I Am Strong!
That is what I have the Twisted Tykes Chant when we come into Warrior II. Not only does it remind us to roll our shoulder blades down as we show off our muscles, but it helps reinstate that there is strength inside everyone of us. We are each a warrior in so many ways and these poses allow us to tap into that part of ourselves. Each Warrior poses offers poise, balance, strength, flexibility, stamina, and grounding. In our Warriors we hold our ground, fix our gaze, and prepare our selves mentally, physically, and spiritually to face what ever may come.
Here are the 3 basic postures as well as some variations for you to check out and try.
With your hips and shoulders facing the short edge of the mat, step your right foot backwards about 3 1/2 – 4 feet and rotate your heel down to the floor so your entire foot is on the mat and your toes point at about a 45 degree angle. Make sure to press into the outside edge of your back foot so your arch stays lifted and your ankles stay stable.
Keep your hips and shoulders rotated to the front of the mat and draw your navel back to your spine. Reach your arms up over head, bringing your arms in line with your ears and engaging all the way through your finger tips. Lock your shoulder blades into the back of your ribs and breathe.
Stay for a few rounds of breath and then take your opposite side. You can either step back to the top of the mat, or step back to Downward Facing Dog and even flow through a Sun Salutation between each side.
Physically, this pose activates the erector spinae – muscles that lie along the low spine, the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the adductors of the inner thighs. The deep transverse abdominus, gluteus medius and minimus at the outer hip, calf muscles and side abdominal muscles (obliques) also help us stay steady in the pose. Warrior I also allows an opening stretch to the hip flexors, shoulders, neck, chest, and ankles.
Just as with Warrior I – from Mountain Pose, step one foot backward. You may want a wider stance than in Warrior I and to have your back foot at a wider rotation (maybe 70 – 90 degrees instead of 45). Rotate your hips and chest to the long edge of the mat so you are open and wide in this stance. Draw your arms out long to a T shape straight out of your shoulders so they are lined up over your legs. Drop your tail bone down to the mat and turn your gaze over your front finger tips. Again, press into the outside edge of both of your feet and take a few rounds of breath.
You can use any transition you like, even simply swiveling your feet so you face the back of the mat, to practice both sides.
This pose strengthens the glutes, thigh muscles and calves and stretches the ankles, chest and shoulders.
This balancing posture is a little easier to come into from Warrior I than II because your hips are already in a proper alignment.
From Warrior I, draw your palms to touch at your heart and choose a Drishti or focal point on the floor a couple of feet in front of your big toe. Begin to shift your weight forward into your front leg and tap your back foot forward until you can tip onto your front leg and begin to straighten it. Let your back leg stretch long behind you as you hinge forward from your hip. Your body will look like a capital ‘T’. You can keep your hands at your heart, bring them to your hips or reach them up over head – arms in line with your ears just like Warrior I. If you want a little more challenge and shoulder opening, reach your arms behind you and interlace your fingers at the small of your back then stretch your knuckles away from your head. Keep your nose pointed to the ground and maintain your Drishti.
Take a few rounds of breath and then release. You can step back to Warrior I or you can lower your back leg and find a forward fold.
The pose hones balance and strength in the base leg’s thigh and ankle. Your abs work hard to keep you in the position and your back and shoulders engage to reach forward.
This is a beautiful yet difficult posture. It takes a bit of strength and stability through your feet, ankles, and inner thighs and lots of flexibility through your shoulders.
Starting in Warrior I, interlace your fingers behind your back and roll your shoulders back and down. On an inhale breath, lift up through your ribs and then on your exhale forward fold to the inside of your front thigh. You can allow your knuckles to reach for the ceiling if that feels good on your shoulders. Press into the 3 corners of both of your feet and engage through glutes and quadriceps. Stay strong in your belly and remember to breathe. Allow yourself a few rounds of breath then use your inhale to come back up to Warrior I. Transition however you choose and take your opposite side.
You can take a reverse position from Warrior II. Allow your back palm to rest on your back thigh. You don’t want to put a lot of weight in that hand, just use it for support as you stretch backward. On your inhale, flip your front palm to the ceiling and stretch through your ribs, armpit and finger tips then begin to tip backward. Your lower body stays exactly where it started, this movement is just through your upper body.
This stretches through your side body, creating lots of space and length from your hips to your pinky finger.
Reverse Warrior stretches the chest and opens up the lungs so you can breath more easily. It strengthens the side obliques of the abdomen while the lunging action continues to strengthen the muscles of the thighs and buttocks.
Revolved or Twisted Warrior starts from Warrior I. From this posture, strengthen through your belly and begin to rotate your rib cage and shoulders toward the opposite side as Warrior II (your right side if your right foot is forward, your left side if your left foot is forward). Let your arms open up to a ‘T’ shape and begin to turn your gaze toward your back fingers. Stay strong in your back leg and continue to lift through the arch of your back foot. Keep your shoulder blades rolled down and find your breath.
After a few rounds of breath – letting your rib cage expand wide, use your exhale to draw you back to Warrior I. Again, transition however you like and take your opposite side.