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How to do Reverse Warrior Pose & Avoid Common Mistakes

Updated: May 16, 2020

Learn the yoga warrior poses from simple instructions that outline the key focus points. This will allow you to gain maximum benefits in your yoga practice.

Warrior Yoga Poses Origin

There are several warrior poses within the practice of Yoga.

They signify strength, challenge & surrender within one's self.

With the ability to gain stability, build strength, mobilise joints, as well as a whole host of other benefits, it's no wonder the warrior poses are popular today, but where did they originate from?

Behind almost all yoga asanas (poses) there is a story. These ancient myths can reveal our own deepest desires, impulses, and aspirations. The warrior poses are said to originate from an ancient story of Lord Shiva. The poses frame parts of the incident that took place. 

It begins with the love story of Lord Shiva and his newly wedded wife Sati, who married without the approval of Sati's father, Daksha. Daksha went on to insult Shiva in front of the other gods and those of power which humiliated his daughter Sati. So she vowed to disown the body he gave to her. She sat in a deep meditative state, fuelling her inner fire until her yogic energy made her burst into flames. 

When Shiva found out about this he turned himself into his greatest fierce warrior, Virabhadra, to show Daksha what happens when you mess with the all-powerful Lord Shiva, the destroyer. Virabhadra is one of the many forms of Shiva. 

Virabhadra locked eyes with Sati's father, drawing up from the ground with his sword pointing it up to the sky (cue pose Warrior 1). He took aim and drew back his sword (Warrior 2) and then with full vengeance, struck forward to cut off Daksha's head (Warrior 3). 

Once he realised what he had done, Virabhadra resorted back to his true form, Shiva. He withdraws and reverses (into Warrior 4, Reverse Warrior). Seeing the aftermath of Virabhadra's bloody work he feels sorrow & decides to bring back the life of Daksha. He then humbly bows down to the great king to apologise for his actions (Humble Warrior). For the final act to show his remorse and respect, Shiva retreats (into Retreating Warrior). Shiva leaves with his wife in his arms. 

The moral of the story is that at times our higher self (Shiva) acts out of love (Sati) and fights with the ego (Daksha), but with compassion and contemplation, the higher self can forgive the ego to remain with love, which will rise again in another story. 

Alignment & Focus of each Warrior Pose 

Warrior 1

Warrior 1 is a great standing yoga pose to open up the shoulders, stretch into the hip flexors, and calves. 

Traditionally, it is said to be a heel to heel alignment for the feet position but to enable us to square the hips towards the front we need to open the feet out a little. Front foot facing the front, back foot toes turned ope to about a 45-degree angle, depending on your body to be cautious of the back knee. Push down into the back heel to be grounded and stable and enable that calf stretch. 

Keep the front knee bent, in line with the second and third toe, ensuring you are can still see your toes and your knee is stacked on top of your ankle. 

With the hips square and facing forward, you should be able to feel the stretch into the hip flexors down the front of the leg that is back. 

Draw your ribs down by engaging your abdominal muscles, rather than arching the back and flaring the ribs. This will allow the focus to be more on the shoulders opening with your hands above your head. Either palms together or apart, depending on the openness you have in your shoulders. In the beginning, you can start with your hands apart so your shoulders are down from the ears and work towards getting the palms together keeping the shoulders down.

Gaze up to your hands and breathe. 

Key points to remember:

  • Push back heel down to engage the leg & fully stretch the calf

  • Hips square to the front to stretch the hip flexors 

  • Draw the ribs down to allow the shoulders to open Create Relevant Content

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is a great standing yoga pose to open the hips, strengthen the legs and lengthen through the arms.

Start with a nice wide stance. Front foot facing forward. Back foot in line with the back of the mat, heel to heel alignment. Push down into both feet to engage the legs. 

Bend front knee, keeping the knee in line with the second and third toes. It is ok to allow the knee over the ankle, providing it doesn't cause any pain in your knee. This will switch on the thigh muscles more and encourage the mobility in your ankle.

Ensure your hips are level, (you can do this by putting your hands on the boney part of the front of your hips) and make sure the hips are opening out to the side. Align your shoulders directly on top of your hips. Keep the pelvic neutral (not tucking in or lifting tail bone).  

Spread the arms out, lengthen, and extending out through both hands, making sure the hands are at equal height. Relax the shoulders down from the ears.

Gaze over the front fingers and breathe. 

Key points to remember: 

  • Push into the front foot and push the front knee in line with 2nd and 3rd toes

  • Keep hips level and opening out to the side

  • Imagine equal energy flowing out through both hands

Warrior 3

This is a great yoga pose to engage the stabilising muscles of the body to increase balance and strengthen through the leg. 

Ground down through the standing leg, spreading the balls and toes of the feet. Micro bend the standing leg and take the weight in the front foot as you come onto the toes of the back foot. If you feel shaky in the beginning this is fine, the muscles are switching on to stabilise you on one leg. 

Bring your palms to your chest, start to hinge from the hips, keeping your back leg in one line with your upper body tilting forward, lifting the back foot off the floor. Keep the back foot flexed, pushing through the heel to keep the back leg engaged. Hips square facing down to the floor; by turning the toes down towards the floor will encourage your hips to be square. Put extra focus here to keep the hips level. You can try first with hands on the hips before lifting the back foot up to heighten your awareness of the natural movement of your hips. 

Extend your arms in front,  the shoulders down from the ears (similar to warrior 1 keep your hands apart depending on your shoulders), and breath. 

Gaze over the fingers/ on the tip of the nose. 

Key points to remember: 

  • Ground down through the standing foot before moving into the pose

  • Micro bend the front knee to strengthen the leg

  • Keep hips in line, square, facing towards the floor

Warrior 4 - Reverse Warrior

(viparita virabhadrasana)

Reverse Warrior is a great standing yoga pose to stretch the lateral side of your upper body, whilst keeping your legs strong. Lots of yoga poses are done in the sagittal plane; to the front and back, so it is great to add reverse warrior into your sequence as it provides a great stretch out of the box. 

I usually sandwich this pose in between warrior 2 as it flows naturally. So begin in a warrior 2 position - back foot parallel to the back of the mat, front toes forward, bend into the front knee. Push through both feet. 

Flip the front hand over, so your palm is now facing up. Inhale as you lengthen up through the spine and take the hand overhead. Your back hand gently placed on the back leg. Keeping length through the spine, lean towards the back & stretch the side body. Keep the pelvic neutral. Gaze up towards your hand and as you do this start to rotate the ribs, opening the chest up towards the sky. 

Key points to remember:

  • Keep the front knee bent

  • keep length through the spine (don't crank you back) 

  • Rotate chest up to the sky

Humble Warrior 

The Humble Warrior, bowing down for respect, ensures strength in the front leg and opens the hips. An initial opening of the chest and a great stretch for the shoulders. 

Start in a warrior to stance - back foot parallel to the back of the mat, front toes forward, bend into the front knee. Push through both feet. 

Interlace fingers and try to clasps hands behind your back. Keep your shoulders back and down from the ears, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Feel the openness in the chest. 

Hinge from the hips and round the back. Leaning into the front thigh, whilst maintaining engagement through the back leg. Bring your head inside the front knee to allow the hips to open. 

Bring your arms over your head as much as you can without raising your shoulders up to the ears. Try to keep lengthening through the spine and breathe. 

Key points to remember: 

  • Maintain engagement with the back leg, push through the back foot

  • Stretch the front of the shoulders, keeping them down from the ears

  • Lengthen and stretch back by rounding  

Retreating Warrior

Retreating Warrior is a challenging yoga pose, great to strengthen the legs and stretch the back of the legs by flexing the foot and pushing through the heel. It encourages stability from the core.

Once again we will enter the pose from a warrior 2 stance - back foot parallel to the back of the mat, front toes forward, bend into the front knee. Push through both feet. 

Start to swing the back arm forward and then take both arms across to the back on the side of the back leg.  Simultaneously, bend the back leg and straighten the front, sinking down onto the tiptoes of the back foot, pushing the back knee out. 

Flex into the front foot by pushing through the heel to allow the back of the leg to stretch. 

Coming out of the pose is great to strengthen the back leg. Take your time here and breathe. 

Key points to remember: 

  • Keep hips open to the side

  • Flex front foot to stretch leg 

  • Move slowly with balance to activate the core

Common mistakes doing the warriors

The most common mistakes from the warrior poses come from the hips and shoulders. 

Know if the pose is a hip opener or if you are to square the hips. For Warrior 1 and 3 the hips are square towards the front in the sagittal plane of movement; back and front.  Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Humble Warrior, and Retreating Warrior all encourage hip opening. With increased mobility in the hips the position becomes more accessible, so keep moving and stretching. 

The general cue for the shoulders is to be down from the ears. Try to remember to lengthen through the spine, and keep the neck as an extension of the spine. Initially, your shoulders will probably be tight which will lead to compensation in other areas, for example, flaring of the ribs in warrior 1.  Just remember the instructions outlined above, vary the positions when you need to, for example with the palms apart. With time and more openness in the shoulders the alignment will become more natural. 

Try to notice the difference between a position feeling uncomfortable because your body is not used to it or you have certain restrictions AND if you are feeling pain. If there is pain listen to your body & please try to adapt the position, always seek the help of a professional if you are unsure to avoid injury. 

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