step back should be big enough that you feel a nice stretch through the left hip and quad but that the stance feels stable
- Place your left foot at about a 45 degree angle
- Press your left heel firmly into the mat
- Check the alignment of your hips as your left hip may have moved back when you took your step
- Rotate your pelvis as needed by pulling the right hip back and left hip forward until both hip points are roughly facing the front of your mat
- Lift through the left knee cap, thigh and quad to straighten your left leg
- Press down through the big toe and pinkie toe mound of your left foot
- Lift gently through the arch of your back foot to prevent over-pronation (where the foot rolls to far inward towards the arch)
- Bend through the right leg
- Stack your right knee directly over your ankle
- If your knee extends beyond your ankle then move your front foot forward until the knee stays in line with the ankle
- When you are ready, raise your arms overhead with your palms facing each other
- Only lift the arms as high as they can comfortably go before the shoulders lift too much towards the ears or your ribs begin to flare
- Activate your front and back body core to find a gentle yet supportive side body lengthening and chest opening
- Lift the hip points and maintain length through the tailbone to prevent compression in the lower spine
- Release tension though your neck and jaw
- Gaze (Drishti) either directly ahead at eye level, or look overhead at your hands
- As you hold the pose press equally into both feet and legs
- Take full and steady breaths throughout the duration of the pose
- When you are ready, return to Mountain Pose before trying the other side
Ready to Practice? Check Out Warrior 1 Pose (And More Poses) In The Learning Yoga Video Series
With Ashton August & Alec Vishal Rouben
Be sure to check out YA Classes’ Learning Yoga series, a comprehensive workshop-style program that breaks down over 30 of the most common, foundational yoga poses. Get started with this standing posture, Warrior 1 Pose.
Warrior 1 Pose Benefits
Warrior 1 Pose is packed with benefits.
It’s a multipurpose pose that both stretches and strengthens the body. The chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, core, spine and groin all receive a wonderful stretch while doing this pose. The shoulders, arms, thighs, calves and ankles are all strengthened from holding Warrior 1 Pose.
The strengthening and stretching aspects of Warrior 1 Pose help improve your overall range of motion.
Beyond strengthening and stretching our balance is challenged the longer we hold the pose. Warrior 1 Pose also builds proprioception and body awareness, as we activate our back leg without seeing it. Beyond the physical benefits, holding proper alignment in this pose helps to build concentration and a feeling of power.
This pose may put too much strain on the hips, knees, or shoulders if you have any injuries to those areas. Raising the arms overhead combined with the lengthening of the chest can affect blood pressure or asthma in some individuals with underlying conditions. Pregnancy shifts your center of gravity forward which will affect your balance and alignment in the pose.
Proceed slowly and modify as necessary for any of these situations.
How to Modify Warrior 1
It’s important to listen and respond to your body while in Warrior 1 Pose. Keeping a long stance, maintaining perfectly neutral hips, or lifting your arms overhead by your ears may not be right for your body composition or structure.
Try these options to help modify the pose:
- To help find neutral hips widen your stance by stepping your back leg towards the long side of your mat
- Shorten your stance as much as needed by taking a shorter step back to help with alignment or balance
- Keep your hands on your hips or move to prayer at heart center if lifting your arms overhead causes shoulder discomfort or pinching in the neck
- Rest your hands on a chair, face the wall and press your hands into the wall, or press your back heel into a wall to provide additional support for balancing in this pose
- If placing the back heel on the floor creates too much strain on the hips, ankle, or lower back consider substituting this pose with Crescent Lunge Pose (Ashta Chandrasana)
In Ashtanga traditions, the arms are lifted with the palms touching each other. With the arms directly overhead your gaze shifts to your thumbs. Another common entrance into this pose is from Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
For this entrance, step your right foot forward and place it on the ground between your legs. With your inhale you lift your chest up to standing as you reach your arms overhead.
Each person’s Warrior 1 Pose will look slightly different. With practice you may be able to lengthen the space between your front and back feet, square the hips more to the front of the mat, or bend the front knee fully to 90 degrees.
Final Information and Tips for Virabhadrasana 1:
Virabhadrasana is the name given to a warrior from the Hindu tradition. Said to be born out of a lock of Shiva’s hair, Virabhadrasana was created to seek revenge for the embarrassment and death of his beloved wife, Sati. Although details of the myth vary between accounts, Virabhadrasana is seen as a fierce and powerful warrior.
- As you hold this pose your front knee may begin to flare to the right or left losing its alignment over your ankle, peek down at your knee and make any adjustments to keep it in line with your ankle
- Sometimes we focus too much on front leg and arms and release our supporting core muscles, check in with your core on each exhale to keep the spine supported and chest opening safe
- We tend to forget about our back leg since we cant see it, find equanimity in the pose by equally activating both legs
Want to learn more yoga poses? Here is the full online Learning Yoga program on YA Classes.
We can embody the courage of a warrior in our own life as we stand up against our own personal battles. The strength and dedication gained through this pose on our mat helps us to bravely face these battles when off the mat.
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