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5 Ways to Practice Warrior 2 Pose

The standing pose is far more accessible than you might have been led to believe. (Also, who said it had to be done standing?!)

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Shortly after I started to attend yoga classes, I began to understand Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose) almost as a game of opposites. As I stepped my feet wide, I played with a hugging action between my feet to keep my leg muscles engaged. As I focused on rotating my front hip outward, I gave equal focus to rotating my spine in the opposite direction. As I lunged deeply with my front knee, I pressed both my feet into the mat to create length through the sides of my waist.

In Warrior 2 Pose, we focus on creating a strong and stable foundation while maintaining a sense of lightness in our upper body. I find it to be an opportunity to explore, mindfully, the balance between effort and ease.

The posture strengthens the shoulders, hip flexors, and external rotators of the hip. The rotation in the upper body strengthens our core musculature (especially the obliques), while we work to improve the mobility of our thoracic spine. The asana stretches the inner thighs and allows us to develop focus, resilience, and stamina.

Warrior 2 Pose can be challenging, especially if you have balance challenges or limited hip, knee, or ankle mobility. Exploring the following variations lets you experience similar shapes, actions, and benefits as found in the traditional version while respecting your individual needs.

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5 ways to practice Warrior 2 Pose

Preparation

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend) and Vrksasana (Tree Pose) help you understand how to engage your legs in Warrior 2. Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) prepares your arms and legs.

Man standing on a yoga mat with his hands on his hips in a variation of Warrior 2 Pose
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

1. Warrior 2 Pose with a shorter stance

This variation is a good option for anyone who struggles with their balance or experiences limited mobility in their ankles and hips.

From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place your hands on your hips and step your left foot back a couple feet. The precise distance between your feet will depend on what feels comfortable for your hip joints and inner thighs but will be shorter than in the traditional Warrior 2 where your ankles are typically beneath your wrists, which could be three feet or more apart. Rather than keeping your feet in a straight line from heel to heel, step your left foot out to the left a couple of inches. Also, turn your left foot in slightly. The precise angle of your left foot will depend on your unique anatomy. Experiment to find what feels good for you here.

Anchor down through the outside edge of your left foot so the weight is evenly spread across all three corners of your foot. Also anchor down evenly through all three corners of your right foot. Bend your right knee. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t inherently harmful to let your front knee move in front of your ankle as long as this feels comfortable for your knee.

Keep your hands on your hips or reach your arms straight out from your shoulders, parallel with the mat. Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears. Rotate your ribcage to the left until your chest faces the long side of the mat. Look toward your right hand. If you lose a sense of stability or control during the pose, step your feet closer together. Repeat on the other side.

Tip 

To help your right hip externally rotate, place your right hand on your right outer hip. Press your hand into your hip and, at the same time, press your hip into your hand.

Man standing on a yoga mat with a chair in front of him practicing Warrior 2 Pose with the chair as added support for balance
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

2. Warrior 2 Pose with a chair

This variation can be a helpful option for anyone who finds balancing challenging.

From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place a chair a foot in front of you with the back of the chair facing you. Place your right hand on the chair and your left hand on your left hip, then step your left foot back a couple of feet. Step your left foot out to the left a couple inches and angle it in slightly. Again, feel free to experiment with your feet position to find what feels good for you. Anchor down evenly through all three corners of each foot and bend your right knee.

Keep your left hand on your hip or lift your left arm until it is parallel with the mat. Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears. Rotate your ribcage to the left until your chest faces the long side of the mat. Look toward your right hand.

Tip
Your pelvis doesn’t have to perfectly face the long edge of the mat. Instead of focusing on the position of the pelvis, focus on engaging your leg muscles by feeling as though you’re trying to hug your feet toward each other.

Man kneeling on a yoga mat with one knee down and the other in a lunge with his arms reaching straight out from his shoulders in Warrior 2 Pose variation.
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

3. Warrior 2 Pose with one knee on the mat

This variation can be ideal for anyone who has concerns about their balance.

Begin on your knees, facing the long side of the mat. Place a folded blanket under your knees if this feels more comfortable. Step your right foot toward the front of the mat with your foot and knee pointing toward the short edge of the mat in a lunge.

Keep your hands on your hips or reach your arms straight out from your shoulders until they are parallel with the mat. Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears. Rotate your ribcage to the left until your chest faces the long side of the mat. Look toward your right hand.

Man seated on a chair while practicing Warrior 2 Pose in yoga
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

4. Warrior 2 Pose in a chair

This variation creates the same shape as Warrior 2 but with the full support of a chair. It can be a good option for anyone who struggles with their balance or are building leg strength.

Place a chair in the middle of the mat facing the left long side of the mat. Sit toward the front of the chair and place your hands on your hips. Step your right foot out to the right, turn your toes toward the short edge of the mat, and bend your knee. Step your left foot to the left and angle your toes slightly toward the chair. Keep your left leg straight. Anchor down evenly through all three corners of each foot.

Keep your hands on your hips or reach your arms straight out from your shoulders until they are parallel with the mat. Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears. Rotate your ribcage to the left until your chest faces the long side of the mat. Look toward your right hand.

May lying on a yoga mat practicing a reclined version of Warrior 2 Pose
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

5. Warrior 2 Pose on your back

This can be a helpful variation for anyone who is working with a foot, ankle, or hip injury, or who struggles with balance. It is also a great way for anyone to explore the pose from a different perspective.

Lie down in Savasana with your feet wide apart and a block, on the lowest level, alongside your left foot. Turn your right foot to the right and bend your right knee to create a right angle. Place your left foot on the block and angle it in slightly.

Place your hands on your hips or reach your arms straight out from your shoulders. Rotate your ribcage to the left until your chest faces the ceiling. Look toward your right hand.

See also: Different ways to practice other common yoga poses, including Downward-Facing DogTree Pose, and Child’s Pose.

About our contributor

Andrew McGonigle has studied anatomy for more than 20 years. After initially studying to become a doctor, he moved away from Western medicine to become a yoga and anatomy teacher. He shares his knowledge of the body and the ways it moves in yoga teacher training courses throughout the world and leads his own Yoga Anatomy Online Course. His second book is The Physiology of Yoga. To learn more about Andrew, check out doctor-yogi.com or follow him on Instagram @doctoryogi.