Exploring through Virabhadrasana I Warrior 1(A)
Updated: Aug 6
IGNITE YOUR INNER WARRIOR
Don't mis-understand....this warrior is a warrior spirit who fights against avidya (ignorance, misconceptions) to find a deep connection with true Self.
As yogis, we practice ahimsa (non-harm). We 'fight the good fight'! Mentored by Arjuna's quest for knowledge and wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita, our search is to find our own song. Our battle is internal; a battle with our gunas (personality traits) to find alignment with our purest nature (atman) and our sword is compassion as we reach, from our core strength, to connect with the heavens (brahman).
Artwork by Caroline Bond
THE POSTURE EVOLVES : THE PRACTITIONER EVOLVES
Applying dharana (concentration, focus) to find the mechanics of the posture, we bring our physicality into our conscious mind and turn movement into exploration. In doing so we discover a sense of connection within our psyche:
Conscious Movement = Exploration = Discovery
The asana (posture) becomes an expression of who and what we are and that evolves through practice.
All three Warrior asanas develop lower body strength. As ever, strength supports alignment and correct alignment builds strength in the specific muscles required for the posture (fig 2).
So.... this is one of the basic asanas and, as with Parsvakonasana (Side Angle posture), Virabhadrasana I is sophisticated in its mechanics, largely due to the negotiation between the pelvis and the back leg (tensegrity).
In Fig 2, the back foot is in line with the hip. This, I suggest, is a beginners variation. In Iyengar's teachings and in the Ashtanga version, the sole of the back foot is fully connected to the ground and is at a 90 degree angle; this makes the posture the hip opener that it is.
This full foot alignment requires an external rotation of the back thigh facilitated by an opening in the hip. I teach a modification in this alignment placing the back foot at a 45 degree angle in order to protect the vulnerable knee. As the hip opens with practice, the angle in the foot can be increased. The greater the angle in the back foot, the more engagement in the external rotator muscles in the hip which equates to more strengthening! (fig 3)
The full posture has the front knee at a 90 degree angle, thigh parallel with the mat. Again, this angle; this physical depth, comes with strength and requires a wider distance between the feet. The deeper you go, the more strength required by the quadriceps, glues and hamstrings. Sink too deeply, past 90 degrees, then everything tends to disengage and the hip tries to do the job...not a good result! Find the correct alignment over time, crawling the toes forward and decreasing the angle in the front knee as strength is built.
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Posture) and step behind you with the right leg approximately a leg length, to the right, facing the long side of the mat. Feet in line, toes pointing forward and inline. Feet leg length apart (usually meaning wrist above ankle in outstretched arms.)
Try placing your hands on the top of the hips to monitor your hip alignment. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees to point to the short edge of the mat.
Pull up on the back knee in order to engage knee support (crucial). As you bend the front knee, begin to turn the torso to align the shoulders with the short edge of the mat. Gently draw the left hip forward and the right hip back so that hips move towards parallel with the shoulders. As a modification, lift the left heel rotating on the ball of the back foot, if you need that negotiation with the hips. Gently lower the back heel. If you use the modification, you may need to shorten the distance between the feet.
Nudge the front hip points up towards the heart. This tucks the tailbone and reduces compression in the lower back and encourages a little more length in the front of the left thigh.
The right knee is (eventually) at a right angle, thigh parallel with the ground.
Lift the arms strongly above the head, with purpose rather than tension. Let the movement begin from below the lower ribs and feel a sense of wrapping the side ribs around to the front: the arm pits drawing together. This movement spreads the back and allows space for the neck, activating the muscles of the upper body shown in fig 2.
Gently feel the palms of the hands touch to further active the upper body muscles. IN ALL THIS CONCENTRATION DON'T FORGET TO ADD PRANA....BREATHE
The movement in the torso follows the alignment of the front foot. A sense of drawing the belly away from the back hip not only activates the abdominals and obliques, it elongates the spiral line. Placing the torso in the middle of the posture aligns the shoulders over the hips. Think tuck the tailbone / lift the front tips of the pelvis / push the pubis forward / posterior pelvic tilt......these cues all achieve the same result; aligning the pelvis on the sagital plane (front/back). Enjoy the increased stretch along the left quads , abs and the whole Superficial Front Line (SFL) as the ribs lift and the arms lengthen upwards. Extend a little further and you find the gateway to backbends - by the way!
There is a tendency, in Virabhadrasana I, to lean forwards towards the front thigh. It's a natural tendency due to tightness in the soft tissues. Drawing the upper body back into the mid-line of the posture and adding that posterior tilt to the pelvis physically stretches the left line of the body, increasing a psoas stretch and so finding a release for whatever emotions may be held in that deep core muscle. On a phsycological level, the upper body tends to move forward in an effort to communicate, to give and to be understood. It's a sign of emotional tension. Finding the mid-line of the posture for the torso equates to harnessing our moment. In that present moment there is a sense of grounding: a warrior standing their ground. Leaning forward takes the energy a little further into air quality
We can use the posture to address this if we set it as our intention.
MOVING FROM MECHANICS
The quality of our breath directly influences the quality of our postures. By quality here, I mean 'sense of'. Arm positioning in Virabhadrasana postures, opens the ribs. Rooting down through the feet brings a sense of strength and brings the 'heavy' physical work down into the lower part of the body. Sense the breath and the energy (prana) expand in all directions and feel an elegance inhabit the posture. It's a charisma enhancement!
To explore the posture further, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a One-2-One or join us in class.