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Pose Spotlight: Virabhadrasana II

Named after the Hindu mythological warrior, Virabhadra, an incarnation of the god Shiva, Warrior 2 is said to enhance strength, stamina and concentration.

I am sure you will agree that it is a strong pose, i.e. it's quite physically demanding both on the legs and the upper body.

Let's start with the feet. The front foot is pointing forward, or towards the top of your mat and your back foot is pointing to the long edge of your mat with the toes slightly turned out.

As always, I am going to remind you I talking about the picture book version of the pose and we all adapt from that version to a version that suits our bodies on any given day.

You want a nice, long stance for Warrior 2. When I was setting up for my demo picture of the pose it reminded me how challenging a long stance makes the pose and that I don't always position my feet as far apart as I could. Try to aim for your feet underneath your hands when your arms are extended. You may not find that particularly challenging but wait until we layer on some of the other elements of the pose.

Some traditions teach the pose heel to heel, I favour front heel to instep of the back foot. This is because, amongst other things, Warrior 2 is a hip opening pose and a common cue is 'hips in line with the long edge of the mat' which for most people just isn't possible as we can't externally rotate our hips 90 degrees. And it's not something that will come with practice; our skeleton just won't allow the thigh bone to rotate that much so take it as a general reminder of the direction of focus. For most of us front heel to instep is challenging in itself and we might want to adjust our feet from this point but I'll come back to this point.

Moving onto the legs and knees. You're aiming to bend your front knee 90 degrees, shin perpendicular to the mat, knee over ankle and for thigh parallel to the floor. That should get the legs firing! And let's not forget the back leg.....let's help that front leg out! Ground down through the long edge of your back foot and think about lifting the arch. Try to keep the bones of the back leg aligned so there's no twisting through the knee. Again, remember depending on your body some of these points are where you're aiming for - tight groins might mean that front thigh parallel to the floor isn't possible for you at the moment; if you find you're sticking your bum out then don't go quite so deep and think about lengthening through the tailbone to help you find the depth that works for you.

I've already talked about how much we are able to externally rotate our hips affects the position of the pelvis and it also affects the position of your front knee. How many times have you focused on drawing your front knee towards the middle of your foot and found that your back hips starts to rotate forward? Prioritise the position of the front knee and then maximise the range of motion that is possible for your hips then you'll get a nice balance between the work of the thighs, glutes, rotators and a stretch through the adductors along the inside of the thighs. Engaging your glute on the front leg will help you think about the external rotation of that front thigh, keeping the knee above the ankle and tracking over the second toe.

Keeping our back leg strong with the inner thigh drawing towards the back of the mat will also help stack shoulders over hips. Because it feels as though everything is happening with the front leg and arm it's easy to lean the weight forward over that front leg. We want to equalise the weight between front and back leg with the torso centred.

Another things I noticed when taking this photo was that I seem to think my shoulders are up somewhere around the level of my chin. We want shoulders relaxed and straight arms. Try to relax the upper trapezius muscles, those muscles between the top of the shoulder and the bottom of the back of the neck that are often knotted with tension, and lift up through the crown of the head. A tip for encouraging the correct muscles to do their job is to rotate the arms so that the palms of the hands and inside of the elbows are facing the ceiling and then turn them back down.

And finally, gaze over the front hand.

That is a lot to think about so why not pick one or two elements to explore before moving on to something else. Starting with the feet is a good place to start, if we start with the foundations of the pose some of the other points will be easier. Breaking poses down like this and deciding to prioritise one area or action enables us to explore our own bodies in more depth and understand what comes more easily and what offers more of a challenge and how we develop and work with those qualities.

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