So often in yoga we get fixated on what we think the pose is supposed to look like that we lose sight of how it's supposed to feel. As a teacher, I believe Warrior 1 is one of the hardest poses to teach when we’re flowing through Sun Salutation B. It’s one of the more familiar poses to students of all levels, and as a result, the alignment of the pose often gets overlooked. As a student, it’s a lot to consider when we’re trying to keep up with the teacher’s pace, link the movement with the breath, and generally not die from dehydration, the heat, or physical exhaustion! The trick is to find the most efficient ways to move the body so less energy has to be focused on maneuvering into the pose. Here are five tips to enter Warrior 1 with a little more joy and ease:
1. Work from the back to the front.
There are many ways of getting into a pose, but we should always strive for the most efficient method. Focus your attention on setting up your back foot first. If you are coming into Virabhadrasana 1 on the right side, enter from downward-facing dog by turning your left toes to the left 45 degrees. Make sure your left toes are pointing toward the top corner of your mat. The extra attention to your back foot will help you square the hips a little better.
2. Work from the ground up.
We design the architecture of the poses similar to the way people design the architecture of a house—from the ground up. Once you’ve set up the back foot , step your right foot forward in between the hands, and walk it out to the right a bit. We want the feet set up like railroad tracks so that the hips have room to square. Speaking of the hips: Square them off before you come up. It’s easier to do while the body is still low to the ground and less restricted by limitations in flexibility.
3. Elongate through the inseam.
Once you’ve set up your feet and squared your hips, you’re ready to reach the arms wide and up, coming into the full expression. Take your right hand to the top of your right hip and roll the hip back and down to activate the front leg’s gluteal muscles. At the same time, elongate through the inseam of the left side body. Root down through the outer edge of the left foot to pull up from the inner arch, lifting the inner knee cap, feeling that energy rise all the way through the side body into the left fingertips. Feel the entire inseam of the left side body lengthen, as you gradually improve the flexibility of the back leg’s adductor muscles.
4. Pull your belly in and to the side.
It’s no secret that pressing the belly button into the spine engages the core muscles and protects the lower back. Pulling in the belly can also help you square off the hips. When coming into Warrior 1 on the right side, pull the belly in and to the right to facilitate the hips squaring a little bit more. The hips are likely to never square off completely, but from the belly button up, you should be relatively square.
5. Bring the arms a little forward, not just up.
When we reach the arms straight up to the ceiling, we often compress the cervical spine when we are told to gaze at the thumbs. Instead of reaching straight up, bring the arms a little more forward, so they are an extension of the heart. This will encourage you to backbend from the thoracic spine instead of crunching the neck.