Creative ways to practice the Warrior poses
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Creative ways to practice the Warrior poses

During the Autumn of 2021 I was preparing to teach my first 1 day yoga and nature immersion at our new studio space situated at my parents family home in Llanberis, North Wales. I had been thinking of ways to explore the landscape through yoga and found myself drawn to the mountains more and more. The yoga practices that came from this time found their way into my weekly classes in my home town of Marple.

I was inspired by Tāḍāsana (mountain pose) and Vīrabhadrāsana I and II (Warrior I and II). As I began to explore these postures I started to describe ways in which to approach them creatively using a metaphor of climbing a mountain path. One of my longstanding yoga folks, Bridget, said to me “I imagine we will one day be reading about these postures in a blogpost and exploring the way we approach them as if we’re in the mountains.”

 

Bridget left a little seed with me that day, and it’s taken me almost a further 5 months to get around to writing this down, but I kept telling myself; this is one blogpost I would love to share!

Vīrabhadrāsana I; Warrior I Pose;

 

Vira meaning Hero

Bhadra meaning friend

Asana meaning pose (specifically a seated pose)

 

I have always really enjoyed practising the warrior pose and it’s many possibilities over the years. It provides me with a feeling of being alive in the here and now. Moments to become stronger and steadier within myself as I find deep connections to the ground, and the space around me. It will often have a place in the classes I teach too because I enjoy the diversity, accessibility and spiritual nature that it contains.

 

There are many different ways of approaching it, and equally as many different ways to adapt and modify for each individual person who explores it.

 

The Physical benefits include:
  • Strengthens the back, shoulders, arms and legs.
  • Develops overall bodily stability and stamina
  • Engages abdominal core for greater support
  • Increases hip, back and shoulders mobility
  • Opens the chest
  • Prepares for further back-bending postures
  • Energising

 

It can be approached from the front or the back of the mat, explored as a posture within itself, or taken as part of a more complex sequence.

 

Approaching Warrior I (Vīrabhadrāsana I)

 

Stand at the back of the mat with both feet no wider than hips distance. Turn the ball of your left foot out a little and step forwards generously with your right foot. Try bending the front knee first and ensure you have enough space to bend it forwards over the front foot and still catch a glimpse of your toes underneath the knee. Connect to the breath. On the next inhale raise your arms forwards and up whilst bending the front knee, on exhale lower the arms and return the front knee towards a straighter position.

 

Continue 4-6 times with your breath before pausing and returning to the starting position with your feet alongside one other. Repeat on the opposite side. Please note if tension arises into the shoulders let your elbows release and soften the arms.

“…just thinking of yourself as a fierce (but peaceful) warrior helps you feel stronger and more powerful, so we want to embody the pose whenever we do it.”

Olga Kabel; An Ode to Warrior

 

Let’s explore the pose again in a creative way

 

We know from its definition, the Sanskrit meaning of Virbhadrasana is to be a ‘friendly hero’. Is this something we can embody and encourage within ourselves as we approach the pose?

 

One of the reasons why I enjoy exploring it so much within my own practice is because of its meaning, as a reminder towards being my own hero, of tuning into courage in a compassionate and friendly way. But, it doesn’t end there! There are so many creative different ways of approaching Warrior I that can enhance an overall feeling of being stronger and courageous, calm and gentle in body, breath and in mind.

 

Here’s a few:

  • Building overall bodily strength and power can help with confidence levels and low self-esteem
  • The warrior is fierce and yet peaceful which can help us cultivate an attitude of strength and calmness
  • Physical and mental strength enables a feeling of safety
  • When feeling safe and stable there is more freedom to explore other options within the posture
  • The energising qualities of the pose can boost mood

Try this:

 

Approach again from the back of the mat. Be aware of the space in front of you, of what lies ahead. Turning your left toes out, take a step forwards with the right foot. Ground through the feet and find a stable connection with the earth. Connect to the breath. On the exhalations find a sense of support through your core and down through the legs into the earth. When the next inhale happens bend the front nee and raise your arms slowly forwards and up, or out to the sides and out.

 

As you explore the same pattern of movement as before this time imagine you stand head on facing any challenges, fears or the unknown. There is a path ahead of you and it clearly directs you to continue onwards. We may not fully know where we are going, but there is an inner strength and peace that reassures us of our place on the mountain. Invite a steady flow of breathing to help stay focused and calm.

 

When you have ventured along one side for a few rounds, repeat the same practice on the opposite side. You’re welcome to stay for 4-6 breaths, or longer if you wish, before completing the practice and returning to mountain pose.

 

Upon completion, pause to reflect upon how you feel physically, energetically and mentally. Perhaps even make a few notes based on your experience. How did your experience of Warrior I change when you began to visualise the mountain path ? Did you feel calm or steady, peaceful or focused?

 Vīrabhadrāsana II; Warrior II

 

A progressive step from the forward facing Warrior I posture is to then explore the more open and potentially stronger stance of Warrior II. I say potentially because it is unique to everyone in terms of the benefits they feel from a specific shape or form. I will often approach these postures sequentially, one after the other and either take them individually or form a way of linking the two together. It is often the case that people will have experienced and practiced Warrior I several times before transitioning to its second counterpart, but many of the physical benefits remain. Perhaps the most obvious distinction being that the feet could be taken wider apart and the pelvis and upper torso angle themselves towards a more open position in the direction of the long edge of the mat. We are no longer forward facing, instead we are facing out to the sides, with the arms traditionally pointing towards the short edges of the mat at shoulder height. This is potentially a deeper stance for the legs and will engage the inner thigh more actively than in Warrior I .

 

Main physical differences:
  • In Warrior I the pelvis neutral/internally rotated meaning we are forward facing
  • In Warrior II the pelvis is externally rotated meaning we are outwardly facing
  • The arms extend away from one another towards the front and back of the mat

A Creative approach to Warrior II

 

Let’s revisit Warrior I and it’s forward facing nature.

 

From the back of the mat feet together, turn the right toes out a little and step forwards with the left foot, relax the arms by your side. Look forwards and be aware of the ground beneath the feet. Follow the breath for a few moments. On an inhalation bend the front knee and raise the arms outwardly and up towards the sky. On the exhale lower the arms and move the front knee towards straight. Repeat this a few times to build strength and stamina and to become familiar with connecting your movement to the breath. See the clear path ahead and when you’re comfortable with the posture stay for a few breaths maintaining a sense of openness and steadiness as before. Breathe into the expanse of the chest, connect to your inner hero and courage.

 

Transitioning to Warrior II

 

Upon completion instead of stepping the feet back, pivot on the balls of the feet so that the toes face forwards, you may wish to widen your stance a little here. Pivot on the right foot turning the toes inwards towards and rotate on the left foot forwards and towards the short edge of the mat. The pelvis is now externally rotating, be mindful of your normal range of movement and adjust feet towards a stance that feels stable and grounded.

 

Reconnect towards the breath and this time invite the inhale to open the arms out towards shoulder height (and not beyond) with the front arm in front and the back arm behind, as you bend the front knee. In this wider stance there is the capacity to be more open and spacious across torso, hips, inner thighs and chest. On the exhale return the arms and the front knee towards straight.  Play around with coming and going for a few rounds of breathing.

 

Once familiar you may like to stay for a little while. I invite you to take a look around, look forwards and behind. Soften the shoulders and turn the palms to face up.  As you stand within your peaceful hero encourage a gentleness or softness in areas where tension may build unnecessarily, this could be the jaw, the shoulders or the hands.

 

Visualise

 

Imagine yourself climbing a mountain and all this time you’ve been looking ahead towards the path, or down at your feet, the gaze was narrower but clear. Then you opened up to the side into Warrior II, paused and took a break, you can even imagine that you are stopping to rest on the path as you take in the wider views. This pause comes because there is stable ground beneath the feet and the legs are strong and supportive. Notice if there are any areas which would benefit from softening a little in order to let go of unnecessary tension, in particular around the shoulders, neck and jawline. When settled allow your gaze to broadens and you appreciate the beauty of what lies around, above and beyond you. It’s almost as if you are seeing for the first time the calmness and stable ground of the landscape around you. It’s inspiring.

 

When you feel ready, lower the arms, bring the front knee towards straight and invite the feet to become parallel towards one another once again. Pause to reconnect to your breath and take yourself on this journey again on the opposite side.

Try it for yourself

 

Included within this article are some short practices which take you on the explorations detailed above and below you will also find some accessible ways of exploring the same postures with the support of a chair so that you can adapt and tailor the practice to your own needs and interests. What I encourage most is a sense of curiosity around approaching postures in a way that can evoke a sense of being and feeling. It goes way beyond the physical meaning or benefits of the pose. Instead we start to explore the many energetic and mental spaces that these poses have to offer. You may even like to try the practices while resting and visualise them as opposed to physically practising them so that you can reflect upon and cultivate a more subtle level of awareness.

 

This is what I love about yoga. It is a creative practice which enables us to play with and explore new ideas within postures, breath-work, relaxation and meditation whilst still honouring their original intentions.

 

In my next blog post I will share with you a longer 30 minute practice which will include preparatory breath-work and yoga postures to help lead you towards Warrior I and II. The session will also include further appropriate back-bending postures and counter-posture to support these openings. Look out for this, I will release it on my mailing list first which you can sign up to by heading here.

Let the landscape inspire you further this year at Llanberis Retreats, North Wales

 

If you’re inspired by this article and would like to deepen your practice and learning of yoga I’ll be teaching along similar lines of creative thought and inquiry at my upcoming 1 day seasonal yoga immersions and a 3 day collaborate non-residential yoga retreat taking place in July. The landscape, nature and the seasons will inspire our practices together, combined with vegetarian home-cooked food, like-minded friends and an opportunity to press a well-deserved pause. Bookings are now being taken for these events, head over to Llanberis Retreats to find out more with the first retreat happening on the 26th March.

Practice Yoga with me

 

I teach regular weekly online and in-person yoga classes throughout the week from my home town of Marple, near Manchester. All classes are designed to be gentle, creative and accessible, adapting the classes according to those who participate and work around themes linking into nature and traditional yoga whilst exploring ways to find greater support and ease for our day to day lives.

 

Learn more about my weekly yoga class schedule or sign up to my mailing list to be the first to hear about my articles, class schedule, online videos and courses. I don’t email too often, roughly once a month, to keep this community connected.

 

You can also practice along with me on YouTube and if you head to Bamboo Clothing on instagram you’ll find an archive of creative practices there too that are free and available to access any time.

 

Thanks for being here,

 

Helen x

 

“Do not let your mind wanter during your practice, but instead, be completely there. Let your practice be short and intense, focusing your attention on one single action, where body and brain meet at the same point at the same time.”

 

Vanda Scaravelli; Awakening the Spine, How to Practice, p128