Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Posing on Tuesday; Warrior I

Panda needs to be around for everything.
Last week, I did a pose breakdown for crescent and I mentioned it's one of my all time favorite postures because its such an amazing stretch and it engages pretty much every muscle in your entire body. This week, I'm focusing on a similar, but oh-so-very-different pose, Warrior 1.

(Virabhadrasana I)

If given the choice between WI and Crescent during a flow class, I will almost always choose Crescent - not because WI is difficult or I don't like it, but it takes time to get into. It takes checking to make sure everything is aligned the way it should be.
Warrior 1 is one of the most challenging standing yoga postures. A lot of people get into warrior 1 and think, "this is easy. what's the big deal?" There is so much subtle nuance to warrior 1, and finding exactly where your body should be in this pose, that people end up doing it wrong.

You all remember crescent? Remember how your back heel was up? On the surface, the only real difference between warrior 1 and crescent is that in warrior 1, your heel is down.

Before you come up from your high lunge, turn your toes out at a 45 degree angle and bring your heel to the floor. The whole time you're in this pose, the outside edge of your foot - or the knife edge, as my husband calls it - is pressing down into the floor, while the inside edge/arch is lifting up. Imagine there is a string running along the inseam of your back leg all the way to your arch and someone is at the top, pulling it upward toward them. That's what it should feel like.

Having your back foot flat and pointed outward is going to make your body want to open up towards your back leg. The most challenging part of this pose is keeping your back heel down, pressing the outside edge of the foot into the floor, and simultaneously squaring the hips to the face the front of the room.

Just like in Crescent, the front knee is tracking out over the middle toe, trying to get into as close to a right angle as possible.
The back leg is straight and fully engaged. The back is slightly arched, the hips are facing as straight forward as you can get them, the neck is long, shoulders drop away from the ears, arms are straight, reaching towards the sky, palms facing inward, triceps rotating away from each other.

So, why do we do Warrior 1?  It strengthens the arms, legs, back shoulders, and core, while stretching the chest, groin, thighs, calves, and ankles.

Something a lot of people struggle with in this pose is the positioning of the hips. It can be really helpful to put your hands on the tops of your hip bones - not your waist - and feel which direction they're facing. You'll be able to tell if they're opening up to the side or tilting forward or backward. The tendency is for the hips to tilt forward, cause over-arching in the low back. By SLIGHTLY tucking the tail bone down and abdominal muscles in, you can help to reduce the tilt in the hips.

If you find you're having trouble getting your back heel flat on the ground, there are a couple of things you can do. The first way is to roll up your mat or put a blanket under your heel at whatever height it needs to be at. The second option, which I prefer, is to narrow your stance - bring your back foot up closer to the front foot as much as you need to to get the back foot flat. Try not to come up too much since this will take a lot of the stretch out of the groin. Then as you get more flexible, you can move your foot back and deepen the lunge.

If it's comfortable for you and you can do it without compromising the hips, you can deepen the back bend, reach and extend up towards the ceiling, and place your palms together.

Tadaaa! Warrior 1! Next week, I'll focus on Warrior 2.

Did you find this post helpful? Have you learned to do Warrior 1 differently? Are you going to try this pose at home or in a yoga class?

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