Recently, on Twitter, I saw someone tweet something along the lines of “my yoga teacher says being in a yoga pose that hurts will make me stronger”. To this I replied “respectfully, get a new yoga teacher”. Yoga should NOT be painful. Specifically in this post I want to discuss Virabhadrasana 1. Because, this is the one most people tell me feels like crap. So, let’s look at Warrior 1 pose breakdown, and 5 things you may need to change to make it feel fabulous!
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When people practice yoga they tend to see a photo or hear an alignment cue and they take it to heart. Trying to bend their bodies to emulate this idea of what they think a pose should look like, rather than listening to how it feels. To discover ways to make warrior 1 your new favorite pose check out the video below.
The video has a warrior 1 pose breakdown. How it’s done traditionally. Along with five ways to help turn that pain into perfection for YOUR body. You can view the video on YouTube. Maybe add it to a playlist. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel. I upload new videos every Tuesday and Friday. For exclusive longer format videos sign up for my Patreon community.
Warrior 1 pose breakdown – alignment
All warrior poses are strong poses. Warrior 1 especially is about inner strength and courage. Allowing ourselves to be open-hearted and finding power in vulnerability.
- Begin standing in mountain pose, step back with the right leg.
- Push the right foot into the floor.
- Left foot facing forward, bend your left knee so that the knee comes over the ankle.
- Rotate torso and pelvis towards the front of your mat. Traditional alignment says to push the pelvis ‘square’ to the short edge of your mat.
- Reach the arms up
Note: Many alignment cues also say to tuck the tailbone – please DON’T. This cue alone deserves a whole separate post!
There is a great saying by somebody that “rules are made to be broken. As a type-A rule breaker, this was a bitter pill to swallow that there is no perfect pose alignment. There is only the one that feels right for you! Our bodies are all different. Some of us shorter, taller, fatter, wider, thinner, longer. And, that’s before we get into injuries, movement compensations, etc. Traditional alignment cues are blanket statement. An outline. You can choose to color inside or outside the lines. More about bending the rules, rather than breaking them. Here are 5 ways to bend those rules!
5 tips to feel good in Warrior 1
The first three, or really four, tips all come down to one thing: foot position. The placement of our feet can take this pose from feeling like crap to feel pretty great by just changing the feet alignment. The feet are the foundation of warrior 1. So let’s look at those first.
Elevate your back heel
When we look at the traditional warrior 1 pose breakdown, the alignment cues say that the back foot should be on the floor. So the heel should be down? Well maybe not. For many this is not, and maybe even never, going to happen at the same time as the leg, pelvis and torso revolving forward. Instead you may want to turn your Warrior 1 into a high lunge. That’s 100% OK! These are interchangeable poses, depending on your body anatomy.
If you’re doing the variation with the back heel lifted maybe to get the strength, and grounded feeling you support the back foot.
To support the back foot you can use a folded blanket or a yoga wedge. A yoga wedge is a great prop to have on hand. I did a whole post about uses for a Yoga Wedge, and I highly recommend it for anyone with ankle mobility issues.
Short but strong warrior 1 stance
As I mentioned this is a power pose. Strong. Quite often a lot of people feel off balance, unstable, and suffer in silence. Not what we want. Another way to modify is to step the back foot in, taking a shorter stance.
This act of stepping the back foot in can often be all that’s needed to get the back foot down, and using it as an anchor for the pose. Yes, in a perfect World the front thigh is supposed to be parallel to the floor, but as we already discovered, our bodies are all different. You might need a shorter warrior.
Widen your stance
If balance is your key issue this is the tip for you. Widen your feet. Enough of the cue to have the arch of the back foot be in line with the front heel. No! Just no! I don’t know about you, but I have a pelvis. My pelvis, and hips, are way happier taking a wider stance.
By far this is the single biggest ‘a-ha’ moment I have with students in taking warrior 1 to a pose of peace. Above: I placed a strap on my mat to shaow the difference. From afar it looks the same. But let me tell you they feel oh so different!
Strong warriors straighten the back leg
In our quest to get the back foot on the floor we often compensate elsewhere. The next joint up is the knee, which is prone to caving in, therefore collapsing through the arch of the foot. This is very unsafe for the knee joint and can cause all kinds of problems for the joint.
You have two choices here:
- Can you straighten the leg, pushing through all the edges of the foot?
- Move the feet. Either widen, shorten or lift the heel.
Much better to modify and straighten the leg, than get the heel down but collapse through the foot and knee. You knee will thank you long term.
Breaking down the pelvis alignment
Warrior 1 in an asymmetrical pose. That means that the pelvis should mimic that and not be “square” to the front of the mat. Just like tucking the tailbone, this is a cue that needs to go forever.
I’m fond of the term “squarish” or using “towards the front of the mat. When we walk we don’t keep the pelvis ‘square’ why would we in yoga? As we look at warrior 1 pose breakdown we need to be mindful of the way our body moves naturally. And, unless we are in a symmetrical position our pelvis is not going to be square. Embrace the asymmetry of the pose.
Bonus tip – Warrior 1 arm position
Finally, as a bonus tip, moving up to the shoulders. If it hurts to have your arms overhead, then for heavens sake choose a different arm variation. There are tons of options for arm positions in warrior 1.
I included 7-8 in the video but add in asymmetrical arms (to go with the asymmetrical legs) and you have 101 ways to use the arms. Hands at the heart or hips are perfectly fine variations!
When we break it down Warrior 1 is a powerful but peaceful pose. Strong and stable. Heart open to give and receive love. Give yourself the gift of loving this pose by embracing some of these tips! If you’d like more tips then join my email list so we can stay connected.
- How do you feel in Warrior 1?
- What tip above would you find most useful?
- Are you a rule follower, breaker or bender?
Wow this is amazing. Love your post and all your tips!
I am trying to do yoga again. This pose looks good. I can try to this pose….
Definitely give it a try!
Yoga poses should not be painful, I totally agree. If I feel uncomfortable in a pose, I modify to suit that body part. This pose I can do easily.
Yep we need to honor our body!
I can understand why these are called warrior poses. One literally looks like a warrior. Even though I’m not a yoga person, you do make it seem really easy.
What exercise do you prefer?
I agree with you that yes, yoga should not be painful. Thank you for sharing these tips and tricks. Would to incorporate it in my routine.
Yep too many people forcing themselves into weird shapes! Honor your body!
This warrior pose looks so great! I will definitely try this one. Thanks for sharing.
thanks, hope you give it a try!
Thank you for this detailed and helpful instructions on Warrior 1 pose. You made it look a lot simple to do while at the same time considering the joint and mobility issues. What poses do you recommend for beginners?
I have a beginners chair yoga flow sequence here: https://youtu.be/DzhyRupaI-4
You look great in the warrior 1 poses. Is it as easy as you make it look?
It can be if you follow some of the tips I share in this post!