Warrior I is a pose we practice quite often in yoga; and is a great pose for opening up tight hips and shoulders. Warrior I also builds strength in the legs and core as well as arms and upper back.
I love all of the Warrior poses for bolstering our confidence; but especially Warrior I since we are looking up and breaking through any ceilings we may have created above us. The only problem is, in order to shatter through our obstacles overhead, we must have the correct stance and stability in our body, mind and breath.
I often see some mistakes and misalignments in Warrior I and it’s important to correct them, otherwise we risk damaging our knees, lower backs and shoulders. Below are some of the most common ones I notice as a yoga teacher.
When you’re practicing alone or in a studio it’s not a bad idea to look in a mirror and make sure you’re not falling in to any of these misalignments in Warrior I. Once you know how to correct them, then you can go back to using mainly your breath and proprioception to keep you in good form.
1. Front knee dropping in or going too far past the front toes.
I see this a lot especially when people have week inner thighs, abdominals and glutes. It’s crucial to keep the knee of the front leg in Warrior I tracking directly over the ankle. If you let the knee fall inwards, you can damage the medial cruciate ligament or kneecap. Aim your knee over the ankle and in between the big toe and second toe.
2. Back heel turned out too far.
I see this one ALL of the time. Most people are unaware of the back foot in the position and if it’s not turned forward towards a seventy five-degree angle, there’s risk of damaging the ankle, knee and hip even. Press firmly into the outer edge of the foot and keep angling it forward enough to move the back hip forward as well.
3. Overarching in the lower back.
Warrior I is a beautiful back bend, but the bend occurs in the upper back, not the lower back. I often see students falling in to their lower back and sinking in the pose. Use your legs as a firm stance to lift your torso off of.
Engage your lower abdominals and let your tailbone fall down towards the floor as you lift your front hip rims up. Imagine your back ribs floating up away from the hips, narrow your front bottom ribs and lift the sternum up to arch the upper back.
4. Too narrow or short stance.
If you step your feet like a tightrope walker, you’ll feel unstable. Imagine your legs like a railroad track and keep them hip width apart. By stepping the back foot out a little bit further, you also help keep the hips forward-facing, with the back foot turned forward, and everything in better alignment.
Also make sure you step the front foot far enough forward to avoid the knee moving past the ankle. Your legs should ideally be one leg length apart and hip width.
5. Shoulders lifted and arms slack.
In Warrior I it’s important to lift the entire pose up and not forget the arms are just as active as the legs! I see students with elevated shoulders and bent elbows. Instead, think of engaging the scapula down the back and press the tops of the shoulders away from the ears. Extend from elbow to wrist and energize the arms.
IF your shoulders are very tight, keep the arms open and palms turned towards each other. If you have the range of motion, you can press the palms together. Either way, look up to your hands and see your self moving past your self-imposed limitations, and keep reaching for the sky!
Warrior I is an awesome pose and one that can build strength, stamina, confidence and flexibility as well as give you a firm foundation in your legs and core. It’s important to be a fit warrior and stay aligned properly so you can continue practicing yoga for a lifetime…injury-free.