- Sanskrit (Original): Vīrabhadrāsana II
- Etymology: Warrior (vīra), friend (bhadra), pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: The warrior series belong to the more iconic yoga poses and are named after a mystical warrior. Scroll down to find out more!
- Asana Type: Hip-opening, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Chest: Pectoralis major and minor; spine: spinal extensors; forearms: pronator quadratus and teres; back leg: gracilis, peroneals
- Main strength muscle groups: Glutes, piriformis, quadriceps, hamstrings, muscles of the feet
- Vinyasa Breath: Inhale and exhale possible
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 For Warrior II Pose separate your feet into a really wide stance. The toes of your front leg are facing towards the short end of your mat, while your back foot is nearly parallel to the short end of the mat with the toes turned slightly in. If you were to draw a line from the front heel, it should meet the middle of your inner back foot.
- 2 Have your frontal hip bones, your belly and face showing in the same direction towards the long end of your mat.
- 3 From here, bend your front knee towards the middle of your front toes. Go as deep as possible without exceeding more than ninety degrees in the front knee (i.e. angle between thigh and lower leg).
- 4 Push the outer edge of the back foot into the ground and engage the leg by pulling the knee cap up.
- 5 Straighten your torso and extend your arms out to the side with the palms facing down.
- 6 Inhale to lift your ribcage, top of the shoulders, armpits and arms up to expand your lungs more fully. Exhale to stretch the arms further away from you.
- 6 Keep your gaze centered, with your face aligned to your sternum. Alternatively, turn the head and look over the middle finger of your front hand.
- 7 Exhale to release the pose.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Maintain 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. Draw your knee more inwards if the opposite is your problem.
- Keep the torso centered: A common observation is that the upper body tends to follow the front arm. Keep your torso upright and centered around your midline. You can even self-adjust yourself by pulling the pelvic half of the front leg away from the thigh, so that you can create more space in the hip crease and prevent the torso from leaning on to the thigh.
- Lift the rear inner leg line: Draw the inner ankle and leg line of the back leg outward to prevent the leg from collapsing. This action also brings more support to your back knee.
- Watch your back (arm): Another common observation is that the back arm tends to fall down and is not in line with the front arm. Once in a while take a close look at the alignment of the back arm and bring it back in line with your shoulder, if needed.
- Engage in the dance: The deeper bending of the front leg and the extension of the back leg is like a tiny dance. Work on recalibrating these two actions as if there was no end to the pose.
Use visualization: Imagine yourself to be a strong, fearless warrior who has achieved great glory. I promise you, this will change the energetics of the pose immediately.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- Work the pose without the arms to really focus on the legwork. Once you feel that you are really working the legs, you can add in the arms.
- Practice the pose more dynamically by slightly straightening the front leg and then trying to bend deeper. Repeat this action several times. This way, your front leg and hip joint will have some release in between.
- Place a yoga block lengthwise against a wall. Press your front knee into the block. This practice will give you a nice reference of how deep and in which direction you can bend the front leg.
- Have the palms facing up with yoga blocks on both palms. Extend the hands out to the sides and keep them lifted to shoulder height. This modification will increase your arm work in the pose.
- Elevate your front heel which can help you bend the knee deeper, but also works your calf muscles.
Benefits of Virabhadrasana II
- Warrior II is a great yoga pose to open the hips,the chest and the shoulders. It can thus improve your breathing capacity and increase the circulation throughout the entire body.
- It also activates the back muscles, in particular the erector spinae. This is a group of muscles running on either side of the lumbar, cervical and thoracic spine. Their main function is to straighten the back and provide side-to-side rotation. Activating them in yoga poses like Warrior II supports their proper functioning and can therefore decrease the chances of back pain.
- Apart from that, Virabhadrasana II strengthens the quadriceps, the adductors of the inner thighs, and the hamstrings. It is also highly effective for the gluteus muscles, which are responsible for the movement of the hips and thighs.
- Furthermore, maintaining the Warrior II yoga pose for a longer period of time can increase stamina and balance. Holding the body in the lunge position is a great workout for the core and stabilizer muscles and tones the muscles in the thighs and buttocks as well as in the abs and the arms.
- However, this pose does not only strengthen certain muscles, it also is a powerful stretch for the inner thighs, the groin, and the chest. And since the feet are very active in this pose, it also strengthens the ankles and the arches of the feet.
- Finally, the alignment of the body in this asana is a great way to increase body awareness and improve the mind-body connection. Since the legs and the hands move in various directions, a great sense of spatial orientation is required. This is why Warrior II is a yoga pose that helps to enhance coordination and connect body and mind.
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.
Bound Side Angle Pose
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.
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.
Warrior II Pose is awesome in all its variations – whether it is used as a transition pose or for longer holds – I love the energy this pose gives me.
Content Creator at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
The Warrior Poses consist of three different types of archetype poses. Warrior I which is often taught with the back heel lifted but traditionally is taught with the back foot grounded. Here the hips are closed. Warrior II, as described in the article, is a great hip opener pose. For Warrior III the hips are again closed. Its emphasis is focused more on balancing, since the back leg is lifted up into the air. All Warrior Poses are very foundational poses, because the practitioner is able to develop a lot of leg strength, grounding and stability, which is important to prepare the body 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.
To be honest, the answer to this question can not be separated into black and white. Many parameters play a relevant role in finding the answer. The first one would be on the capacity of your body's structure to perform both poses. For most people naturally one is harder to perform than the other because of habitual movement patterns. For example some students are more familiar with rotating their thighs inwards, so Warrior II would be harder. For the practitioner more familiar with external rotation of the legs, Warrior I can be really hard. Also, both positions can be really challenging, depending where you are on your yoga journey and for how long you have been practicing. The second parameter is based on what you want to practice and what movements you want to integrate. From this perspective, both poses can be equally challenging. Probably in different aspects, but both demanding since you are working the pose in detail. There is never an end to a pose and every day on the mat is different. So the answer is never simple. ;)