Does Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) feel too easy for you? If so, there’s a chance that you might not be doing it correctly. When executed correctly, Warrior 1 can actually be a fairly challenging pose.
Benefits of Warrior 1
- Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles
- Stretches the groins, chest, lungs and shoulders
- Provides relief from sciatic pain
- Develops coordination, balance and strength
Common Mistakes in Warrior 1
During our Yoga Teacher Training Course, we learned about several common mistakes that many practitioners make in Warrior 1. It’s absolutely important to correct these misalignments, otherwise we could risk injuring our knees, lower backs, neck and shoulders.
1. Shrugging shoulders to touch hands together
Many yoga practitioners make the mistake of shrugging their shoulders in order to touch their hands together.
Correction: Your hands don’t necessarily have to be touching, if that causes you to shrug your shoulders. Consider keeping your hands apart so that your shoulders can remain relaxed and squared.
2. Not extending or stretching arms up high enough
We commonly see practitioners elevating their shoulders and bending their elbows in Warrior 1. However, don’t forget that your arms are just as active as your legs in this pose!
Correction: Stretch and reach both your arms up higher towards the ceiling. Lift your chest, sternum and collarbones up, and soften your neck and shoulders.
3. Shoulders and hips not squared
Another common mistake that practitioners make is tilting their shoulders or hips slightly to the side in Warrior 1.
Correction: Remember to square your shoulders and hips to the front.
4. Front knee going past toe
This tends to happen because of a short or narrow stance. As a result, your legs will not be placed far apart enough, thus putting unnecessary pressure on your knee.
Correction: Move your back leg back further behind, and press into the outer edge of your back foot.
5. Front leg not parallel to ground
This might just be the most common mistake in Warrior 1! Most of us don’t bend our front leg deep enough, which makes the pose too easy.
Correction: Your thigh bone should be parallel to floor (tip: look at the middle area of your thigh – this should be 90 degrees parallel to the ground, not the top or bottom of your thigh!) Your calf should feel rock solid when the alignment is correct.
6. Back leg not straight
Many of us forget to straighten the back leg in Warrior 1, but it’s essential for correct alignment.
Correction: Remember to straighten your back leg, without hyperextending your back knee. (Extra tip: engage and squeeze the glute of your back leg!)
7. Wrong alignment of back foot
We often overlook this small adjustment in our foot alignment. When your back foot is turned flat, it causes your back leg to be externally rotated, which makes it impossible to square your hips forward.
Correction: Plant your back foot on the floor diagonally, with your legs hip width apart, at a 45 degree angle.
When we become aware of these common mistakes and try to integrate the different corrections, Warrior 1 can suddenly feel like a difficult pose.
However, it helps to remember that the more we practice, the better we will get. The initial part of learning and practicing correct alignment can be challenging, but it will become easy in time to come.
Just as Patanjali states in Yoga Sutra 2.46, STHIRAM SUKHAM ASANA (translation: continuous comfort is posture). After consistent practice, difficult poses will eventually become effortless to us, and our practice of yoga asanas will become steady, stable and comfortable.