Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1): Hip Therapy

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)Warrior 1, or Virabhadrasana 1, has a lot in common with Crescent lunge. Both are hip opening standing postures. They look very similar. Both can be incorporated in Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. However, if done incorrectly, both can cause low back pain.

The main difference between the two postures is that Warrior 1 connects the back heel to the floor, and Crescent lunge keeps the back heel lifted. By connecting the back heel to the floor, we create a deeper need for opening in the back leg’s hip. If you have tight hips, this could pose a challenge and your stance should be modified (Step 6). Because of this tightness and possible rotation, it is especially important to pay attention to what your pelvis, abdominals, and low back are doing so that you avoid injury and reap the benefits of this therapeutic pose.

Warrior 1

Lower body set-up

  1. We will be using Ujjayi breathing.
  2. I like to begin in Tadasana.
  3. Inhale the arms up and exhale into Uttanasana.
  4. Put a soft bend in the knees so that the fingertips can lightly touch down on either side of your feet. Keep the abdominals engaged so that your low belly is lifted off your thighs.
  5. Send the right leg back so that your legs are parallel (as opposed to being on the same line). You should be in a lunge. The bent knee should go no further than ninety degrees.
  6. If you have tight hips or issues with your low back, sacrum, or SI joint, you should have your legs on tracks that are wider than hip distance apart. For example, I have SI joint issues so when I send my right leg back, I scoot it out to the side of my mat. When my toes lower, they touch the outside edge of my mat.
  7. Spin your right foot to a forty-five degree angle and anchor your foot to the ground. Feel your toes, heels, and the outside edge of your foot press into the mat.                                                              Warrior 1 prep
  8. Keeping the low belly engaged, begin to lift so that your hands come up off the floor and onto your hips. Take a moment in this position to check the placement of your hips. You want your pelvis to be in neutral. If it is not, you could end up causing yourself low back pain. With your hands on your hips, feel that your pelvis is level and encourage it to face the front of your mat. Engage core muscles to stabilize the low back and pelvis.

Upper body set-up

  1. Feel the rib cage lift away from the pelvis.                                                                                                           Warrior 1 prep
  2. Bring the arms up to cactus, with the elbows in line with the shoulder and the hands directly above the elbows.
  3. Soften your upper thoracic spine to create an upper back backbend. Make sure that you only feel movement from the part of the spine in line with the shoulder blades and up. Also, make sure that your head stays in line with your spine.
  4. Reach both arms straight toward the ceiling with your palms facing each other. You biceps (front part of your upper arm) should be right beside your ears.
  5. Broaden your collarbones and feel your shoulder blades slide down your back.
  6. Hold this position for 5-8 breaths.
  7. Exhale your arms down around your left foot.
  8. Engage the low belly to step the right foot up beside the left.
  9. Switch sides.

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For visual learners, here is a video.

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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