Encyclopedia of Yoga: Virabhadrasana A

Virabhadrasana is named after the Warrior Virabhadra who, in traditional Indian mythology, was created out of a lock of the Hindu God, Shiva’s, hair–one of his dread locks that he threw down to the Earth. And when that dread lock hit the plateau of the Earth, Virabhadra landed, holding the sword of Dharma above his head, making the shape of Virabhadrasana A.

Energizing the Body

Warrior One (Virabhadrasana A) is a really important posture for stimulating the cardio vascular system. As your arms are raised above your and your legs are firmly pressed into the ground, you’ll find your heart rate goes up and is challenged. This brings health into the heart organ while at the same time increasing circulation through the body. This posture also helps strengthen the legs, strengthen the back, and gives space in between each of the joints of the spine greater preparing you for back bending which needs that same strength in the legs and that same strength through the whole spine. Warrior One is a really important pose for energizing the body. It can be mildly therapeutic for light states of depression.

Positioning the Legs

Vira Bhadrasana A starts off with a firm foundation through the legs, and it is traditionally considered to be a balancing pose which means that by gazing up at the thumbs, as you maintain the solid foundation of your legs, you’re beginning to work on balance. Rooting down through the center line. First thing to think about is to really look at the position of the legs. You want to have the distance of about one of the length of your own legs in between your feet.

Angle the Feet

The warrior pose is best done with a back foot at about 45-degrees forward. If you go beyond 45-degrees forward what will happen is your heel starts to come a little bit off the ground, and we want to make sure that your heel is pressed into the ground. Your right heel aligns with the left arch. This is the most advanced foot position in the warrior poses. If you notice that you’re finding yourself a little off balance, you can align your heels with each other. Those are the two most common places that you would really keep your feet. Either heels aligned with each other, or heel aligned with the arch.

Square Your Pelvis Forward

Square your pelvis forward without any torque on knee. Take a step back about the distance of one of your own legs length. Strengthen through the legs. Draw the belly in. Press down through the base of your big toe, the little toe, and the heel. Lifting the knee caps up, and then square your pelvis as forward as possible.

Allow the Natural Curvature of the Spine

From the empty space of the inner body, start to push back from the belly button through the front of the left hip, all the way down through the base of the left big toe. Activating firmly the left leg, as your foundation in the pose will help you. We want to allow the natural curvature of the lower back, but not a hyper-extension of the lower back. Keep the tailbone in a neutral position.

Let Your Energy Reach Down

From the emptiness in the pelvic bowl start to pull the right femur in. If you feel that you can go a bit further down, you can allow that to happen. Never jut the knee forward, always pull the knee in. Let your energy reach down. The back heel should remain on the ground, that back edge of the foot on the ground.

Hands in Prayer

Hands in prayer. From the rib cage and up, start to lift the ribs up through the center line, draw the elbows towards each other, which is going to help externally rotate the shoulders.

Rise Up Through the Center Line

And then inhale, rise up through the center line. Gaze up at the thumbs.

Modify if Uncomfortable

If this is at all uncomfortable for your neck, you can open the hands and look forward. Your quadriceps should be burning. Allow it to burn.

Back to Standing

Exhale, hands down. Straighten the right leg, and come on back to Samasthiti.

Keep in Mind the Spiritual Journey

To be a warrior you must have patience, you must have endurance, you must have bravery.  And you must have a kind and compassionate heart.  To be a warrior of Dharma, a warrior of goodness in the world, you can’t just be fierce.  You need to, at the same time, keep wisdom and compassion in equal parts and in equal measure in your heart.  As you are finding the sense of stability that will help you stay in proper alignment for the full depth in Virabhadrasana A, you will notice that a whole spiritual wealth opens up to you at the same time. Keep these alignment pointers in mind, but really keep in mind the spiritual journey of what Virabhadrasana A means to you.

By Kino MacGregor

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Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.