Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II
April was a big month for us at the studio! Our studio manager, Melanie, got married, and our staff doubled down on preparations for our upcoming teacher training. With our efforts focused elsewhere we missed sharing a pose of the month with you in April. May will find us exploring our strength and power in Virabhadrasana (veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh) II or Warrior II pose. Virabhadrasana is a standing pose that enhances stamina and stability attributes of the warrior incarnation of Shiva it is draws its name from.
Regardless of our daily routines, we all could benefit from the deep hip opening, stretch in the legs, groins, and chest, and improved concentration we cultivate in Virabhadrasana II. When we include this pose in our practice, we build strength in the entire body. Strong activation of the feet tones the arches of the feet and ankles. We tone the pelvic floor and abdomen as well as generate more powerful muscles in the thighs and buttocks, improving our stability and endurance on and off the mat. Properly aligned Virabhadrasana can relieve backaches and improve digestion as well as open the chest and shoulders, which encourages improved breathing capacity and circulation.
Begin in a wide legged stance, feet parallel and engaged, shoulder stacked over hip. Pivot the front foot toward the short side of the mat, lining the heel up with the arch of the opposite foot. Knees should be inline with and facing the same direction as their corresponding foot and ankle. Activate the thighs as you inhale the arms parallel to the floor aligned with the legs, palms face down, shoulders drawn onto the back body.
Exhale and bend front knee over the front ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the thigh parallel to the floor. Check to see that your front big toe is visible by drawing the front knee back, opening the hips. Take a wider stance if your knee is moving in front of your ankle. Press evenly into the outer edge and inner toe mounds of the back foot to anchor the pose and charge the muscles of the extended leg. Sink evenly into your hips.
Maintain equal length on both sides of the torso by keeping the shoulder stacked over the hips. It is tempting to lean the torso over the front leg, but to maximize the benefits of this pose keeping the shoulders and hips aligned is best. Let the tailbone draw towards the pubis, and draw the belly towards the spine on your exhales to keep the torso open. Broaden across your collarbones and lengthen the space between your shoulder blades. Engage your triceps. Drop your shoulders and lift your chest. Turn the head to look over the front leg, gaze is focused just beyond your middle finger. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Inhale as you press through both feet, turn the front toes parallel with the back, and release the arms. Repeat on the opposite side for an equal number of breaths.
Virabhadrasana II can be modified to meet you where you are. Adjusting the distance between the feet to improve your balance can make this pose more accessible as we build our strength and flexibility. It is very important to maintain proper knee alignment to avoid straining the joints. The bent knee often drifts inward; correct this by drawing towards the pinky toe side of the foot as you work to bring the thigh to parallel. To increase the intensity of this pose, outwardly rotate the arms so that the palms face up, shoulder blades draw down the back. Once you feel capable of building from there try rotating the arms inwardly and outwardly with your breath as you hold the strength in your legs.
The fierce energy of this pose and its ability to ground us while opening our hips and chest create an intensely liberating experience we hope you connect with as much as we have.