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Standing Yoga Poses

Warrior II Pose

Named for a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, Virabhadrasana II increases stamina.

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Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose), named after a fierce incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, tests the strength and endurance of beginner and advanced yogis alike. Warrior II is the second of three poses dedicated to Virabhadra.

In this pose you  distribute your weight evenly between both legs with your front knee bent, your hips squared forward, and your arms extended over your front and back legs.

If you hold the pose long enough, you’ll start to feel shaky. You’ll want to stand up and give your legs a break. You’ll want to bring your arms down to let your shoulders rest. But like a true warrior, you’ll find the strength hold the pose.

Warrior II basics

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana II (veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna)

Pose type: Standing posture

Targets: Hips

Why we love it: “Warrior II is one of those poses that is as strengthening and grounding as it is opening and lengthening—a rare combination. It makes me feel like a fierce goddess, patiently ready for battle. The way it opens my hips while strengthening my legs is unlike any other posture, and it’s one that I genuinely look forward to in any practice… I love that from [this pose] you can move almost anywhere—Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon), Utthitha Parsavakonasana (Extended Side Angle), Warrior I or III, or down into another Sun Salutation. It’s an empowering home base that makes you feel like a warrior of light.”  Sahara Rose, author of Discover Your Dharma

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Pose benefits

This standing posture is good for strengthening and stretching the legs and ankles. It also stimulates the abdominal organs and relieves backaches.

Warrior II: Step-by-step instructions

A man demonstrates Warrior II Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

  1. Face the long side of your mat, arms stretched out to the sides with your feet parallel to each other in a wide stance so your feet are approximately beneath your hands.”
  2. Turn your right foot and knee to face the front of the mat.
  3. Turn your left toes slightly toward your right foot. Line up your right heel with your left inner arch.
  4. Bend your right knee and stack it over your right ankle.
  5. Press your left thigh bone back while releasing your tailbone down.
  6. Keep the crown of your head stacked over your pelvis and your shoulders over your hips.
  7.  Reach strongly through both arms toward the front and back of the mat and turn and look past your right fingertips.
  8. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
  9. To exit, press down through your feet on an exhalation, then use an inhalation to straight your legs and return your feet to parallel facing the left long side of the mat.
  10. Repeat on the other side.

Beginners’ tip

When you bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle, aim the inside of your knee toward the little-toe side of your foot.

Teaching Warrior II

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

  • If your shoulders are injured or tight, bring your palms together at the center of your chest for Anjali Mudra.
  • If you want to add a shoulder opener, exhale to extend your arms behind your back, and interlace your fingers. Externally rotate the shoulders and breathe in, filling the rib cage; exhale to softly fold forward, surrendering toward the earth. If you feel strain in your hamstrings, only fold forward as far as is comfortable. To finish, inhale and return to Warrior II.

Variation: Warrior II against a wall

If you struggle to maintain balance in this pose, place a block between your shin and the wall for stability. This also prevents your knee from going in front of your ankle.

Preparatory poses

Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Counter poses

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)