Anatomy of Virabhadrasana II

Virabhadrasana II, also known as Warrior II Pose, embodies the spirit of a warrior and conveys readiness, stability and courage. The focus of this pose is to strengthen the front leg while opening the front of the pelvis and the chest.

The healthy alignment of this pose is to have the kneecaps point straight out over the midline of the feet, front knee bent, back leg straightened, chest lifted and arms extended away from the body. These actions anchor the body against the forward momentum of the pose and bring stability to the pose. Tilt the head back slightly and gaze forward.

There can be a tendency to allow the chest to collapse and shift forward. Counteract this by straightening the arms and expanding the chest, expressing the inner strength and confidence that is cultivated in the pose. The outer shoulders (lateral deltoids) get worked out when holding this pose.

This pose also aims at strengthening the hips and thighs. To get the right alignment in this pose, some people have difficulty squaring their hips to the side – the thighbone will rotate inward and the kneecaps collapse inward too. This misalignment torques the knee, putting uneven pressure on the cartilage and straining the supporting ligaments and tendon every time the knee is bent. To correct this misalignment, one needs to (1) stretch the hip abductors in the back leg and plant the back heel firmly on the floor and (2) engage and strengthen the muscles that externally rotate the thigh of the bent leg.

The hip adductors, which is a large muscle group that fills our inner thighs and pulls our knees toward each other, includes the pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus and gracilis.

The main external rotators are the gluteus maximus and the six deep rotators that lie underneath it – the piriformis, obturator internus, obturator externus, gemellus superior, gemellus inferior and quadratus femoris.

Once the hip adductors are opened and the external hip rotators strengthened, we can align the thighs and knees safely in Virabhadrasana II and intensify the work on the quadriceps muscles. Filling the whole front of the thigh, the four quadriceps converge into a single tendon that attaches to the patella (kneecap) and then connects, via the patellar ligament, to the upper tibia (shinbone); three of the “quads” originate on the upper thighbone, while the fourth comes from the pelvis, above the hip socket.

To work the quads even harder in Virabhadrasana II, bring the front-leg thigh parallel to the floor – but do not let that knee collapse inward or the back-leg thigh and knee collapse forward.

Regular practice of Virabhadrasana II builds stronger quads, which means stronger legs!

Namaste,
Joan Tan