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Standing Yoga Poses

Warrior I Pose

Learn the basics of this foundational yoga pose, Virabhadrasana I.

Virabhadrasana I may be one of the more common yoga poses, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Warrior I Pose challenges you to push past perceived physical, mental, and emotional limitations. It’s an opportunity to focus and practice determination.

It may seem strange to name a yoga pose after a warrior; after all, aren’t yogis known for their non-violent ways? But remember that one of the most revered of all the yoga texts, the Bhagavad-Gita, is the dialog between two famous and feared warriors, Krishna and Arjuna, set on a battlefield between two great armies spoiling for a fight.

What’s really being commemorated in this pose’s name, and held up as an ideal for all practitioners, is the “spiritual warrior,” who bravely does battle with the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of all our suffering.

Warrior I Pose is filled with opposing alignments: Ground through your back foot but keep your ribcage lifted. Bend your front knee and keep lifting your torso without compressing your lower back. Reach through your arms but don’t let your chest cave in.

When all of these opposing movements work together, Warrior I offers a full-body experience. From stretching the ankles and calves to strengthening the quadriceps and back to lengthening the psoas and continuing the stretch through your upper body and arms, there’s almost no body part that doesn’t reap the rewards of holding Virabhadrasana I.

Warrior I Basics

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana I (veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh)

Pose type: Standing posture

Targets: Full body

Why we love it: “Warrior I has a reputation as being basic, vanilla poses–no sprinkles or syrup,” says Yoga Journal senior editor Tamara Jeffries. “But it is a pose that helps you really focus on alignment and positioning. Are the hips facing forward? Is there space in your lower back? Where is your center of gravity? How are you grounding with your feet? If you’re holding it for a while, it’s a real power pose—in more ways than one. It takes some strength, yes, but the pose is very heroic and victorious.”

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Pose benefits

Warrior I stretches your chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, belly and groin. It also strengthens your shoulders, arms and back muscles, as well as your calves, ankles, and thighs.

Warrior I: Step-by-Step Instructions

Woman demonstrates Warrior I pose
  1. From Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), step your right foot forward so your toes are in line with your fingertips, and shift your foot slightly to the right.
  2. Bend your front knee 90 degrees. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor and your knee stacked over your ankle.
  3. Pivot your left heel to the floor so your foot forms a 45-degree angle and your feet line up heel to heel or slightly wider.
  4. Pin your right outer hip back and in toward your left heel while keeping your right knee stacked over your right heel.
  5. Press your left thighbone back so your left knee is straight.
  6. As you inhale, raise your torso and arms with your hands shoulder-distance apart and palms facing each other
  7. Allow your shoulder blades to spin out and up away from your spine and toward your outer armpits.
  8. Spin your biceps back, and firm your triceps into your midline.
  9. Pull up with your left inner arch while spinning your left inner thigh back in order to roll your left outer hip forward.
  10. Keep pressing your left femur back while releasing your tailbone toward the floor.
  11. Emphasize the descent of your tailbone by rooting down through your right heel and drawing your pubis toward your navel.
  12. Move your lower belly back and up away from your right thigh.
  13. Without flaring your front ribs, bring your palms together, and look up at your thumbs.
  14. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
  15. Release your hands to the floor, step back to Downward-Facing Dog, and repeat on the other side.

Beginner’s tip

When bending the front knee, beginners have a tendency to tip their pelvis forward, which duck-tails the coccyx and compresses the lower back. As you practice the pose, be sure to lift your pubis toward your navel and lengthen your tail toward the floor. Then as you bend the knee, continue to lift and descend these two bones, keeping the top rim of your pelvis relatively parallel to the floor.

Teaching Virabhadrasana I

These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • Beginners find it very difficult to keep the back heel grounded and the lower back lengthened in this pose. As a short-term solution, advise students to raise their back heel on a sand bag or other height.
  • If you’re teaching students with shoulder problems, have them keep their raised arms parallel (or slightly wider than parallel) to each other.

Variation: Narrow Stance Warrior I


Man demonstrates a variation of Warrior I pose

Try taking a narrower stance so you are more upright. You can still keep your feet hip-distance apart for balance. Make sure your front knee is either directly above your ankle or behind it (not in front of it). If this position is not comfortable or possible for your back foot, try tucking your toes under like High Lunge.

Preparatory Poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Follow-up Poses

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Gain access to Yoga Journal’s members-only pose library—which features video instruction, anatomy know-how, and additional pose variations—by joining Outside+ today. You’ll also get exclusive yoga sequences and practice tips, access to our faculty of yoga experts, on-demand courses and classes and more. There’s never been a better time to join.