How to Do Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Warrior One

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Balance, heart opener

Level: Beginner

Warrior I is one of yoga's foundational poses, but getting the alignment right can be a little tricky. It teaches you balance and to be more aware of your body positioning. You will recognize the lunge stance as one common for exercise and stretching. Incorporate this pose into a flow as part of a standing yoga sequence.

Benefits

Warrior I strengthens the legs and upper arms, improves balance and core strength, stretches the muscles around the hips. You get a good stretch of both the front and rear thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings), hips, and chest, as well as a back extension of the erector spinae muscle. It is a hip opener, which is a good antidote for sitting all day. This pose can be therapeutic if you have sciatica. It is also an energizing pose, allowing better breathing and circulation.

Instructions

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward to the inside of your right hand.
  2. Pivot on the ball of your left foot and drop your left heel to the floor with your toes turned out about 45 degrees from the heel.
  3. Bend your right knee directly over your right ankle so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Rise to standing, bringing your arms out to the side and up toward the ceiling. Your chest stays open as you come into a slight spinal extension (also known as a backbend).
  5. Your palms can touch overhead or stay shoulder's distance apart, whichever is more comfortable.
  6. Lift your gaze up toward your thumbs and slide your shoulder blades down the back.
  7. Check the alignment of your hips. Draw your right hip back and your left hip forward so that both hips are squared to the front of your mat.
  8. Ground down through the outer edge of your left foot. Make sure your right thigh is still as parallel to the floor as possible.
  9. Drop your hands to your mat and step your right leg back to Downward Dog. Take a few breaths or move through a vinyasa before doing the left side.

    Common Mistakes

    To get the most from this pose and to prevent strain or injury, avoid these errors.

    Knee Extended Too Far

    As with any lunge, protect your knee of your forward leg by not extending it past your toes. It should be over your ankle.

    Not Squaring Hips to Front

    The trickiest part of this pose is squaring your hips to the front. If you don't have a feeling for what squaring the hips to the front means, place your hands on your waist and feel for the bony part of your pelvis that sticks out on both sides. These are called the hip points. Imagine that they are the headlights of a car and they should face the front of the mat. You can feel if they are at an angle instead of facing forward. Draw the front leg side back and the rear leg side forward until you get your headlights in the right position. Step your feet further toward each side of the mat if necessary.

    Modifications and Variations

    As with most yoga poses, you can do this pose in different ways to make it more accessible as a beginner or to deepen it as you progress.

    Need a Modification?

    Though Warrior I has traditionally be taught with the heel of the front foot lined up with the arch of the back foot (like standing on a tightrope), it makes more sense for most people to separate their feet to either side of the mat a bit more (like standing on train tracks). This separation allows the hips to square more effectively.

    Up for a Challenge?

    Challenge yourself to build strength by going for a long hold time, maybe up to ten breaths.

    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 rather than tilting your head back. If you have shoulder problems, you can raise your arms to parallel rather than bringing them together over your head or keep your hands on your knees or hips.

    Try It Out

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

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