Warrior II — Virabhadrasana II (veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing yoga pose that enhances strength, stability, and concentration. It's named after the Hindu mythological warrior, Virabhadra, an incarnation of the god Shiva. Virabhadra was a tall, dark, and fierce deity, depicted with a thousand arms, flaming hair and eyes, and wearing a garland of skulls.
Benefits of Warrior II Pose
A powerful stretch for the legs, groins, and chest, Virabhadrasana II also increases stamina. It helps to relieve backaches, and stimulates healthy digestion.
This is a deep hip-opening pose that strengthens the muscles in the thighs and buttocks. It tones the abdomen, ankles, and arches of the feet. This pose also opens the chest and shoulders, improving breathing capacity and increasing circulation throughout the body. It is also known to be therapeutic for flat feet, sciatica, infertility, and osteoporosis.
More than just a physical posture, Warrior II increases your ability to concentrate. As you hone your gaze, you direct your mind clearly and with intention. Distractions disappear and your energy becomes powerful and focused.
Like a Zen archer spotting a bull's-eye, who practices just holding a bow for two years before ever releasing an arrow, find balance within your focus by becoming inwardly detached.
Do not practice Warrior II if you have a recent hip, knee, or shoulder injury, or if you are experiencing diarrhea or high blood pressure. Those with neck injuries should not turn their head to face the front hand (in step 10). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Let go of distractions. Notice the quality of your breath. Draw your awareness inward, to the center of your body. Turn to the left.
- Exhale as you step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Check to ensure that your heels are aligned with each other.
- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat.
- Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle.
- Lift through the arches of your feet, while rooting down through your ankles.
- Raise your arms to the side to shoulder height, so they're parallel to the floor. Your arms should be aligned directly over your legs. With your palms facing down, reach actively from fingertip to fingertip.
On an exhalation, bend your front knee. Align your knee directly over the ankle of your front foot. Your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. Sink your hips low, eventually bringing your front thigh parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your front shin stays vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
- Press down through the outer edge of your back foot, and keep your back leg straight.
- Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, with your head directly over your tailbone. Do not lean towards your front leg.
- Turn your head to gaze out across the tip of your right middle finger. Broaden across your collarbones and lengthen the space between your shoulder blades. Engage your triceps. Drop your shoulders and lift your chest.
- Draw your belly in toward your spine. Keep your torso open, not turned toward the front leg.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release, inhale as you press down through your back foot and straighten your front leg. Lower your arms. Turn to the left, reversing the position of your feet, and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
If you're unable to perform the full expression of the pose right now, try these simple changes to lighten the resistance and reduce the amount of necessary exertion:
- If your hips are very tight, shorten your stance and straighten your front leg to a degree that is comfortable as you work on gaining flexibility.
- Place your hands on your hips if you have a shoulder injury or if you are still building upper body strength.
Practicing Warrior II correctly requires concentration on various points of alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Work on getting the foot and leg placement first. Build the pose from the ground up.
- Make sure your front knee stays aligned with your front ankle. Do not allow the knee to drift to the left — this can strain the knee joint. Instead, imagine it slightly moving out toward the baby toe.
- Keep your focus on a single point.
- Envision the power of the warrior Virabhradra moving through you as you hold the pose. Find and connect with your own warrior strength!
Discover Your Inner Warrior
Warrior II can be an effective way to build a feeling of inner strength and power. As you practice this pose on a regular basis, you will grow in your ability to face daily battles with ease and grace.