How to Do Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose
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Also Known As: Proud Warrior, Peaceful Warrior, Crescent Pose

Targets: Hamstrings, quadriceps, intercostal muscles

Level: Beginner

Reverse Warrior is a side bend done in a lunge position. Yoga has a lot of forward bends and backbends, but a side bend is a little rarer. The intercostal muscles between the ribs are hard to get to but they need your attention too. When going for a side stretch, it helps to reach your right arm up first and back second. The upward momentum toward the ceiling emphasizes the stretch along that side of the body. In a back-bending scenario, you would want to extend equally along both sides. Once you have a nice, long side body, you can start to reach back but you may find you don't actually move very much. You can use this pose as part of a standing pose sequence.


Reverse Warrior strengthens the legs, opens the side body, improves spinal mobility, and improves balance and core strength. You get a good stretch of both the front and rear thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings), hips, groin muscles, and the intercostal muscles of the ribs. It is a hip opener, which is a good antidote for sitting all day. It is also an energizing pose, allowing better breathing and circulation.

Although it's possible to do Reverse Warrior as a deep backbend, it's more beneficial to approach it primarily as a side bend. Practically speaking, it means the idea is not to go for the full spinal extension of a deep backbend. It really does not matter how far down your leg you can get your left hand.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin in Warrior II with your right foot forward.

  1. Lean your torso toward the front of your mat and then circle your right hand up toward the ceiling for a big stretch along your right side. Keep your right arm plugged into the shoulder socket. Your left hand comes down to rest lightly on the back of your left thigh.
  2. Bring your gaze up to the right fingertips.
  3. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most out of this pose and prevent strain or injury.

Knee Too Far Forward or Drifting Inside

As with any lunge position, the forward knee should never extend past the toes or you may place too much stress on the knee. Your knee may tend to drift toward the inside, but this is also stressful on the knee joint and you should keep it from doing so.

Front Knee Not Flexed Enough

Keep your right knee bent directly over your ankle. A lot of times as you lean your upper body backward, the front knee goes with it. After you have set up your arms, check in on your legs and then deepen the front knee so that it is directly over your ankle if necessary. Make a conscious effort to maintain a deep bend in your front knee.

Placing Weight on Back Hand

Don't put any weight on your back hand because your support should come from your core strength instead of from your hand resting on your leg.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, there are ways to do this pose to ensure you are learning the correct form, and to add difficulty as you progress.

Need a Modification?

If it's difficult for you to balance, try taking the gaze down to your left foot instead of up at your right fingertips. You can also take your feet a bit wider toward either side of your mat if you feel wobbly. 

Up for a Challenge?

Wrap your left arm behind your back, reaching the left hand for the inner right thigh. If you make that connection, use the traction to open your chest more toward the ceiling. 

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have balance difficulties or an injury to the hips, knees, back, or shoulders. If you have a neck problem, you should keep your neck in neutral position with gaze forward rather than tilting your head back. You will feel a stretch in your thighs, groin, and sides, but you should not feel any pain. Come out of the pose if you feel any sharp pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.