Warrior I or Virabhadrasana I is a pose I used to desperately hope my yoga teachers would forget about. If they did guide us through this pose, I secretly (or not so secretly - everyone could see me) went into Crescent Lunge. Of course my instructors never said anything to me (you do you, right?).
Fast forward to my Ashtanga-lineage Yoga Teacher Training. I learned Warrior I is a hard asana to ignore, especially in the Half Primary Series. However, once we really learned how the pose fit our bodies (and not the other way around), I found a hidden love for Vira I.
Let's go back to basics. Everyone's hips are different, and it all depends on how our femur (thigh bone) angles (angle of inclination) into our acetabulum (hip socket) and the Craig's angle (rotation) of our femoral neck on the shaft of the femur. So, in layman's terms, you many notice it's more comfortable to be pigeon toed and W sit, or you may find it easier to walk like a duck or ballerina and sit cross-legged. I am 110% the latter.
Still confused? 🤷♀️ 🤷♂️ Let's take it to the asanas. Most times (but not all), those who have anteverted hips, are pigeon toed, and W sit prefer Warrior I because it feels more natural on their bodies. In traditional Ashtanga Virabhadrasana I, feet are very narrow so that the heels are aligned while in a wide stance. The back foot is angled towards the top ipsilateral corner of the mat while the front foot points forward. The back knee is straight with engaged quadricep muscle and the front knee is bent to 90 degrees.
This pose encourages more internally rotated hip joints, satisfying those yogis who are more pigeon toed. And for those who walk like a duck 🦆(ahem, like me), this pose goes against our anatomy. This is what I believed until my YTT instructor, the beautiful Jessica Mihm, provided modifications of this pose to fit our bodies so that we may safely enter, maintain, and exit Warrior I.
In my Vira I, my feet are wider right to left (the heels do not line up front to back), and are more shallow forward to back, decreasing my front knee bend to less than 90 degrees. This prevents twisting in my back knee when attempting to maneuver and maintain my hips square to the top of the mat.
I hope this helps those who are like me and walk like a duck, errrr, ballerina, move into the pose with more ease and less strain in the back leg.
Getting into R Virabhadrasana I from Tadasana (Mountain Pose):
Step your left foot back approximately 3-4 feet behind you.
Attempt to keep heels in line with each other front to back, or for the modification, take your left foot out to the left so that your hips may stay parallel the top of the mat.
Angle your left toes so that they face towards the top left corner of your mat.
Bend through your right knee, directing it towards your second toe as much as 90 degrees. Make sure that your right knee does not pass your ankle.
Check your left foot and make sure your arch is still lifting, but not rolling onto the knife edge either. Maintain equal weight through big toe, little toe, and heel.
Arms will reach up towards the sky, biceps around ears, hands pressing together, and if possible, your gaze will follow. You have the option to open up through the shoulders and hands if you have pinching or pain in the shoulder joints. Your gaze can also be neutral if looking up causes pain.
Draw your rib cage out of your pelvis by lifting chest up towards the sky, yet knitting lower ribs up and in to prevent an increased lordosis of the lumbar spine.
Congratulations ! You are now in YOUR Virabhadrasana I 😃
Photo credit: Ali Kochey
Location: Bellagio, Italy