Virabhadrasana 1 (pronounced veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh) is also known as Warrior 1. Virabhadra is the name of a powerful mythological warrior. According to legend, when one of his hairs dropped to the earth, from it a great army arose.
It may seem a bit strange that a yoga pose is named after a warrior – after all yoga is about promoting peace and unity. But I think it makes perfect sense if we look at it in light of a spiritual warrior – someone who aims to live their life with compassion and strength.
In her book The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron teaches:
“Wherever we are, we can train as a warrior. The practices of meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are our tools. With the help of these practices, we can uncover the soft spot of bodhichitta. We will find that tenderness in sorrow and in gratitude. We will find it behind the hardness of rage and in the shakiness of fear. It is available in loneliness as well as in kindness.”
Benefits of Virabhadrasana
Warrior poses are very physically demanding perhaps symbolic of the warrior energy. They require quite a bit of strength. But they also require that the chest and heart area remain open. Strength and softness.
Warrior 1 is a great posture for stretching many areas of both the lower and upper body including, the chest and lungs, the shoulder area, the belly and the hip joints. It also helps to build strength in the shoulders, arms, back muscles, legs and ankles.
Virabhadrasana 1 develops stamina and endurance in your thighs and the muscles of your core. It also stimulates digestion. It helps to improve balance, posture and concentration. When done correctly, Virabhadrasana 1 can be helpful for knee problems.
Warrior 1 is a variation of a forward lunge. We often move into this posture from Downward Facing Dog so let’s take that as our starting point here.
From Downward Facing dog, inhale and step the right leg forward placing it your foot between your hands.
Rotate the left foot (the back foot) out approximately 45°. Keep the back heel pressed to the ground. Bend the right knee bent to no more than 90°. The intention is to have the right thigh parallel to the floor.
Take a deep breath in and raise your arms overhead with the palms facing each other. You may have your palms touching or arms shoulder width apart.
Gaze is forward or slightly up, towards the ceiling.
Intend your hips square towards the front and allow the right knee (front knee) to open towards the right.
Stretch your tailbone towards the floor while at the same time lifting your torso.
As you exhale, sink your hips. As you inhale, lift the chest a little higher.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, press through the right leg and step the left leg forward. Another way to exit the posture (which is often part of a vinyasa style class) is to place your hands on the floor and step back into push-up position getting ready to flow into the next posture.
Use a chair or fitness ball under the hips to take some of the weight off of the front leg. Or hold onto the back of the chair (turned sideways) or a wall for support.
If your find Warrior 1 is hard on your shoulders you may want to keep the arms stretched out in front of you or have the hands at your hips.
Be particularly careful if you have any knee problems. Don’t flex the front knee too deeply. You might also choose to lower the back leg so the knee rests on the floor.
To make room in the hip area, stay on the ball of the back foot in a more traditional lunge position (rather than turning it out at 45° in a flat position.)
A Few Tips
- Don’t allow the front knee to collapse inwards as this is quite stressful on the knee.
- Think of pressing into the outside edge of your back foot. This helps to square your pelvis forward.
- Bring your shoulders down, relaxing them away from the ears.
- Keep your chest lifted tring to find that sensation of broadening or opening.
- Find a point of focus and maintain a soft, steady gaze.