#21 Virbhadrasana I – Warrior I

I experience something different every time I step on my mat….. To me, my ”mat moment” is my best time of any day. Is the time when i can talk to my deepest self; truly and freely. The fluctuations in my practice have taught me an incredibly important lesson: There is no such thing as a “perfect” practice. The only thing “perfect” about yoga is the opportunity it presents – the opportunity to be present and honor that place within all of us which is of love, truth and peace. Easier said than done? Maybe. But believe me, I am trying hard for the last decade and half or so.

Now that you have the most important sequences, let’s follow with more basic poses.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built.” ~ Rumi

Veerabhadrasana or Virabhadrasana (sometimes also called ‘Hero’ Pose) strengthens the arms, shoulders, thighs and back muscles, all in one go. This pose is named after Veerabhadra, a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The story of the warrior Veerabhadra, as all stories from Upanishads, has a moral that adds value to our life.

Virabhadra, a great warrior hero in Indian mythology. According to legend, Virabhadra had a fearsome appearance with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet; he wielded a thousand clubs and wore the skin of a tiger. The term warrior is used in yoga to reference a pose meant to bring spirituality and enlightenment to one’s practice.

Veera vigorous, warrior, courageous; Bhadra good, auspicious; Asana – Posture

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The important thing to remember in warrior I is that the hips face forward. Think of your hip points as headlights. They should be roughly parallel with the front of your mat. Sometimes this requires that you move your legs into a wider stance (towards each side of the mat), which is ok in my book.

Steps:

  1. To begin this pose you have to first come to the Tadasana (Mountain Pose). While breathing out, move your feet so that they are at a distance of about four feet from each other. Raise your arms so that they are perpendicular to the ground. Make sure they are parallel to each other.
  2. Turn your left foot 60 degrees to the right and your right foot should be turned 90 degrees to the right. Let your right heel be aligned with the left heel. Breathe out and rotate your torso to the right, with your torso squared as much as possible. As the left hip point is turned forward, let the head of the left femur be pressed back so that the heel is grounded. Your coccyx should be lengthened to the ground and your upper torso should be arched back a little.
  3. With your left heel anchored firmly to the ground breathe out and bend your right knee over your right ankle. The shin should be kept perpendicular to the ground. Students who have more flexibility can bring the right thigh to come parallel to the ground.
  4. With the raising of the arms try to move your ribcage away from the arms. As the back foot is grounded, try to feel a stretch that goes up the back leg, across the chest, and belly and to the arms.
  5. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To exit this pose, breathe in and firmly press the back heel into the ground and straighten the right knee. Turn the feet back to normal position and release the arms while breathing out. Take a few breaths and repeat the pose on the other side.

TIPS:

There are some beginner’s tips for the Warrior I Pose that you can follow, which will allow you to perform this pose more effectively. When the front knee is bent during the pose, beginners usually tend to bend the pelvis forward, which compresses the lower back. During the performance of the second step, make sure to lift the pubis to the navel with the tailbone lengthened to the floor. While bending the knee, continue to lift and bring down these two bones while the upper rim of the pelvis is kept parallel to the ground.

VARIATIONS:

Variations for Warrior I pose can be performed by individuals who have some physical limitation or ones who want to go deeper into the pose.

  • This pose can be practiced with the arms in different positions. For instance, you can go through the steps 1 to 3 (as mentioned above), but with your hands placed on your hips. Then, when you bend the forward knee let your arms swing around to the back of your torso and clasp your hands together. Your hands should be stretched away from the back and your chest lifted. It is alright at first to squeeze the scapulas together, but make sure once you lift your chest to bring them away from the spine.
  • Beginners usually find it hard to ground the back heel and lengthen the lower back in this pose. A solution to this could be to lift the back heel on a height like sand bag.
  • Using a partner: You could also perform this pose with the help of two partners of around the same height. You will also need a thick pole. As you perform the pose, your partners should stand one on each side of your torso. The pole should be held above your head with each of your partner holding one end of it. Hold onto the pole with your lifted hands and your partners and you can push the pole up till you fully extend your arms.

Benefits:

* Virabhadrasana I is a wonderfully strengthening and stretching asana: it strengthens the muscles in the thighs, calves and back, and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, arms, thighs and groins (psoas). It also opens the hips, which should be squared to the front, and helps realign the spine. Basically, It Strengthens the muscles of the back; Tones the muscles of the abdomen; Improves digestion & Strengthens and stretches the hip flexors, ankles and legs.

* All asanas also work on an energetic level, and Virabhadrasana I is no exception: the pose allows the practitioner to access energy (or prana) blockages around the heart, third eye and sacrum.

* Boosts resolve and self-confidence: as you become stronger, hold the pose for longer, working towards ten breaths on each side.

* The Warrior I Pose therapeutic applications include the following:

  • Improves stability, balance and focus.
  • Energizes the whole body.
  • Helps with sciatica.

Cautions:

  • Practice Warrior Pose (Veerabhadrasana) only after consulting your doctor if you have experienced spinal disorders recently or just recovered from a chronic illness.
  • High blood pressure/ heart problems patients should avoid this posture.
  • Veerabhadrasana especially benefits pregnant ladies in their second and third trimester provided they have been practicing yoga regularly. Practice Veerabhadrasana while standing close to a wall so you can support yourself if required.  However do consult your doctor before doing this yoga posture.
  • Avoid this posture if you are suffering or had recently suffered from diarrhea.
  • If you have knee pain or arthritis, use some support at the knee to hold this yoga posture.

Hope you enjoyed!

See you tomorrow!!

Namaste

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