"I include the Warrior II Pose as part of my yoga routine as it both stretches and strengthens the legs. It is also said to promote stamina and courage." - Andrew Weil, M.D.
Description & History
Termed Virabhadrasana in Sanskrit, commonly known as the Warrior II Pose in English, this pose focuses on building leg strength and stamina. The second of three Warrior Poses, this pose provides a way to stretch the hips, groin, and legs as well as chest and shoulders.
The Warrior II Pose is rooted in Hindu mythology. Virabhadra was a fierce warrior, the term asana means pose. The myth states a powerful priest hosted a great sacrifice but did not invite his youngest daughter, Sati, and her husband, Shiva, the supreme ruler of the universe. Sati found out, visited the sacrifice and began arguing with her father. Distraught from the argument, Sati walked into the fire and killed herself. When her husband heard of her death, he became enraged and created Virabhadra, a ferocious warrior who avenged the death of Sati. The three Warrior Poses spring from this myth:
- Virabhadrasana I – warrior arrives with swords in hands, breaking through the earth from below.
- Virabhadrasana II - warrior sees enemy and focuses attention, preparing for battle.
- Virabhadrasana III - warrior moves swiftly and attacks the enemy.
How to Perform Warrior II Pose
- Start in Tadasana, or standing position with your legs shoulder-width apart and arms at side. On an exhalation, place your feet three to four feet apart and raise your arms parallel to the floor with palms down.
- Turn your right foot slightly in and your left foot out 90 degrees to the left so the toes are pointing away from your body. Align your left heel with the right.
- Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, causing the shin to be perpendicular to the floor. Bring your left thigh parallel to the floor, creating a 90- degree angle in your knee. Straighten your right leg and press your right heel out and down into the floor.
- Stretch your arms out, keeping them parallel to the floor. Imagine you are increasing the space between your shoulder blades as you spread your arms. Turn your head to the left as you look out over the fingers of your left hand. Keep your spine straight and perpendicular to the floor.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. When you are ready, inhale and come out of Warrior II Pose. Reverse your feet and repeat with the right side.
Video: How to Perform the Warrior II Pose
Potential Health Benefits
- Stretches and strengthens legs, ankles, and hips
- Stretches chest and shoulders
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Increases stamina and balance
- Relieves backaches and sciatica
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy looked into the effects of practicing yoga on balance and mobility in senior adults. Over an eight-week period, 14 senior adults performed a biweekly yoga program which included the Warrior II Pose as one of the asanas. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found the subjects demonstrated significant improvement in balance and gait speed, but suggested a larger study was needed to more firmly establish the therapeutic value of the practice.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing this pose for the first time may be too challenging for some. If you experience difficulty holding the pose, consider using a chair for support. To modify the Warrior II Pose, straddle the chair and face the chair back. Drop into the pose by bending your left knee and straightening your right leg. Bring your buttocks close to the seat of the chair without actually touching the chair. Hold this pose for as long as you can and if you need a rest, slowly lower yourself onto the chair until you are ready to continue again.
If you want to experience a more advanced Warrior II Pose, drop into the pose. Slowly move your torso away from your left leg, bending at the hips while keeping your arms extended to your sides. This movement stretches the left side of your torso. After holding this modification for 15 seconds, repeat with the other side.
Use caution when performing the Warrior II Pose if you are currently experiencing diarrhea, high blood pressure, vertigo, hip or neck pain. If you are experiencing neck pain, do not turn your head and look over your front arm as you are in the pose. Instead, keep facing forward and in the same direction as your chest is facing to reduce strain. Also, if you have hip pain, follow the modified version and brace yourself against a chair or wall.
Reviewed by: James Nicolai, M.D., on May 21, 2013
Zettergren, Kathleen K., Jennifer M. Lubeski, and Jaclyn M. Viverito. "Effects of a yoga program on postural control, mobility, and gait speed in community-living older adults: a pilot study." Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy 34, no. 2 (2011): 88.