yoga stick figure doing warrior one pose with the text that reads 'complete guide to warrior I'

warrior I – virabhadrasana I

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) is a foundational standing pose that is incorporated into the Sun Salutation B series. It’s a pose that challenges balance, focus, and stamina while setting up the alignment fundamentals required for backbends.

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warrior I

set up

From downward facing dog, step your right foot to the inside of your right thumb. Ground your back foot at a forty-five degree angle, pointed forward and toward the left. Ensure your front foot heel is aligned with your rear foot arch – if you are beginning yoga and require a little more space, align your front heel with your back heel.

Once you are steady in your foundation, rise mindfully. Turn your left hip forward to be as square to the top of the mat as possible without straining. Begin to bend into your front knee, aligning knee over ankle with your front thigh parallel to the floor.

Lift torso so that it is stacked above your pelvis. Reach your arms overhead, slide your shoulder blades down, and lift your gaze to your thumbs – try to avoid interlocking your fingers. Try to complete this action on one long inhale.

upper body

Continue to reach strongly through your arms to lift your rib cage away from your pelvis.  Spread your palms against each other and reach a little higher through the pinky sides of the hands.

mid body

Use your obliques to rotate your chest and hips to face the front of your mat.  Keep actively drawing your rear hip forward.

Keep your tailbone neutral – there is a tendency to flip it out, which, over time, will cause compression in the low back and SI issues.  There is not enough support for your low back for this to be sustainable alignment for a long-term practice.  At the same time, this is a backbend, so don’t tuck the tailbone here unless practicing a variation which aims to minimize the lumbar curve.

Engage the muscles in your back to help lift out of your hips and spine, creating length and height.  Aim to lift your chest away from your waist.

This is a backbend, so bring your spine forward into your back and bring the curve up your back.  Lean your weight backward onto your straight back leg. 

low body

Aim for a ninety degree bend in your front knee, with your knee aligned over your ankle.

Lift the arches of both feet and ground down the outer edge of your back foot.  Press down through your legs into your feet.  

Keep your weight evenly distributed across your foot – the center of the heel, ball of big toe, ball of baby toe.  This will ensure your arches continue to lift throughout the pose.

warrior I benefits

  • Foundation for backbends – when your hips are squared to the front of your mat and your front knee is bent, your psoas and hip flexors get a big stretch.  By opening up the front of your pelvis in this manner, Vira I is a great prep for backbends.
  • Vira I, as with any pose that requires lifting the arms overhead, is great for your circulatory system because it requires your heart to pump with more power
  • Action of externally rotated hip prepares for lotus pose
  • Increases flexibility in the front of your hpis and pelvis, back, and shoulders.
  • Increases overall strength, stability and stamina.

warrior I contraindications

  • Knee or hip injury
  • Low/High blood pressure (as with any pose involving arms raised above the head)
  • Balance issues/vertigo

warrior I common mistakes

  • Back heel turned out too far, outer edge of rear foot not grounded.  Both of these misalignments will risk damaging ankle, knee, and hip.
  • Front knee caving inward – this will damage the medial cruciate ligament or knee cap.  Direct your knee in between the big and second toes of your front foot.
  • Tailbone tucked or overarched.  If your tailbone is tucked, it negates the action of the pose being a backbend.  If your tailbone is overarched, it concentrates the backbend in the (already mobile) low back, when the backbend should be directed toward the upper back.
  • Shoulders crunched up toward the ears.  Yes, your arms are lifted in this pose, but remember, your shoulder blades are sliding down your back.  Create length in your neck by coupling these two actions simultaneously.
yoga stick figure doing warrior one pose

Looking for more foundational pose tips?

Chaturanga Dandasana (low push-up)

Phalakasana (plank)

Uttanasana (forward fold)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)

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