How you get on with particular yoga postures can tell you a lot about yourself. Your yoga practice can tell you how your body, mind and emotions are today – if you’re willing to listen!
It’s particularly interesting to listen when you come across a posture you find more challenging than others.
Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana in Sanskrit) are yoga postures which we often see to represent yoga in pictures and logos. We may think we must be able to do these to “do” yoga, but they can seem challenging. They challenge your balance, and they challenge your core, shoulder and arm strength too.
In my early days of practising yoga, I found Warriors tricky. I lacked core strength (i.e. lower abdominals and lower back) and my hips were stiff so I struggled in Warrior 1* to keep my hips facing forward. And because of this weaker core my pelvis tilted forward in Warrior 2* which put my balance out – and because I often had such a busy mind, my focus would go out of the window and I’d wobble all over the place.
And now I teach yoga, I’ve noticed that it’s quite common for people to struggle with their balance. Or the pelvis tilts forward so the bum sticks out (think core to counteract this!) Or our arms start to complain as we hold them out against gravity in Warrior 1, or overhead in Warrior 2.
So, why the struggle?
Aside from the physical issues I’ve already mentioned relating to strength and balance, my experience of the postures suggests to me that, as ever with yoga, when we find a posture challenging there will be things going on in our mind and emotions which are preventing our body from finding a sense of ease in the posture.
Warriors ask you to open the front of your body and our heart centre at our chest – this can make us feel quite vulnerable as we may feel we’re exposing our hidden selves to the world.
Warriors are about standing tall, with power and confidence – they promote a sense of fearlessness. Again, this can be a challenge.
Society still actively discourages women from being confident in their bodies, without judgment. So to stand in postures which say “hey, look at me, I’m strong and confident and perfect just as I am” can be tough.
The prevailing culture of consumerism is built on disenfranchising our sense of adequacy (if you don’t feel good enough or happy, you’ll keep buying til you do, which of course you never will this way…). This affects both men and women.
These cultural norms can serve fundamentally to undermine our sense of security in ourselves – our right to be and to exist. These are classic Root Chakra issue – if our Root Chakra is out of alignment then we question this fundamental right.
So while Warriors may make us feel uncomfortable and challenge our level of comfort about feeling strong and secure and happy in ourselves, noticing that and courageously practising the postures anyway will help us to feel strength and security.
Physically we will strengthen our legs and core, shoulders and arms. And mentally / emotionally we can develop our sense of determination, stability and poise.
Tips to help in this posture
Warrior 1, for me, is all about the legs!
Yes, anatomically it’s more about the shoulders, so focus on relaxing your shoulders down from your ears and easing the shoulder blades together.
However, focusing on your feet strongly connecting to the ground and engaging your leg muscles for support really stimulates feelings of strength and determination.
First off, have your feet at a width which feels comfortable for you – as narrow or wide as your hips currently allow. Push your feet against the floor and make sure your weight is going down the outer edges of your feet so you don’t collapse inwards and take your knees out of alignment. This will help to enhance your sense of security and feeling grounded – enabling you to quieten a busy, distracted mind.
In Warrior 2, once you’ve turned to so your hips are square to your front outstretched leg, take your feet a little wider apart so they’re parallel if you find balance an issue. Again, focus on your feet feeling firmly planted to the floor giving you a wonderful stability.
With both Warriors, never forget your core! Engage your core muscles to encourage a sense of determination and strength which comes from deep within you.
Then focus on lengthening your spine; raising your breast bone. A sense of being strong and grounded and full of vitality and vigour may begin to arise.
Breathe, and stand tall and strong! You’re a peaceful Warrior walking in this world with strength and confidence. Enjoy
Love these postures? Take them deeper
Of course note everyone struggles with Warriors. Or perhaps you’re already been through a struggle and have come to love these powerful postures.
Then begin to take your practise deeper.
- Widen your stance to challenge the leg muscles and open your hips.
- Visualise light and strength rising up from the Earth beneath you, flowing through your body.
- Use affirmations such as “I awaken my inner strength and confidence”.
- Feel a sense of freedom which comes with standing in your power.
- Once connected to this sense of strength and power, rest your awareness at your heart and vow to use this power to do good in this world.
What’s your experience with Warriors?
* A note on Warrior 1 & 2: some traditions of yoga call the version in my picture Warrior 2, however, in Dru Yoga we call this Warrior 1.
Other posts in my ‘Listen to your body in…’ series
Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.