- Sanskrit (Original): Viparīta Vīrabhadrāsana
- Etymology: Reversed (viparīta), warrior (vīra), friend (bhadra), pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: A two-in-one pose for the obliques: They get a nice stretch on the front-leg side and have to work hard on the back-leg side!
- Asana Type: Side-bending, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Front-leg side: rotator cuff, latissimus dorsi, external obliques, intercostals, iliopsoas; back-leg side: gracilis, peroneals
- Main strength muscle groups: Spinal extensors, spinal flexors; glutes, piriformis, quadriceps, hamstrings, muscles of the feet; back-leg side: external obliques
- Vinyasa Breath: Inhale and exhale possible
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 Start in Virabhadrasana II: Separate the feet into a wide stance with the toes of your front leg facing towards the short end of the mat and the back foot parallel to the short end of the mat.
- 2 Turn your entire torso to face the long side of the mat. Your hip bones point in the same direction.
- 3 Bent the front knee to a maximum of 90 degrees, i.e. your knee should not go beyond your ankle. Also make sure that the knee does fall neither inside nor outside.
- 4 Engage the back leg by pushing the outer edge of the foot firmly into the ground and pulling the knee cap up.
- 5 Inhale to lift your ribcage, top of the shoulders, armpits and arms up to expand your lungs more fully.
- 6 Exhale and lean your torso towards your back leg. The back-side hand can either meet the back thigh or swing elegantly behind the back.
- 7 Bring the front arm alongside your ear and over your head with the palm turned towards you. Make sure you keep the front knee bent.
- 8 Turn your head to look straight ahead to the long side of the mat.
- 9 To come out of Viparita Virabhadrasana, inhale and pull the navel in to engage your core. Use the strength of your core muscles to lift your torso back up into Virabhadrasana II.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Beware of the alignment of the front knee: Bring your awareness to the alignment of the front knee. For many, the knee tends to collapse inwards. Push your knee more outwards to balance this. External rotation of the thigh bone will also support this action. Also, make sure that you keep the knee bent as you lean back. Often, the tendency is to not only lengthen the torso but also to – unconsciously – straighten the front leg again. You can also practice the pose with the front leg straightened if you make a conscious decision to do so.
- Keep your core active: Instead of simply collapsing backwards, engage your abdominal muscles to keep the torso lifted. Although your back hand may rest on your back thigh, you are not actually putting all your weight on it. If you tend to passively hang into the pose, let the hand hover just above your thigh or swing it behind your back. This way, you simply have to engage your core.
- Maintain a neutral neck: Traditionally, Reverse Warrior may be taught with the head turned to look up into the palm of your raised hand. However, many practitioners will feel a more or less intense compression in the neck when they do this. Instead, keep your neck long and neutral. This means that you actually look straight forward toward the long side of the mat (i.e. the same direction the rest of your torso faces). You can even better support your side bend if you turn your face towards the side you are bending to, i.e. look down.
- Focus on bending sideways not backwards: Pay special attention to your lower back as you practice Reverse Warrior. It is above all a side-bending pose, not a backbend. If this pose feels more like a backbend to you than a side bend, get slightly out of the pose and lift your pubic bone up to lengthen the lower back. Once you feel that your lower back is safe, you can once again lean towards the back leg to find length and space.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- If you want to focus on the side stretch but feel the strength in your legs diminishing, you can practice Viparita Virabhadrasana with the front thigh resting on a chair. This is also a great option if you suffer from knee injury as you don’t have so much weight on the knee joint in this variation.
- Alternatively, you can also keep the front knee on the ground and practice Gate Pose (Parighasana) instead. In this case, the pose is best entered from a kneeling position. Turn the shin of the front leg out 90 degrees so that the foot is behind your back and gives you a more solid foundation. The rest of the alignment is the same as if you were standing.
- You can also practice Reverse Warrior against a wall. Place the outside of the back foot next to the wall. As you lean back, rest the forearm of the back-leg side on the wall for support. The other hand can also touch the wall as you bring it back and over your head.
- Really engage your core muscles by lifting the back hand up as well. You can bring both hands together into Namaste above your head.
- Intensify the side stretch by taking hold of your front-arm wrist with the other hand. Gently pull yourself further towards the side to create more length in the front-leg side.
- For a bound version of Reverse Warrior, sling your bottom arm completely around your back and reach for the front thigh or hip crease.
Benefits of Viparita Virabhadrasana
- This pose strengthens the legs, namely the quadriceps, the glutes and the core muscles. Especially the external obliques of the backside have to work a lot in order to keep the torso lifted.
- Reverse Warrior is a great stretch for almost the entire body: It stretches the chest and the intercostal muscles along the rib cage, the abdominal area, as well as the arms and psoas muscles of the front-leg side.
- The stretch of the intercostal muscles can enhance breathing as this allows our lungs to expand into the full space of the ribcage.
- The lateral flexion (side bend) forces the spinal extensors and flexors to work in unity and alternate between concentric and eccentric contraction to support the spine. This fine-tuned action is a great subtle strengthening exercise.
- Due to the potentially increased breathing capacity and the active muscle work required for this pose, Reverse Warrior leaves you energized and with a feeling of strength and confidence.
Pose VariationsSee all Poses
Pose variations can be anything that makes the original pose easier or more simple but also anything making it more challenging or adding complexity.
Baddha Viparita Virabhadrasana
Bound Reverse Warrior
Parivrtta Viparita Virabhadrasana
Twisted Reverse Warrior
Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose
Parsva Urdhva Hastasana
Standing Side Bend
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
A must-do pose in almost every yoga session for me! I love the intense side stretch Reverse Warrior gives me. It feels like removing all the spiderwebs from between my ribs.
Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
The Warrior Poses consist of three different types of archetype poses: Warrior I, Warrior II and Warrior III. Reverse Warrior does not count as a separate archetype pose itself but is rather considered a – modern – variation of Warrior II. This is the reason why you may not be able to find Viparita Virabhadrasana in more traditional yoga texts. However, like all Warrior Poses, Reverse Warrior is a foundational pose since it allows practitioners to develop a lot of leg strength, grounding and stability, an important preparation for backbending poses.
The Warrior Poses have their names from Virabhadra, a powerful warrior figure in the Hindu mythology. The story of Virabhadra is a story of love. Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Dissolution, created Virabhadra as a reincarnation of himself to avenge the death of his wife Sati (or Shakti). When Sati and Shiva married, Sati’s father did not approve and cut her off from the family. In her grief, Sati eventually killed herself and Shiva created his warrior-friend to take vengeance. As in most mythological stories, there are always different ways and perspectives to tell a story, so there is more than one explanation to this question. If you are curious to read more about it, you can find out more here and here.
While it is true that one of the main benefits of this pose is the great stretch it provides for the intercostal muscles, which enhances the breathing capacity, you may feel that it has the exact opposite effect when you practice it for the first time(s). This is because the lower side of the diaphragm is slightly compressed if you lean too much into the pose and let yourself passively sink into it. This is where your obliques come into play: Once they are engaged, keep the torso lifted and you will be able to fully expand the diaphragm on this side. Also, if the stretch on the front-leg side is quite intense for you, your body may react by putting up resistance. This means that the muscles start to contract concentrically again instead of lengthening. In this case, back out a little of the pose and take deep conscious breaths until you feel ready to move further.