"Combining both leg and chest stretching in one pose such as the Warrior I Pose makes this a great way to start any day." - Andrew Weil, M.D.
Description & History
Virabhadrasana I, more commonly known as the Warrior I Pose in English, is a yoga pose that focuses on the leg and core muscles. The first of three Warrior Poses, this pose strengthens and stretches the calves, thighs, and abdomen.
In Hindu mythology, the Warrior I Pose is named after the fierce warrior, Virabhadra. The myth tells the story of a powerful priest who did not invite his youngest daughter, Sati, and her husband and supreme ruler of the universe, Shiva, to a great sacrifice. Upon discovering she was not invited, Sati confronted her father and began arguing. Distraught from the argument, Sati walked into the fire and killed herself. When Shiva heard about Sati's death, he became enraged and created the ferocious warrior Virabhadra to avenge the death of Sati.
The Warrior I Pose is the first pose and depicts Virabhadra breaking through from the earth below with swords in hand. After performing the Warrior I Pose, follow up with the Warrior II and Warrior III poses.
How to Perform Warrior I Pose
- Begin in Tadasana, or standing position. Set your feet three to four feet apart and raise your arms up perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. Firm your scapulas, or shoulder blades, against your back drawing them down towards your tailbone and actively reach through your outstretched arms and fingers to the sky.
- Keeping your heels aligned, turn your left foot 45 degrees to the right (in toward the center of your body) and turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right (out from the center of your body). Exhale and rotate your torso and hips to the right. As you begin to rotate, lengthen your tailbone toward the floor, arch your upper torso and direct your eyes to a fixed point on the ceiling. Keep your arms straight and perpendicular to the floor.
- Exhale and bend your right knee over your right ankle keeping your left foot on the floor and left leg straight. If possible, bring your right thigh parallel to the floor.
- Reach and stretch even more with your arms and keep the back arched expanding the ribcage. If possible, bring the palms together as you reach higher. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
- To come out of Warrior I Pose, inhale and press your right heel into the floor to straighten the right leg. Rotate your torso and hips back to starting position and turn your feet forward. With an exhalation, release your arms and bring them to your side. Reverse the positions of your feet and repeat with the left side.
Potential Health Benefits
- Increases flexibility of the hips, legs, and groin
- Strengthens shoulders, arms and muscles of the back
- Enhances balance and stability
- Tones abdominal and core muscles
- Relieves backaches and sciatica
A study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation examined the effects of practicing yoga on balance and flexibility in senior adults. Over a 12-week period, 14 participants over the age of 65 participated in a biweekly yoga practice. Among the poses practiced was the Warrior I Pose because of its focus on leg and hip muscles for increasing strength and balance. At the conclusion of the study, researchers determined the participants increased their static balance by four percent and increased their flexibility by 34 percent. The results indicate yoga may be used as an alternative to traditional physical training or exercise for increasing flexibility and balance.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing the Warrior I Pose for the first time may be challenging. If you experience difficulty holding the pose for the recommended time or feel you may fall, consider using a chair for support. To do this, straddle a chair. Drop into the Warrior I Pose and bring your buttocks close to the seat of the chair without resting on the chair unless you find it necessary. Hold onto the pose as long as you can and rest when needed by slowly lowering yourself onto the chair.
To deepen the Warrior I Pose, choose to either widen or close the gap between your feet when you first start. Changing the distance between your legs will engage different muscles allowing for a modified experience.
Use caution when performing the Warrior I Pose if you are currently experiencing diarrhea, high blood pressure, or have serious knee and lower back pain. Following the modified version with using a chair can help you perform the pose and experience the benefits the pose offers. If you have neck discomfort, modify the pose by not looking up, keeping your head in a neutral position. Keep your arms parallel to each other or slightly wider without bringing them together if you have shoulder pain.
Reviewd by: James Nicolai, M.D. on August 1st, 2013.
Schmid, Arlene A., Marieke Van Puymbroeck, and David M. Koceja. "Effect of a 12-week yoga intervention on fear of falling and balance in older adults: a pilot study." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 91, no. 4 (2010): 576-583.