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Warrior Pose (Veerabhadrasana)


Warrior pose

In this post, I would like to get back to the practice of asana and discuss one of the very commonly practiced asanas called Veerabhadrasana  (वीरभद्रासन) or the Warrior Pose and its three variations. This is a powerful and energizing pose, especially useful for strengthening the leg and thigh muscles.

Veerabhadra was a mythical warrior, created by Lord Shiva from the strand of his hair to fight against King Daksha. Shiva was married to Daksha’s daughter, Sati who had married Shiva against the wishes of her father. Daksha, in order to take revenge against Shiva, organized a grand yajna (a sacrificial ceremony) in which he invited all the important and not-so-important gods except Shiva. Humiliated at this insult, Sati burned herself in the sacrificial fire. On hearing about it, Shiva was enraged and created Veerabhadra who eventually fought against and destroyed Daksha and his armies.

Warrior 1 Step-by-Step

  1. Come to a standing position at the top of the mat.
  2. Step the right foot back, spreading the feet about 3 to 3.5 feet apart.
  3. Keep the inside edge of the front foot parallel to the side edge of the mat. Turn the back foot about 45 degrees toward the front foot.
  4. Press the back heel firmly against the mat so the back leg is not sagging at the knee.
  5. Make sure that the shoulders and hips are parallel to the front wall.
  6. Make the effort to bend the front knee so that the knee is directly above the ankle and try to keep the shin vertical. Also, try to lower the pelvis so the left thigh becomes parallel to the floor.
  7. Now, begin to raise the arms and bring them up overhead. Keep the palms facing each other, shoulder width apart with the elbows straight. Make the effort to lift the shoulders and rib cage upward. You can continue to look straight ahead or optionally look up at your hands.
  8. If it doesn’t bother your back, you may try to create a gentle arch in the spine by pushing the shoulders slightly backward.
  9. Try to hold the final pose for about 10-12 breaths. Maintain gentle, relaxed breathing while in the pose. Your awareness should stay with the stretch in different parts of the body making sure that you don’t over-stretch at any time. Also, keep observing the quality and depth of your breath.
  10. To come out of the pose, slowly bring the hands down by the side of the body and relax the knees.
  11. Switch the position of the feet and repeat the above steps.
  12. Finally come back to the comfortable standing position.

Warrior 2 Step-by-Step


Warrior pose

  1. Come to a standing position at the top of the mat.
  2. Step the right foot back, spreading the feet about 3 to 3.5 feet apart. After some practice, you will be able to make adjustments to the distance between the feet to get into the optimum position.
  3. Keep the inside edge of the front foot parallel to the side edge of the mat. Turn the back foot about 45 degrees toward the front foot.
  4. Keep the back heel firmly pressed against the mat so the back leg is not sagging at the knee.
  5. Turn the body to face the side wall. In the final position, the heels, buttocks and the shoulders are all parallel to the side wall and aligned vertically.
  6. Make the effort to bend the front knee so that the knee is directly above the ankle and try to keep the shin vertical. Also, try to lower the pelvis so the left thigh becomes parallel to the floor.
  7. Stretch the arms and bring them into a horizontal position (parallel to the floor, at the shoulder level) with the fingertips pointing away from you, palms facing down.
  8. Look over the left shoulder.  Maintain the torso in a vertical upright position. Avoid the tendency to lean the torso over the bend leg.
  9. Try to hold the final pose for about 10-12 breaths. Maintain gentle, relaxed breathing while in the pose. Your awareness should stay with the stretch in different parts of the body making sure that you don’t over-stretch at any time. Also, keep observing the quality and depth of your breath.
  10. To come out of the pose, bring the arms down, straighten the bent knee and slowly switch to the other side.
  11. Repeat the above on the other side.
  12. Finally come back to the comfortable standing position.

Warrior 3 Step-by-Step


Warrior pose

  1. Warrior 3 is a variation of the Warrior 1 pose wherein the back leg is lifted and the body is balanced on one leg.
  2. Start by bringing the legs in the same position as Warrior 1. Keep the inside edge of the front foot parallel to the side edge of the mat.
  3. Gradually, begin to shift the body weight to the front foot. Stretch the arms out in front, parallel to the floor  and fingers pointing away. Throughout the pose, try to maintain the arms in this horizontal position. Keep the hands shoulder width apart, palms facing each other.
  4. Slowly start lifting the back leg off the floor. As you are lifting the back leg, begin to straighten both the legs. While you are raising the back leg, continue to bend forward.
  5. In the final position, your body assumes the shape of the letter “T” with the torso and the back leg horizontal and thet front leg vertical.
  6. The key point of awareness is the position of the hips with respect to each other. There is always the tendency to misalign the hips with one hip higher than the other. Our effort is to keep both the hips at the same level.
  7. Maintain the final position for about 10-12 breaths or as long as comfortable. Maintain gentle, relaxed breathing while in the pose. Your awareness should stay with the stretch in different parts of the body making sure that you don’t over-stretch at any time. Also, keep observing the quality and depth of your breath.
  8. To come out of the pose, gradually lower the back leg down and finally comes up to a comfortable standing position.
  9. Repeat the above steps for the other side.

Benefits

The following benefits are generally associated with all the three variations of the Warrior pose.

  • Improves overall strength, balance and concentration
  • Warrior poses are some of the best for stretching and strengthening the legs, arches of the feet, ankles, calf muscles, knees, hamstring and thighs.
  • Improves blood circulation in the lower limbs
  • Stretches the shoulders, rib cage, chest and the arms
  • As you raise the shoulders up and back, the abdominal muscles and the back muscles are getting stretched.
  • Therapeutic benefits for sciatica and osteoporosis

Contraindications/Cautions

  • Avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure or heart problem
  • If your shoulder hurts, then avoid pulling the shoulders too far out or up
  • If you have neck problems, keep the neck in line with the spine rather than trying to look up at the hands in Warrior 1.
  • If you have knee problems, try not to bend the knee to full 90 degrees in Warrior 1 and 2.

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