Warrior 1 Pose – Virabhadrasana I and its variations are a set of standing lunge asanas symbolic of the legendary mythical warrior, Virabhandra. In yoga, the depiction simultaneously builds strength, while stretching and lengthening the body, and developing hero-like balance, stamina, and laser focus. Resemblant that of a fighter in his combat stance (lunge or split leg position), you’re ready to take on whatever stands in your way!
One of three primary Warrior poses, you can move through the various phases of this iconic and foundational technique, each one having its own unique benefits.
Learn more about this beginner-level stance, the benefits you can expect, and the best variations.
Muscles Worked During Warrior 1 Pose
In the Warrior 1 Pose, you need powerful legs, and stable, strong hips to hold the lunge position. Let’s learn about the anatomical roles of these muscle groups, in addition to the other muscles involved in this technique.
Consistently a superior leg exercise, lunges provide a quadruple whammy for the lower body, hitting the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves all in one. In fact, for home workouts, it’s hard to beat the versatility of a lunge and its variations.
In Warrior pose I, the reps are isometric rather than isotonic, meaning there’s no repetitive lengthening and contracting of the muscles. Instead, you’re holding a pose for a determined duration. The benefit of this is strengthening the joints, and the muscles.
You’ll also need to depend on the functionality of your hips in this pose for proper alignment, upper body support, force transmission to the lower body, movement, of the upper leg, and mobility. Likewise, poses can help to strengthen the hips throughout various movements.
We all know that the abdominal core muscles are at the center of everything… literally. Responsible for movement and stability in the trunk/spinal area, a strong midsection supports our upper body movement for optimal performance and balance.
Warrior I also strengthens the feet, stretches the legs, hips, abdominals, obliques, neck, and back.
How to Do Warrior 1 Pose
Warrior I is a multi-step technique and while there could be slight variances in its execution, the general strategy is pretty uniform. Open hip, lunge, tall posture, back slightly arched, and arms overhead.
Below are detailed written and video instructions to help you nail the pose!
- Stand at the front of your mat with both feet together, then step the left foot roughly three to four feet behind the right foot, in a split stance.
- Turn the back (left) foot slightly outward to 45 degrees to help stretch the ankles, calves, and outer rear portion of the thighs and hip.
- Straighten your legs then try to square your body to the top of the mat by bringing the hips parallel to the edge of the mat in front of you. That means pushing the left hip slight forward at the right hip shifts slightly back. Grab your hips for support and guidance at this point. Note: The hips won’t be perfectly square or parallel to the top of the mat and that’s perfectly okay.
- Inhale, then as you breathe out, bend the front (right) knee and descend into a partial lunge. Lead with the hips. If you don’t feel much of a stretch, you may need to move the lead foot slightly forward.
- Keep the back leg straight.
- Lift the arms overhead, and focus on squeezing the legs toward each other, but don’t move the feet. Bring your gaze up. Take several deep breaths and hold for at least 20 seconds.
- Bring the feet back together in the original starting stance. Then, switch the position of your legs, bringing the right foot back and leaving the left foot near the top of the mat.
- Repeat steps 2-5!
Here’s a few minute video demonstration of Warrior 1 Pose for beginners.
- You can also jump your feet apart into the standing lunge.
- While in the split stance, you should be able to glance back at your rear foot and see a little bit of shadow between your foot arch and the floor. As explained in the video tutorial, this will allow you to get the most benefits regarding strengthening the ankles, and preventing injuries.
- With the arms overhead, open the shoulders by wrapping the triceps forward and in.
- Remember to keep the back leg straight.
- Aim to hold the pose for 30-60 seconds if possible.
- Target muscles: Legs, hips, core
- Type: Yoga
- Equipment: Mat
- Difficulty: Beginner
- Sets and duration: 3 sets x 20 seconds each leg
6 Benefits of Warrior 1 Pose – Virabhadrasana I
There are many advantages of practicing a simple, yet beneficial pose like Warrior I Virabhadrasana I.
Strengthen your roots
Your legs and feet represent roots in many poses where you need to create an immovable base to support a variety of movement patterns that require lots of balance, coordination, flexibility, cooperation, and focus. Learning how to position your feet is imperative in yoga, and it will allow you to maximize each posture.
Stretch your upper half
A common cue you’ll hear often is to lengthen up through the spine. This stretches the fullness of the core, opening up the shoulders and giving you more length in a pose.
Counter sitting pose
With modern technology, we do less walking and more sitting which is a good reason to get off your ass and practice some poses or at least make more time to be active. Warrior 1 Pose is a great counter to long periods on your heinie, activating the hip and butt muscles that play an important role in lower body movement.
Muscular contractions require energy and ATP, creating metabolic stress in the muscles, which will improve your stamina and muscular endurance. Sitting in a pose is also good for building mental fortitude, and it’s a good way to reinforce proper stance, and posture which carries over to other movements.
Gain control of your balance
Aside from yoga techniques and isometric focused exercises, most people don’t stay in a pose for several seconds or even a minute. This could help improve your balance, and you could gaze up to challenge it even further.
Aside from stretching, yoga is also a mind building activity, and we highly recommend it in some form to help relieve stress, and start your day off on the right foot (pun intended).
We’ll keep it brief so you can focus on the movement but here are a few common mistakes and how to easily fix them.
Knees too far forward past the toes
While in more recent years experts have tried to debunk the dangers of knees past the toes in a squat, there’s still a point where it can be unsafe, and if you have pre-existing knee issues you need to be careful. In Warrior try to keep the shins vertical with the knee above the ankle. After all, there’s no reason not to. It will also help with the intensity of the stretch.
Forgetting to square the hips
Upon getting into the Warrior I pose, it can be easy to forget about the hips because you’re focused on the legs, torso, and arm position. But this posture calls for squared hips. Imagine that you’re trying to make your hips parallel to the top of the mat in front of you.
Warrior should commemorate the mythical figure, and the best expression of that is to be tall in the pose. While it could tempting, avoid hinging forward, as you’re now replicating a forward leaning lunge.
Variations of Warrior 1 Pose
Let’s look at the humble Warrior variation and some other similar poses.
Humble Warrior pose baddha virabhadrasana
A forward bend where the crown of the head may touch the floor, humble pose is a bound variation where you need to be efficient and strategic to perform such a feat.
- From Warrior I pose, reach your hands down behind your back and clasp your hands together.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades together, inhale, then lift your chest towards the sky and drop your head back.
- Exhale, then fold over from the hips toward the right leg all the way down until the crown of your head is hanging a few inches from the floor, and your arms are extended toward the sky behind your back. Keep your eyes on your left toes.
- Breathe in and out.
- Now lift up using your core, and repeat step 2, opening your heart toward the sky and dropping your head back under control.
- To finish, free your hands and lift them overhead in Warrior I.
Pro tip: You can also gently rest your head on the floor as your capabilities allow.
Here’s a short video demonstration.
Reverse Warrior Pose
As the name implies, there’s some reverse motion in this variation, but performed laterally, really stretching the side of the trunk. It’s a stellar stretch first thing in the morning, which can have benefits for the rest of your day! Here are detailed steps and video demonstration that follows.
- Start from a downward facing dog pose with the crown of your head relaxed toward the floor. Take a few breaths in and out.
- Inhale, then lift your right leg up toward the ceiling as high as you can. Exhale, spread the toes, and bring the right foot forward and plant it in between your hands. The right knee should be over the ankle or slightly behind it.
- Turn the rear foot to the left so that it’s parallel to the bottom edge of the mat.
- Stand up straight and make a cross with your arms raised to shoulder level from the front to the back of the mat. Your right fingers should point toward the top of the mat in the same direction as your right foot, while the left arm should extend toward the back of the mat over the back foot. Focus your gaze toward the front of the mat above the right arm.
- Now raise the right arm up and over your head towards the back of the mat at an angle, and simultaneously bend sideways in the same direction, tilting your head back and gazing up at your fingers with the palms toward you. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears.
- Breathe into the lateral torso, and breath out.
- Inhale, windmill the arms forward, drop down and bring the hands to the floor.
- Straighten the right leg behind you in a push-up position, and then return to the downward facing dog.
- Repeat now with the leg left forward, and right leg back.
- Try to keep the pelvis level, not tilted.
- If you feel too much strain on the knee, unbend the leg slightly and bring the knee more behind the ankle.
Check out the sub-2-minute tutorial to see the reverse warrior pose technique.
Warrior I modifications
It could be hard for some to square the hips as much as they’d like. And although perfection is not required here you could use a form tweak to get them as level as possible.
While in a typical Warrior I stance, the back foot is somewhat in line with the front foot. For this modification, you’ll move them farther apart toward the sides or short part of the mat. It’s useful if you don’t have as much mobility or movement in the hips.
We hope this guide was able to help channel your inner warrior, but most importantly give you all the benefits of Warrior I Pose Virabhadrasana I, and hopefully its variations too. While we can show and explain the technique, we’re individual and oftentimes we have to adjust every slightly to ensure we feel the stretch in the right places, and avoid potential injury.
Thankfully, Warrior I is a relatively manageable posture that all experience levels can try, but that can prepare you for more advanced techniques too.