We as yogis are versed in "Warrior I.” As a yoga teacher, functional fanatic and lifelong student, I have come across some very interesting variations to the traditional Warrior I.
When I teach the physical postures I try to give students a blue print to go off of. And before a student or teacher trainee learns any other postures with me, they first must understand the concept of neutral or Tadasana. In the West, we have an especially warped concept of good posture. Over the last decade teaching, I have found myself morphing my yoga practice and teaching into a more physically functional approach with a spiritual tradition wrapped in.
Whenever I introduce this concept to the public or new students I try to help people understand that once we can learn neutral, we then can learn un-neutral. A simple example would be a foot pattern besides neutral. Many people already have an external rotation on the foot with a collapsed main arch, so we need to approach postures with an understanding and re-educating of the foot to neutral, and then we can do other things. Understanding neutral can really help us function better in by getting us out of the rounded torso, tight hip flexors, the need for arch supports, fluffy pillow, and get back to knowing our bodies and what they really need.
With Functional Warrior I, students gain better insight into their body from a Mountain Pose perspective or neutral, and begin to see the blueprint of their bodies; what is tight, short, slack, strong or weak. From there, they can begin to heal and gain ground to what in yoga we call balance and what I suggest is finding the imbalances.
1. From Neutral, place feet width apart, pelvis in neutral (pubis bone and ASIS parallel with the front wall), rib cage relaxed, and shoulder girdle down and open. Keep the neck neutral with the chin level and with the floor. Pressing the feet into the earth and the pelvic floor active and belly bracing, breathe in Mountain for a moment taking in the concept of this pose.
2. Without too much thought, casually step back with the right foot and notice the turnout with the right foot. The tighter the outer hip, calf or ankle the more turnout you will most likely have. This is not a big stride like we often see in yoga videos; most likely this is modest. From that place turn the back foot so that it is parallel with the outer edge of the mat.
3. Keep the back leg strong and straight. Now square your hips by drawing the right hip forward and the left hip back without straightening the front knee. You should feel a nice stretch on the IT band on the left and the groin and calf on the right.
4. Now reactivate the pelvic floor muscles and front belly, lift your lower back ribs off your sacrum and lift equally our torso off your pelvis.
5. Inhale and lift the arms up overhead, being very mindful only to lift the arms, rather than the arms and chest. Notice if your arms can move independent of the rest of the body. Please know this is just a test, obviously our body moves as a unit, but understand that the unit needs to be free and open, not sticky and rigid.
6. Continue to breathe and create even more space between the arms reaching (shoulders dropping), hips squaring and the back heel pressing. Most people need assistance with the back foot especially if they are tight in the hips and legs.
7. To add to the power of this new posture keep Functional Warrior I and now add an Achillies stretch to the back leg. Keeping the heel down at all times, exhale bend the back knee only as far as you can keep and press the back heel down. You should feel length and stretch on the ankle, shin, calf, hip and or hip flexor. Repeat ten times and then repeat this entire series on the opposite side. Then after go back to the tighter side and repeat this series again using the 2:1 ratio (weak/tight: strong/stable)
If you struggle with postures like Chair, squatting and any types of forward bending, especially standing, then try incorporating Functional Warrior I and calf release. I promise you will feel a difference in your body, a relief in your ailments and a more beneficial practice for years to come.