Asana Column: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)
In my explorations, I've discovered certain physical and emotional patterns specific to each of these relationships with gravity.
For example, I agree with Body-Mind Centering teacher Lynne Uretsky when she says, "Whenever the relationship of yielding to the Earth is lost, breathing is restricted." In addition, whenever I don't allow the ground to support me, I find that my center tightens and I can't feel a strong, integrating connection with my limbs or with my sense of self. On a more subtle level, I find that each of the three relationships with gravity has a different effect on the circulation of fluids in my body—synovial and cerebrospinal fluids, blood and lymph, the fluids surrounding my organs, and so on. When I collapse, my fluid circulation decreases and becomes sluggish; when I prop and push, it feels static and frozen. Yielding seems to create the optimal conditions for fluid circulation. When I'm in the yielding state, I feel all these fluids moving through my body in a pumping action that is intimately connected to the rhythm of my breath. You might like to go back through the exploration in Tadasana again and see if you can feel a difference in the movement of fluids in your body as you shift from collapse to prop to yield.
Virabhadrasana II: Balancing Effort and Ease
Many of us find that Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) demands a lot of effort, tempting us to shift from the balanced state of yielding into either collapsing or propping and pushing. Even if you feel you already do this posture well, consciously using it to explore your relationship with gravity can help you clarify where you need to focus more energy and where you're working harder than necessary.
Begin by standing with your feet wide apart and parallel. To find exactly the right distance between your feet, turn your left foot in slightly, turn your right foot out 90 degrees, and bend your right knee until your thigh parallels the floor (or comes as close to this position as is comfortable for you). Your right knee should be exactly above your right ankle, with your shin perpendicular to the floor. If your right knee extends beyond the ankle, you need to widen your stance; if your knee is behind your ankle, you need to narrow your stance.
Once you've determined the proper distance between your feet, make sure you've allowed the left side of your pelvis to swing slightly forward. For less flexible people the left hip will come well forward, for more flexible people the left hip will be further back, but no matter how flexible you are it is not anatomically possible for the left hip to be flush with the right hip unless you compromise the healthy alignment of your joints. If you try to force the left hip back, your right thigh will rotate inwards, placing strain on your right knee, and your left sacroiliac and hip joints will be compressed.
Now that you've safely positioned your hips, let's ensure you aren't over-torquing your right ankle or knee. Look down and draw an imaginary line from the heel of your right foot to the arch of your left foot, and make sure that your right sitting bone is directly above this line. Once you establish this connection, yield the weight of your front foot into the ground, and send the rebounding flow of energy horizontally back through your front leg. If you're properly aligned, you'll feel the force travel up the leg, through the pelvis, and all the way into the back leg and foot. Maintain a strong diagonal line from your thigh through your knee, shin, and foot; if you collapse in your knee or ankle, you will stress and perhaps harm those joints.