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Virabhadrasana (warrior 1 Pose) Benefits And Variations
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Develop self-confidence, dynamism, and feelings of joy; counteracts the effects of sitting by elongating the hip flexors, stretching the anterior spine, and engaging the hips, legs, ankles, and feet.
Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with your feet together and arms at your sides. Jump or step your legs 3-4 feet apart, or wide enough that when you spread your arms to your sides at shoulder height, your wrists line up over your ankles.
On an inhale, raise your arms alongside your ears. Point your fingertips to the sky and join your palms while keeping your elbows straight. Simultaneously press down and into the inner and outer edges of your feet. Use the dynamic lifting action of your arms to maintain length in your sides.
Without losing this dynamic lift, turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in 30-60 degrees. Resolve the left outer calf, thigh, and hip forward as much as possible while pressing into your left heel. Draw your right outer hip back and in toward our midline without losing the downward pressure of the inner edge of your right foot.
On an Exhale, bend your right knee to a right angle so it’s over your ankle. Your right thigh will be parallel to the floor – or nearly so. Continue to press into your left heel and to reach upward with your arms, it might be difficult to keep your left heel, even if the outer heel lifts a bit.
Let your hips descend as you lift your arms. It’s OK for your back to arch a little warrior 1 is a bit of backbend! Lift your side and back ribs as you reach through or even “beyond” your fingertips. If your neck supports it, tilt your head back and look up. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds with normal breathing. Repeat on the other side.
*Don’t aggressively tuck your tailbone. It creates tension, constricting the breath and clicking energetic flow from your back heel to your head.
*Don’t lean forward and into the front knee, instead, keep the knee directly over the ankle to protect and stabilize the joint.
Modify Virabhadrasana I if needed to find safe alignment in your body
If you feel knee pain in your back leg, or cannot keep your back heel down…
Try supporting your back heel with a sandbag, rolled-up blanket, small bolster, or block. You can start with a high prop, then gradually reduce the height as your calf muscles begin to lengthen. Let your foot turn out slightly s you press the center of your heel back and down into prop.
< >If you have pain in your sacrum, lower back, or front knee…
Try elevating your front foot using one or two blocks on the wall. Keeping the ball and heel of the foot on the block, take your toes up the wall. You can also place a second block between your knee and the wall. Press into your back heel, and keep your body weight over your pelvis toward the wall and lift your arms.
If your legs are shaky or cramping, or if you feel wobbly…
Try using the crossbar of a turned over folding chair to support your pelvis. (If you need additional height to keep your front thigh parallel to the floor, drape blankets over the crossbar.) Press your hands against the chair legs. Using a chair allows your body, especially your hips and groins to relax and open without having to support your full weight. It provides a means to stay longer in the pose, to get a better sense of alignment, and to experience prayatna shaitilya (effortless effort), which Patanjali writes about in the Yoga Sutra.
(The power and poetry of process)
Poses can be like prayers or poems – they represent a process. In order to understand a poem, we have to first slow down and be present to the words. Sometimes a simple poetic line cuts through our defenses and pierces our heart. In the same way, the process of creating a pose can pierce through our habitual postural patterning and surprise us with an experimental of freedom or joy. So in each pose, let the sense of direction (process) be more important than the final form. Virabhadrasana 1 is a powerful pose that takes the body through a process of continued rooting and rising, a process that’s an expression of what it means to live wholeheartedly in the space between earth and sky.
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