Asanas in yoga: "the warrior" for more strength and stability

Asanas in yoga:

Right after Downward Facing Dog and Mountain Pose, the Warrior Variations are among the poses we most often find in a yoga class. Rightly so, because these not only bring strength and stability to our body, but also some mental qualities.

How many different exercises (asanas) are known in yoga?

Over the centuries, the physical exercises (asanas) in yoga have become the main part of the practice. While in the past only a few different asanas were practiced and the focus was more on meditation, today we know a seemingly endless variety of exercises and new variations are constantly being added.

Why is the warrior so well known?

The warrior is (in most variants) one of the exercises that even yoga newcomers can already practice well - even if their strength and mobility are not very well developed.

It is one of the standing poses that usually forms part of the main sequence of a yoga class, as it warms up and strengthens the large muscle groups (especially in the legs). Thus, they prepare the body for many advanced postures.

Warrior variations also appear in classic practice sequences, such as Ashtanga Sun Salutation B and the first series. In Vinyasa Yoga, too, the warrior postures are often woven into creative flows.

What is the warrior asana?

There really is no such thing as a warrior asana. The best known are the Warrior I, Warrior II and Warrior III. These are not more or less advanced variations of the same exercise, but three different poses.

Many variants of this have evolved over time, each with several names, such as the peaceful warrior (also known as the inverted warrior) and the devoted warrior (also known as the bowing warrior).

These are all standing poses where we stand on one or both feet.

Yoga: The warrior and its effects

Standing poses in general always strengthen our connection to the earth and help build stability and strength at the base. Depending on the warrior variant, there are also various other qualities. The Warrior II especially helps us to focus, while the Warrior III promotes our balance and concentration.

Why is the exercise so good?

The warriors look simple compared to other asanas - but they pack a punch. If we take a closer look and really understand the postures, it becomes clear how well we need to know our body in order to be able to hold them really stable and balanced for a few breaths.

What does the Yoga Warrior do to the body?

All warrior asanas activate and strengthen our leg and butt muscles, especially if we hold them for longer. If we use our feet correctly, they also help build and strengthen the arch of the foot. We find stability by activating the glutes of the back leg.

In most variants we stand on both feet in a wide lunge (the exception is Warrior III). This opens the hip and we feel a stretch in the inner thigh of the back leg. In order to align the hips well here, we need a lot of small muscles that stabilize the pelvis.

What does the yoga warrior do with health?

Knees, hips, back - everyday office life leaves many people with complaints. Most of these come from sitting in the same position for too long. As a result, muscles unlearn how to work and others become overloaded, which leads to pain in the long term.

All warrior variants strengthen our legs, which are understrained when sitting. Even tense hips can breathe easy here. People with knee problems benefit from the stabilizing strengthening of the knees. The back is allowed to work especially in Warrior III and gets a nice side stretch in the peaceful Warrior.

Who is the exercise suitable for?

Any people who have no trouble standing can practice the warriors. As always with yoga, the postures and the holding time should be adapted to the individual physical requirements. If your own limits are respected, the warriors are a great exercise series for all levels and ages.

Alternative Yoga Warrior

Warrior I: Presence and Clarity

The Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) is very similar to the classic lunge, except that here both soles of the feet are flat on the floor. This can be quite demanding for the hips and also for the ankle in the back leg, where a good degree of mobility is required. For these two reasons, the stance is often taught with the heel lifted in the back leg and then called the Warrior I Variation. Actually, this pose has its own Sanskrit name, Alanasana, and is not one of the classic warrior poses.

How do I do the exercise?

  • Come into a large lunge with your feet like on rails (for more stability).
  • Place both feet flat, the front feet facing the front edge of the mat, the back feet turned 45 degrees and facing the long edge of the mat.
  • Align the pelvis parallel to the front (short) edge of the mat. Then bend the front leg as much as possible without losing that alignment. The back leg remains stretched.
  • Inhaling, stretch both arms up over your head, palms facing each other.

Warrior 1

Tips for the exercise

If you experience lower back pain, it is better to keep your back heel elevated and slightly bend your back leg.

The harder you press your feet into the ground and activate your leg muscles, the more stable you are and the lighter your upper body will feel.

What mistakes are often made?

  • The feet are not actively grounded. So spread your toes and make sure that neither the outer nor the inner edge of the foot comes off the ground.
  • Hip turns towards the wide edge of the mat. This is a sign of a lack of hip mobility. Rotate your hips parallel to the front edge of the mat, then bend your front leg just enough to maintain alignment.
  • Front knee falls inward. Make sure the front knee is aligned over the heel and points forward over the second toe.

Warrior II: Stability and Focus

The Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) is one of the best asanas to practice inner strength and serenity at the same time. The shape of the pose allows us to focus well, especially if we also include our gaze, which here is directed over the front hand.

How do I do the exercise?

  • Come into a large lunge. Place both feet flat, the front one points to the front (short) edge of the mat, the back one is placed across it (parallel to the back edge of the mat). Both heels are in a line.
  • Bend the front leg 90 degrees until the knee is straight over the heel. The back leg remains stretched.
  • On an inhale, extend both arms horizontally forward and back, palms facing down. The gaze is directed to the front hand.

Warrior 2

Tips for the exercise

Adjust your feet apart so you can keep your back leg straight and not push your front knee forward past your ankle.

Let your shoulders relax as much as possible so as not to cramp your neck.

The harder you press your feet into the ground and activate your leg muscles, the more stable you are and the lighter your upper body will feel.

What mistakes are often made?

  • Rear foot is not actively grounded. Press the outer and inner edges of both feet equally actively into the ground.
  • Hollow cross. Pull the lower abdomen in and up. Pull your tailbone down toward the mat.
  • Front knee falls inward. Actively pull the outside hip of the front leg back and rotate the outer thighs down until your knee is just pointing forward over the second toe.

Warrior III: Balance and Freedom

In the classic form, Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) is the most challenging Warrior variation. While standing on one leg, we try to balance the rest of the body horizontally. This requires a lot of stability in the standing leg, but also good core and torso muscles as well as a clear mental focus. As we develop these qualities through practice, we achieve balance and can experience a sense of freedom and expansion in the posture. Then we almost feel like a bird soaring high in the air and looking down at the earth.

How do I do the exercise?

  • From a standing position, lift one leg straight back while at the same time leaning your upper body forward like a balance scale. The torso and back leg should be parallel to the floor.
  • Stretch both arms backwards next to the sides of the body, sideways like wings or forwards in extension of the upper body. The last one is the most demanding variant. You can also bring your hands together in front of your heart in Anjali Mudra.

Warrior 3

Tips for the exercise

The back leg is often neglected here, yet it is just as important to stability in the position as the front leg. Push with the back flexed (bent) foot as if against an imaginary wall. In order to internalize this, you can actually practice in front of a wall at the beginning and press your lifted foot against it.

Pull your lower ribs together to stabilize your core.

What mistakes are often made?

  • Lack of stability in the standing leg and lack of activity in the back leg. Press all four corners of your stand firmly into the ground. Push the back foot in the air as if against an imaginary wall.
  • Hip revs up. Drop the outside hip of your lifted leg until it is level with the hip of your standing leg. Actively pull the outer hip of the standing leg towards the back heel.

The warrior stances seem simple, but upon closer inspection they are packed with subtleties and great qualities. That's why they never get boring, even for advanced yogi*nis who have been practicing for many years and should hardly be missing in a yoga class.

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