Yoga Pose of the Week: Warrior II

A weekly series to guide you through new yoga poses, and teach you something about ones you might already know. 

As we transition into fall, yoga can help us to stay grounded and composed. We can always come back to the breath, and we can turn to postures that emphasize rooting down into the earth to cultivate stability and strength.

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) is one of my favorite poses to reconnect and find my roots. It is a strong, focused, grounded and energetic shape. As you first get to know Virabhadrasana II it may feel challenging and complex, but the more frequently you revisit the shape, the more calming and centered it becomes.

To find Virabhadrasana II follow the steps below:

  1. Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Find five full, round breaths here. Even better, take a few rounds of sun salutations to warm up and connect to your breath.
  2. When you are ready, step your right foot forward between your hands.
  3. Take the time to set your foundation. Resist the temptation to rise up with your arms immediately. Instead, root down through the ball of your right foot and into the center of your heel.
  4. Then pivot your left toes out to the side of your mat and plant your left pinky toe down into the earth. Your front heel should intersect across an imaginary line with the arch of your left foot.
  5. Continue to energize out through your left pinky toe and into your front foot. From the strength of your legs, begin to lift your arms up toward the sky and then open to the side–right arm moving forward over your front leg, and left arm extending open behind you.
  6. Now breathe and check in with your alignment.
  7. Take a glance down to the inside of your right knee and make sure you can see your big toe pressing into the earth.
  8. Bring tone into your low belly and then tuck your tailbone so it is moving straight down through the center of your mat.
  9. Keep your ribs full and soft but draw them into your midline slightly.
  10. Now relax through your shoulders. Keep your shoulders stacked evenly over your hips and let the upper back be full and supported as you lengthen out through your fingertips–forward and back.
  11. Soften the muscles in your face and let your gaze travel past your front fingertips.

Your legs should feel active–pressing strongly into your mat. And your upper body should feel settled and open on top of your foundation. Find five to ten breaths here. Notice the complexity of the shape. Virabhadrasana II is so beautifully grounding because the energy is moving in all four directions–it begins in your center and roots down through all edges of your feet as you strengthen your legs–then from your center the energy moves out equally in front and behind you–finally, there is a lift that radiates out through the crown of your head.

In Virabhadrasana II you are poised, grounded, and ready to face your day with strength and balance.

To find a really sweet release following Virabhadrasana II, keep the foundation in your legs and lift your right arm forward and up towards the sky. Allow your left hand to rest comfortably on your left leg, or find a half-bind with your left hand resting on your right thigh. Keep your shoulders and your neck soft and continue to find length in both side bodies. Then close your eyes and offer your heart towards the sky. From here you can use your breath to create a nice flow between these two shapes.

Emily Buchholtz is a yoga instructor in Portland, OR. She believes everyone can benefit from a little more yoga.