WARRIOR I – VIRABHARDASANA I
The Yoga Sutra includes three warrior poses representing an epic scene narrated in the Hindu Mythology:
The name warrior might seem strange in a non-violent discipline such as Yoga, although we should think of a warrior fighting against ignorance, and especially the lack of knowledge of oneself, which is source of sorrow for human beings.
I love warrior asanas for the width and body extension they allow, conveying a sense of strength, power and braveness.
You can enter Virabhardasana I either from Tadasana (mountain pose), taking a big step backwards – let’s say with the left foot, or from low lunge, right foot forward, by extending your left leg and leaving the right leg bent.
Your feet should be approximately 4 feet (1 meter) apart, but you can adjust depending on your height and expertise level. Your heels should be on the same line, firmly planted into the ground. The right toes point forward, while the left rotate to the left by a 45-90° angle: the more you rotate, the more challenging it is. You should ideally create a right angle with your shin and thigh, but as this requires too much flexibility and strength, you can stay taller.
Here comes the challenging part: square your pelvis, bring your hips on the same plane, both facing forward. This was challenging for me to accomplish: imagine having small eyes located on your iliac crests (the bones on the side and front of your pelvis), both of which want to look forward. The right “eye” is already there: great! About the left “eye”, the first times I tried to bring also the left hip to look forward, the back leg used to rotate inwards: goodbye alignments, goodbye heel into the ground, goodbye warrior I!
Then I found out some tricks: first, keep your feet closer to each other and rotate the back foot to the left just a little bit. Then, try to focus on the internal rotation of your back leg while thinking of a slight retroversion of the left glutes to plant your back heel and the external part of the left foot to the ground. Not easy, I know!
An extra tip: if you are new to Virabhardasana I, you can even keep your left leg rotated inwards and back heel detached from the ground, such as in low lunge with back leg extended. This will lay strong foundations for your Warrior!
Going to the upper body, you should feel energy flowing from your left leg up through the whole back, which is arches slightly to open the chest. Keep shoulders open and low, far from your ears, and draw your shoulder blades towards the coccyx. Reach up your hands to the sky, perpendicular to the ground. If you can, join your palms in Anjali Mudra and direct your gaze to your thumbs; you can also opt for Ksepana Mudra and gaze at your index fingers, resembling the Warrior’s sward.
BENEFITS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING
The story of Virabhardasana is a story of courage and braveness, which we should feel any time we perform the Virabhardasana poses.
On the physical level, Warrior I is beneficial for strengthening our legs, glutes, hips and shoulders while elongating the spine.
In this position, our body occupies a lot of space, which symbolically lets us affirm our presence. The width of the position and foot rootedness let us gather a lot of energy that we can spread throughout our whole body, up to our fingers and beyond our physical edges.
Warrior I hence is very important for those who feel taken into little consideration and fearful. The solid stance of warrior I, together with lifting and opening the chest and heart, helps developing courage and self-confidence, through the knowledge of oneSelf.