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Common Misalignments in Warrior I and II + How to Fix Them

Michelle Thielen
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If you are unsure about your alignment in Warrior I and Warrior II, you could be missing a key part of your yoga practice. Warrior I and Warrior II are powerful yoga poses that strengthen and build a stable foundation for the rest of your yoga practice.
 
Warrior I and Warrior II are practiced frequently in yoga classes, so it is important to know correct alignment to keep you safe and allow you to move successfully into other asanas. In order to have a fluid transition to the next pose, it is important to ensure a solid and stable foundation in our Warrior poses. The key to finding a solid foundation is to first find your “neutral.”
 

How to find your neutral:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose with your feet about hip width apart, then slowly hinge at the hips and fold forward
  • From your Forward Fold, bend the knees generously and engage your core as you come back into Mountain Pose.
  • From standing, press into your feet as you stack your knees over your ankles, your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hips. Your chin is the last to rise and it rests over the collar bone

tatasana-ashton
 
This, my friend, is your neutral. 🙂
 
 

Common Misalignment in Warrior I: Foot Placement

 
There are two common misalignments with our feet in Warrior I:
 
1. The first misalignment is having too short of a stance. When the feet are not far enough apart, it causes the front knee to extend beyond the front ankle, which can keep you from finding a solid foundation and also puts added strain on the front knee joint which can lead to injury.
 
Warrior-1-too-short
 
2. Another misalignment with the feet is having the feet too narrow or too close together. Warrior I focuses on keeping the hips and chest square to the front of the yoga mat. If the feet are not at least hip-distance apart (or more), squaring the hips becomes more difficult, we can’t achieve proper form, and we put too much strain on the front knee.
 
warrior-1-wrong-hips
 
Let’s practice proper alignment:
 

  • Find your ‘neutral’ Mountain Pose
  • Take a modest step back with the left foot
  • The right knee stacks on top of the right ankle and the right toes face directly forward
  • Be sure your feet are at least hip-distance apart and your back foot is at a 45-60 degree angle
  • To be sure your lunge is a safe distance, make sure you can press the blade of your back foot into the mat and your hips are able to face the front of your yoga mat
  • When you feel stable, bring your hands to heart center
  • If you feel your hips begin to open, offer a self-adjustment by placing your left hand behind your left hip and gently press the hip forward
  • Engage the core, lengthen the spine, and allow the crown of the head to “lift” towards the sky
  • When you’re ready, lift your arms. Keep your biceps near your ears, your palms facing one another and be sure to relax the shoulders
  • Take a few breaths and enjoy the pose. When you’re ready to release, bring your hands to the mat and come to a Standing Forward Fold
  • Repeat on the opposite side

 
Warrior-1-Ashton
 
 

Common Misalignment in Warrior II: Knee Alignment

 
There are two common misalignments that occur with the front knee in Warrior II:
 
1. The first misalignment is the knee falling inward towards the big toe. Warrior II asks for an external rotation of the front leg to help open the hips. If we do not engage our foundation in this pose, we are at risk of “dumping” into our front side pelvis and buckling our front knee inward. This can compress our lower back and injure the knee cap.
 
warrior-2-wrong-inward-ashton
 
2. Another common misalignment is extending the knee past the ankle in Warrior II. When the knee extends beyond the ankle, it puts a lot of weight on a vulnerable joint. It is important to stack the knee directly on top of the ankle to keep your joints safe. Finding a 90 degree angle in the knee joint is ideal when holding Warrior II, but it does take time to build strength in the legs.
 
Ashton-warrior-2-wrong
 
Let’s practice proper alignment:
 

  • From Standing Forward Fold, find your ‘neutral’ Mountain
  • Take a modest step back with the left foot
  • The right knee is stacked on top of the right ankle and the right foot faces directly forward
  • Turn your left foot out to about a 90 degree angle to allow your hips to open
  • When you’re ready, place your hands on your hips and lift the torso
  • Ground the blade of your back foot into the mat to engage both legs equally. This will help take the pressure off the front thigh and create more balance within the pelvis
  • Press the front knee toward the pinky toe edge of your foot, and also engage the front hip to protect the knee. Extend your knee towards the ankle as far as you can comfortably, but remember to not allow it to extend beyond the ankle
  • Engaging these muscles will give you all the stability and strength you need to practice this pose correctly and protect your precious knee joints
  • Press the feet firmly into the ground and feel the femurs energetically press “back” into the socket
  • Bring hands to heart center or extend the arms out, explore palms facing up, down, and out

 
Warrior-2-correct-ashton
 
While practicing your alignment in Warrior I and Warrior II, keep checking in with your hips, feet, ankles, and knees. It is important to listen to your body while practicing physical yoga poses so you can feel your alignment and notice if adjustments or yoga props could help you find more success in the pose.
 
Comparing yourself to the person next to you only takes your focus away from your own practice. Instead, explore every posture and feel the sensations of the pose. Remember, this is practice, not perfection. Practice proper form to keep your practice safe, and to gain the most benefit from it.
 

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Michelle Thielen

Michelle is the Founder of YogaFaith, an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance, and a Manduka Brand Ambassador. She is an International Speaker, Yoga Alliance and Yoga Festival Presenter. Michelle has taught over 20 Teacher Trainings and remains passionate about the gift of yoga bringing healing to the world. As a Shared Hope Ambassador, she travels to third world countries teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga to human traffick survivors of all ages. Her first book Stretching Your Faith was published in the Spring of 2016.

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