Virabhadra or Warrior poses are some of my favorite asanas. They are empowering and easily lend themselves to flows from one to the next. But as their presence in many vinyasa classes is ubiquitous, they are often called out with little to no instruction. So let’s break them down – Warrior I, II, III and Peaceful (or Reverse) Warrior.
Let’s look at Warrior I first as the alignment for Warrior I will give you a solid foundation for the other three. You can get into it from standing (or Mountain Pose) but I prefer to start off in Downward-Facing Dog as I feel it gives me the proper distance between my front and back feet. From down dog, bring one foot forward, between your two hands. Try to keep your hips squared to the front. Lift your chest and bring your arms up overhead. In the full expression of the posture, you will want to bring your hands together in prayer. But depending on how stable I am that day, sometimes I keep them shoulder width apart. With chest lifted, make sure to draw your shoulders down from your neck and ears. Try to keep your front thigh parallel to the floor with your knee aligned over your ankle. Pull on the kneecap of your back leg to straighten it and keep your tailbone lengthened. Finally, try to keep the outer edge of your back foot pressed to the floor. And draw the ribcage in bracing your lower belly. Not as easy as they would make you believe!
Warrior II (which I am doing above) is my favorite of the four. And yet, I am not properly aligned in the image above. I need to work on opening up my hips, pulling the hip of my straightened leg back. Opening your arms up from Warrior I, they should be pointing in opposite directions, fingers together, parallel to your legs. And your shoulders should be directly above your hips. Again, remember to pull up and out of your midsection, keep your shoulders down and gaze over your front fingertips.
Warrior III is different from the rest in that it requires you to balance on one leg – which is great for core strength. And though it is Warrior III, it’s easier to get into from Warrior I. From Warrior I, straighten your front leg, coming up to your toes on the back foot. Putting all of your weight onto the front leg, lean forward until your back foot comes off the ground, keeping a straight line from your hands to your toes. When properly aligned, you should look like the letter T. Try to square your hips so they are parallel to the ground. If you have the balance to do so, you can pull your hands back so they are by your hips.
Peaceful Warrior is a lovely final step in this flow from one posture to the next. And similarly, the transition is easier from Warrior II than from Warrior III. From Warrior III, reach your front arm out farther. With this extension, and keeping a straight line from your front to back arm, trace a line up the wall in front of you until your front hand is pointing up towards the ceiling. Reach your back hand down to your back, straight leg.
Through it all, try to keep that back outer edge of your foot on the ground and your front knee in alignment with your ankle. And if you can keep all of this in mind, try it again on the other side.