Warrior II Pose Instructions: How to Practice Virabhadrasana II
About Warrior II Pose
Warrior II Pose, also known as Virabhadrasana II, is a foundational standing pose in many styles of yoga. We see Warrior II pose in many yoga classes and it's a posture that is beginner friendly. The name and posture are rich in mythological background and symbolism.
Mythological Background of Warrior II Pose
The story behind the Warrior poses comes from Hindu mythology, specifically connected to the deity Shiva, one of the main gods in the Hindu pantheon, who embodies destruction and rebirth. The story goes as follows:
Sati, the wife of Shiva, attended a grand yajna (a Vedic ritual of offerings accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras) organized by her father Daksha, despite Shiva's advice not to. Shiva was not invited due to a disagreement between him and Daksha. Feeling humiliated and disrespected during the event because of the disregard shown towards her and her husband, Sati took her own life.
When Shiva learned of Sati's death, he was devastated and enraged. Out of his anger and grief, he tore a lock from his hair and threw it to the ground. From this, the fierce warrior Virabhadra was created. Shiva commanded him to go and destroy the yajna and to take revenge on those who had insulted him and caused the death of his beloved Sati.
The Warrior poses in yoga represent the incarnations of this warrior:
- Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I): This pose depicts the moment Virabhadra emerges from the ground, reaching toward the sky with his arms, ready to strike.
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II): This represents Virabhadra in his full warrior stance, gazing out over his extended hand, surveying the battlefield and the enemies before him.
- Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III): This signifies the act of Virabhadra beheading Daksha with his sword.
Though the story can seem violent, its deeper interpretation in the context of a yogic practice is about conquering one's own ego, ignorance, and inner struggles, and moving forward with strength and purpose.
Symbolism and Significance of Warrior II in Yoga Practice
In a yoga practice, the Warrior II pose is often used to emphasize strength, stability, and concentration. The outward extension of the arms and the grounding of the feet can be seen as a representation of the balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of life. The pose teaches practitioners to stay grounded and strong in the face of challenges, both on and off the mat.
Additionally, Warrior II is a pose that strengthens various parts of the body, particularly the legs, ankles, and shoulders, while also stretching the hips and groin. It enhances stamina, balance, and focus. The pose's emphasis on alignment and the engagement of various muscle groups makes it a staple in many yoga sequence.
How to Practice Warrior II Pose: Virabhadrasana II Cues
Practicing Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) requires a combination of strength, balance, and focus. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you practice this standing yoga posture:
Starting Position: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of your mat.
Stepping into the Pose: Take a big step back with your right foot, approximately 3 to 4 feet apart, depending on your height. If you feel congested, step the feet a bit wider. If you feel unsteady, bring the feet a little closer together. This is one of those things that you have to feel your way into. Listen to your body.
Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes point to the top of the mat. Your left foot should be parallel to the short edge of the mat or turned in slightly (about 45 degrees). Again, you want to feel your way into this posture. It isn't an exact science and the degree to which your toes angle in is a personal choice depending on your own body.
Alignment of Heels: Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. This alignment provides a strong and stable foundation.
- Feet: Root down through all 4 corners of both feet, sealing off through the edges of the feet.
- Knees: The back leg stays straight while the front knee bends to whatever degree feels right in your body. It doesn't have to bend until the front thigh is parallel to the ground, but definitely not past that 90 degree angle. The knees shouldn't pass the toes.
Hips: The hips open towards the long edge of the mat in Warrior II pose.
- Checking in: Make sure that the front knee is pointing in the same direction as the front toes, towards the front, short edge of the mat. Also make sure that the knee is pressing open and the hip is pressing open rather than collapsing in.
Positioning the Arms: Extend your arms out to the sides, parallel to the ground with your palms facing down. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders.
Gaze (Drishti): Turn your head to the right and look out over the tips of your right fingers. This is your "drishti" or focused gaze.
Engaging the Muscles: Press the outer edge of your left foot firmly into the mat. Engage the muscles in both thighs. Draw your belly button in toward your spine to engage the core. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and extend through the fingertips, energizing both arms.
Deepening the Pose: If you're comfortable, work on deepening the bend in your right knee, aiming to get your thigh parallel to the ground, but ensure your knee doesn't move past your ankle.
Holding the Pose: Breathe deeply and hold the pose for a few breaths or as long as you're comfortable.
Exiting the Pose: To come out of the pose, press into your back foot and straighten your front knee. Lower your arms, and step your right foot forward to return to Tadasana. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Ensure that the knee of the bent leg does not extend past the ankle. This helps to avoid strain or injury.
- Maintain a strong engagement of the back leg and outer edge of the back foot.
- Keep the torso upright and centered between the hips.
- As with any yoga pose, it's more important to maintain proper alignment than to go deeply into the pose. Adjustments and modifications can be made based on your flexibility and strength.
Modifications for Warrior II Pose
You can modify using a chair. Sitting in a chair you would extend the back leg behind you and bend the front leg on the opposite side of the chair, sealing off through both feet.
Take a kneeling variation. You can always practice Warrior II pose on your knees if that's best for your body.
Use a wall for support. You can practice Warrior II pose with your back against a wall for support.
Change your stance in Warrior II pose. You can bring the feet closer together if that's better for you. You can also bend the knee less deeply.
As always, it's beneficial to learn and practice yoga poses under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor, especially when first starting out.
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