This month we shift our focus from Downward Facing Dog to Warrior One (Vīrabhadrāsana), another quintessential posture of hatha yoga. Throughout the month we will be looking at some safe alignment techniques and tips, as well as some variations of this popular pose.
One of the key components of alignment in Warrior One is where the feet “should” be in relation to pelvic alignment. There are many ways to practice any yoga asana, and how you practice is largely determined by your intention in each posture…..what do you want to stretch? strengthen? bring awareness to?
If we are looking at the general shape of Warrior One we would want our pelvis to be neutral and square to the front of the mat. Unfortunately, the traditional heel to heel alignment most often taught in Warrior One is not ideal for most students if their intention is to keep the hips square to the front of the mat. While there might be an appropriate time, place, and practice for this heel to heel alignment, in general, I recommend a stance that has more width between the feet (think standing on railroad tracks with one foot on each rail) so that the pelvis can stay neutral and square with little to no feedback from the sacral and low back area.
Moving up from the feet, the front knee should be bent and stacked over the front ankle. Note that stacked doesn’t necessarily mean a 90 degree angle - the angle of the knee will be determined by the length of the stance and the intention of the pose (a shorter stance will mean a wider angle at the knee, a longer stance will mean a smaller angle, closer to 90 degrees). When practicing your Warrior One experiment a little with both the width and the length of your stance and try to find a place where your joints are not offering a lot of feedback and you feel comfortable.
In looking at the upper body, the arms should be raised alongside the ears (this is called flexion of the shoulder). Note that some of us have more range of motion in the shoulders than others, so your raised arms may not make it all the way to your ears, that’s OK, just find your max flexion, keep your arms straight, and breathe there……that’s what yoga’s all about anyway, finding contentment with things just as they are!
We’ll review this pose throughout the entire month of November. The more you attend class the more you’ll learn! And don’t forget to grab one of our Asana of the Month handouts from the front desk at either studio so you can continue your study at home!