Warrior II is a standing pose that is great at strengthening the large muscles of the body. It builds stability and warmth in the body and opens the hip sockets, as well as strengthens the core, the shoulders, abs and upper back. Practice Warrior II when you want to feel empowered by your connection to the earth.
To begin from a standing position, come to the top of your mat. Ground down through the four corners of your feet: the balls of your feet first and last toes, and then your inner and outer heels. On an inhale, step one foot back 4-5 feet and turn both feet so the sides of your feet are parallel to the short edge of your mat. Turn your front foot in so itís parallel to the long edge of your mat, and adjust your back foot so that your toes are pointing the same direction as your knee. To come into Warrior II from Downward Facing Dog
, lift one foot up and back into the air, coming briefly into Three-Legged Dog. Using the strength of your core, curl your leg in tight to your body, and place your foot between your hands. Spin your back heel down so that your back foot is flat on the floor. From here, cartwheel your arms and torso up until you are standing upright. In either case, take your hands to your hips and make sure that on your back leg, your knee and foot are facing the same direction; this ensures less strain on the knee joint. The distance between your heels should be about as long as one of your legs. If you experience any pain in the knee, make sure your knee and foot are correctly aligned. Finally, try to line up the heel of your front foot with the arch of your back foot; imagine you are standing on a straight line between your front heel and your back arch.
Bend your front knee deeply. Make sure that your front knee does not collapse inward, but is tracking forward, directly over your ankle, not past it. Stacking your joints this way will help you avoid injury. Imagine, from your hip, pressing your front outer knee away from the midline of your body; a great way to check your alignment is to look down over your front knee. If you canít see your big toe, use the muscles in your hip to open your front knee out and away from your body. Breathe. Press equally into both feet, and feel your legs reaching into the earth, supporting your upper body. Lengthen your spine skyward from the center of your hips, so your torso is centered between your legs. Inhale your arms up and out from your shoulders like a T, and turn your palms up to engage your back. Then, rotate just your wrists to turn your palms down. Take your gaze out over your front hand. Donít let your pelvis dump forward or your back arch. Using your core, lift your pelvic bone and drop your tailbone to lengthen your lower back. Broaden across the chest, and feel the energy youíre creating radiate out from your center through your arms and legs.
Enjoy the strength and power you possess as a warrior for five smooth, full breaths.
To come out of the pose, lower your hands to your hips, press into your front foot and step your back foot forward; or, cartwheel your hands back down to the floor and step your front foot back to Downward Dog pose. Make sure you do the pose on both sides!
If you want to work your shoulders deeply, take your arms into this variation: in Warrior II, spin your back arm toward your body and down (internal rotation of the shoulder), lower your arm and bend it at the elbow, gently reaching your hand up your back between your shoulder blades. With your front arm, externally rotate your shoulder so the hollow of your elbow faces skyward. Reach your arm up and bend at the elbow, so that your front elbow is facing the sky and your hand is reaching down, behind your head. If youíre able, grasp your hands. Inhale to deepen the stretch, and exhale deeply. If youíre unable to stretch your hands that far, hold a belt or a strap in both hands. Please note: your shoulders should be warmed up before you attempt this variation, and it requires flexibility in the shoulder girdle; listen to your body as you attempt this variation.
Be mindful of how deeply you bend your knee. The angle of your front knee should never be less than 90 degrees; any angle sharper than a right angle puts stress on your joint, and if youíre still building strength in your thighs, donít bend quite as deeply. Also, itís easy to take most of your weight into your front foot, but make sure you take equal weight in both feet. Press into the outer edge of your back foot and lift your back inner arch to keep your knee safe and your leg engaged.