Warrior 2 is a yoga pose that is very common and because it seems so basic, it's often neglected. However, if properly executed, Virabhadrasana 2 can be a very intense pose since it aligns the whole body. Therefore, it’s very important to be careful about the alignment in this position and to practice it with dignity.
1. How Do You Get Into Warrior 2?
- Start from Mountain pose (Tadasana) and take a big step back with one leg. Align the back foot with the short edge of the mat so that the toes point toward the long edge of the mat. The front foot is straight with the toes pointing forward.
- Bend the front knee so that it is in a 90 degree angle above your ankle. It's very important here that the knee doesn't collapse to the inside since this would put a lot of stress on your meniscus. Instead, the midline of the kneecap should be in line with the second or third toe. You can check your knee alignment if you place the index finger on the midline of the kneecap so that the index finger is in one line with the second or third toe.
- Externally rotate the front thigh while you push the front leg forward and the back thigh backward. Externally rotate the back thigh as well. This stretches the hip flexor.
- Bring your awareness on the back leg: It is often not sufficiently engaged. If the back leg is bent, the knee collapses to the floor. Instead, keep the back leg straight and the back foot engaged by lifting all the toes except the big toe.
- Let your hip sink down while your heart rises up.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor. Externally rotate the arms first to open your chest. Maintain this openness in the chest and shoulders and just rotate the hands so that the palms face down. Pay attention to your back shoulder and don't let it collapse. Bring your arms in one line instead.
- If it feels comfortable, you can turn your head to look towards the front hand. Note, however, that it is better for your lung volume not to turn the head. Rather align the midline of the face with the midline of the chest so that you're facing the long edge of the mat. This will allow you to breathe deeper.
- You can additionally increase your lung volume by lifting the armpits and lengthening the waistline.
- Keep the spine straight, i.e. do not lean too much forward and keep your body in a vertical line.
So much for the theory. However, to get a comprehensive understanding of the yoga pose Warrior 2, it's also necessary to practice it on the mat and feel your body engaging in this asana. You can hop on the mat with yoga star Young Ho Kim in our Inside Yoga Alignment on TINT where we have a whole video dealing with Warrior 2 as well as a second video focusing on the right and wrong.
2. What Is Your Body Doing In Warrior 2?
2.1. What Are the Joints Doing?
In Warrior 2, the spine is almost in a neutral position with a slight rotation in the chest to orient toward the long edge of the yoga mat. The pelvis is level. If your face is directed towards your front hand, your head is rotated to the front.
If we look at the upper limbs, we see that the shoulder is adducted and externally rotated, the scapula is abducted and the forearm is pronated.
As regards the lower limbs, we have to examine the front leg and the back leg separately. The front leg performs the following actions:
- nutation of the the sacroiliac joint (i.e. the sacrum moves separately from the pelvic bones so that the top of the sacrum tips forward while the bottom tilts back)
- flexion and abduction of the hip
- flexion of the knee
- dorsiflexion of the ankle.
Let us now take a look at the back leg:
- counter-nutation of the sacroiliac joint (i.e. the top of the sacrum tips backward and the bottom moves forward)
- extension and abduction of the hip
- extension of the knee
- dorsiflexion of the ankle
- supination at the heel of the foot and pronation at the forefoot.
2.2. Which Muscles Are Engaged?
To maintain the neutral alignment of the spine in Warrior 2, the spinal extensors and flexors are alternating between concentric and eccentric contraction. The external oblique of the front leg side and the internal oblique of the back leg side contract concentrically to rotate the chest toward the side.
If we explore the muscles that are active in the upper limbs, we see that:
- the serratus anterior effects the abduction of the scapula,
- the rotator cuff muscles as well as the deltoids and the long head of the biceps brachii stabilize and abduct the shoulder joint,
- the pronator quadrutus and teres pronate the forearm,
- the pectoralis major and minor are passively lengthening, in particular in the back arm.
Again, when it comes to the lower limbs, we have to look at the front leg and the back leg separately.
In the front leg, the gluteus medius and minimus are responsible for the abduction of the hip. The pelvic muscles such as the gluteus maximus and the piriformis contract eccentrically to prevent the hip from collapsing while it is abducted and flexed. The hamstrings and the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot enable the hip and knee flexion as well as the dorsiflexion of the ankle.
In order to extend and abduct the hip of the back leg, the gluteus medius and minimus, the hamstrings as well as the piriformis and the other pelvic muscles contract concentrically. The intrinsic muscles of the foot help to maintain the arches of the foot without hindering the dorsiflexion of the ankle.
3. What Is The Most Common Misalignment In Warrior 2?
One of the most common misalignments in Warrior 2 is that the knee of the back leg is hyperextended and locked while the hip collapses forward. The lower back flattens and the side body drops down so that the entire body collapses into the pose instead of actively maintaining it.
To avoid this, engage the legs by pulling the feet and shins in and pushing the hips further back. Avoid letting the knees turn in as you move the hips back. Keep the knees widening out and the inner thighs flowing back. This brings a lot of power into the legs and the bones of the back leg are lined up.
Elongate the whole waistline and firm the belly. To support this alignment, you can also turn the right sitting bone further down and lift the right side of the belly higher.
Note that there should be no stress in the front of the back hip and your lower back should have a slight curve.
If you want to learn more on correct alignment in yoga poses such as Warrior 2, check out the Therapeutic Alignment Immersion on TINT by internationally recognized yoga teacher Barbra Noh. This program reveals biomechanical principles that intelligently respond to the most common postural misalignments. Applying them to your asana practice will help you increase strength, range of motion and the therapeutic benefits of the asana practice. The results are renewed confidence, a sense of freedom and joy.
If you're looking for a quick reference to avoid misalignment in your yoga practice, have a look at our free yoga alignment ebook. It will give you a sound understanding of some general alignment principles that can be applied to any pose and will make a huge difference to your yoga practice.
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4. How Do You Build Warrior 2 Into Your Practice?
Warrior 2 is a yoga pose that is practiced regularly in most yoga classes, usually in dynamic transitions into and out of a Lunge, High Lunge, or Warrior 1. Especially Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1) is perfect to warm up the hips of both legs for Warrior 2. In addition, Warrior 1 helps to lengthen the hip flexors and calf muscles of the back leg and guides your knee over the center of the front foot.
You can also simply move into Virabhadrasana 2 from Mountain pose (Tadasana). This is a great yoga pose to practice the action of the feet, legs and spine since the alignment and actions of these body parts will translate to any standing pose including Warrior 2.
Prepare the muscles of the outer and inner hips for the external rotation required in Warrior 2 by performing Bound Angle pose (Baddha Konasana). If you support your hips with a prop, you will have more space for a longer spine, especially if your lower body feels tight and stiff. You could also use blocks or a rolled-up blanket under the outer thighs as a support.
Another preparatory yoga pose is Tree pose (Vrksasana) since it challenges balance and focus and introduces the external hip rotation. All these things are needed in Warrior 2 as well.
Practice Warrior 2 as a transition into or out of Triangle pose (Trikonasana) since the alignment of the feet is the same. You just need to straighten the front leg when transitioning into Triangle and your legs will have the proper alignment for this pose. Since it's saver to come out of Triangle with a bent front leg, you will arrive in Warrior 2 almost automatically.
One of the most common transitions may be moving from Warrior 2 into Reversed Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana), back to Warrior 2 and into Side Angle (Parsvakonasana) or Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana). Your legs and feet bascially maintain the same position and it is only your upper body that performs the transition. Make this a fluid movement aligned with your breath.
Try different variations of moving in and out of Warrior 2. You can, for example, straighten the front leg and raise your arms over your head as you inhale. On the exhale, bend the front leg again and bring your arms parallel to the floor.
If you want to deepen the pose and increase the length and strength of the arms, turn the palms and inner elbow creases upwards and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Maintaining the rotation of the arms, turn the palms from the wrists to face down again.
You can find further inspiration on how to incorporate Virabhadranasa 2 and other standing poses into your yoga practice from Desirée Rumbaugh and Adrew Rivin's Transformational Home Practice program on TINT. They have two videos focusing on standing poses that do not only provide a wide variety of modifications and variations but also include detailed explanations on proper alignment.
However, bear in mind that proper alignment is the most important thing when it comes to your yoga practice – especially in transitions. There are some basic yoga alignment principles you can apply to also keep your body perfectly aligned in any modifications or variations of Warrior 2. Our free ebook summarizes some the most important alignment principles so you can use it as a reference guide throughout your practice.
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5. What Are the Benefits of Warrior 2?
Warrior 2 is a great yoga pose to open the hips and the chest and shoulders and can thus improve your breathing capacity and increase the circulation throughout the entire body.
It also activates the back muscles, in particular the erector spinae. This is a group of muscles running on either side of the lumbar, cervical and thoracic spine. Their main function is to straighten the back and provide side-to-side rotation. Activating them in yoga poses like Warrior 2 supports their proper functioning and can therefore decrease the chances of back pain.
Apart from that, Virabhadrasana 2 strengthens the quadriceps, the adductors of the inner thighs, and the hamstrings. It is also highly effective for the gluteus muscles, which are responsible for the movement of the hips and thighs.
Furthermore, maintaining the Warrior 2 yoga pose for a longer period of time can increase stamina and balance. Holding the body in the lunge position is a great workout for the core and stabilizer muscles and tones the muscles in the thighs and buttocks as well as in the abs and the arms.
However, this pose does not only strengthen certain muscles, it also is a powerful stretch for the inner thighs, the groin, and the chest. And since the feet are very active in this pose, it also strengthens the ankles and the arches of the feet.
Finally, the alignment of the body in this asana is a great way to increase body awareness and improve the mind-body connection. Since the legs and the hands move in various directions, a great sense of spatial orientation is required. This is why Warrior 2 is a yoga pose that helps to enhance coordination and connect body and mind. Give it a try!
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