Warrior I – looks easy, but it’s not. This is one of those poses that really could use a lot more breaking down/attention in classes. Is it a back bend? Where do my arms go? Where am I supposed to look? What do square hips actually look like??
Before we get to the prop magic, let’s discuss squaring our hips. We tell students to square their hips forward, but traditional alignment can make doing so very difficult depending on your structure.
In other warrior poses, we emphasize a front heel to back arch alignment, but if your hips look anything like mine, that simply isn’t going to work here. Instead, I suggest offsetting your back foot out the the side so that you have a solid base. I probably offset about 6 inches out to the side but it will depend on your structure. You know your back foot is placed correctly when you can comfortably face both hip points forward without feeling like you are torquing your pelvis to get there.
The profile shot isn’t the best at illustrating this, but if you look closely at the shadow, you can see how much closer my back foot is to the edge of the mat than my front foot.
Now that we’ve gotten squaring the hips out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of this pose. We want to be able to lift the torso away from the pelvis so we can work on the upper/middle back bend without crunching the low back. We also want to drive the pose from the back foot. If the back foot presses into the mat, the back leg engages and takes a lot of the strain out of the front quad/thigh and hip flexors. These actions are important because this is one of those poses that makes sitting into the joints really easy and results in some very unhappy yogis after a while.
It can be difficult to find these actions on your own, especially if you’ve done this pose for a while and established certain habits within it (hello samskara!) Enter the yoga belt/strap. In this particular placement, the belt encourages both the lifting of the torso and the engagement of the back leg, making the pose feel really good – how it should always feel.
Make a big loop with your belt – you can adjust it later. If you are on the taller side, you may want to start with an 8-10′ belt. Pick which foot you are going to step forward – I always demo on my left side (sigh – hell0 again samskara!). Place the belt over your body and rest the top of the loop on the top of your thigh/quad right near your hip crease. Then step on the belt with your back heel. If the belt is loose (i.e you don’t feel any tension when you are stepping on it), you’ll need to tighten it. You can try to aim to have the buckle out to the side to make this easier, but I’m too uncoordinated to make that happen. Trial and error are key here to get the belt the right length. I promise your patience will be rewarded.
Once you’ve got the belt properly situated, really press the outer back foot and heel into it. By doing so, you are not only engaging the leg, but you are encouraging the front quad/thigh away from the torso. You may find it much easier to lift the torso up off of the front leg. Using the space you’ve created, see if you can stand up a little straighter in the pose and maybe start to find the upper/middle back bend as well. Take a few moments to memorize what the pose feels like with the belt assist and then try it without the belt to see if you can recreate the feeling of space you just found with the prop.
This isn’t the most intuitive prop set up so if you are confused or not sure what you are doing wrong, please let me know in the comments. I need a neon belt so you can see it better against my pants!