Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose)

Iyengar's difficulty rating: 1* out of 60*

Attempting the shapes of yoga poses (and nothing more) can provide a great deal of benefit to lots of people. But my style as a practitioner and teacher is all about going deeper than that (eventually). It's about engaging subtler actions, discovering different nuances and methods.

I believe that practicing the shapes of yoga is body literacy; safely deepening and playing with those shapes is body fluency. And the more fluent we become in the languages of our bodies, the more we can understand them – and make peace with them.

With that in mind, Warrior 2 is a great foundational pose where lots of fluency-building work can be done. Lately I've been playing with its power as a deep hip opener similar to Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose).

In my experience, most yoga students and teachers focus primarily on the front thigh and knee in Warrior 2. Nothing wrong with that. But by broadening that awareness to the hips and back leg, it's possible to make the overall pose much more intense.

Here are some simple steps that might help you access this deep yourself.

  • Get into the basic Warrior 2 shape.
  • Let your front knee buckle inwards, so that the inside edge of your foot becomes heavy and the outside edge becomes light. You heard me. Do the opposite of what everyone tells you to do. Don't worry; it's temporary.
  • Stick out your butt and deepen your hip creases – especially the hip crease of the back leg. This can help you rotate your pelvis and torso to face the long edge of your mat.
  • Keep your pelvis and torso facing the long edge of your mat. Externally rotate your back leg, activate all the muscles around your thighbone, and push your heel down and back into the ground. Think of the back leg as your stable foundation, your power source in the pose.
  • Keeping the hip crease of your back leg deep, externally rotate your front leg by squeezing your outer butt and hip muscles and softening your groin muscles. Your goal is to bring your front knee back out over your ankle and balance the weight in your front foot.
  • Keep the hard work and position in both legs. Bring your torso back to a natural, tall, strong position. If your pelvis is tipping uncomfortably from when you stuck your butt out, un-stick out your butt by pulling your core muscles towards your spine and dropping the back of your pelvis towards the ground.
  • Keep opening both legs away from one another. This will probably feel like a deep stretch for the inner thighs and a strong activation for the outer hips.

Following these instructions builds outer hip strength and deeply stretches your groins and inner thighs. It's a great way to move towards intense abduction and external rotation poses like Upavistha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) and Samakonasana (Straight Angle Pose). It's also an important part of avoiding back pain when you're flowing through Reverse Warrior postures.

Also note the power and passion radiating from Iyengar's chest out along his arms. The pose just looks fearless, doesn't it? Is your expression so expansive?

There's a well-established link between posture and the ability to access and convey confidence, power, and presence.

Do you tend to collapse your chest and struggle to stretch your arms and fingers fully? Working on these aspects of the posture and thereby affecting the shape of your body might help you shift your internal state.

What are some tricks you've discovered that explore and deepen foundational poses?

How to improve your Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose):

  • Stretch your groins and strengthen your outer hips with postures like Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
  • Lengthen your sides and expand your chest with postures like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose) and Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
  • Take a long stance, squeeze all the muscles in your back leg, and commit to getting your front thigh parallel to the floor

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose) prepares you for:

  • All other standing poses, especially Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose) and open-hip postures like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
  • Intense wide-legged postures like Upavistha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) and Samakonasana (Straight Angle Pose)
  • Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and its many variations
  • Many deep lateral body stretches and forward folds, including Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose)
  • Many arm balances, such as Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Hurdler's or Sage Koundinya Pose) and Visvamitrasana (Friend of the World Pose)