Be the yoga teacher and adjust my warrior pose!

Ask anyone who seriously practices yoga, and it’s likely they have a nemesis posture — that posture that challenges and frustrates, defying all laws of physics and logic. If postures were ninjas, the nemesis would be the one you meet in a dark alley to duke it out in the climatic fight scene of a movie.

Mine is, I suppose appropriately enough, warrior 1 pose (virabhadrasana 1 in Iyengar yoga, virabhadrasana A in Ashtanga yoga). In Ashtanga primary series, you enter this posture 12 times — and I feel relief with each and every exit. On a good day, I enter the pose with a blend of acceptance and resignation. On a not so good day, I enter with pure resignation or outright dread. It’s not for lack of good instruction or lack of trying. Over the years, I’ve been adjusted and instructed by outstanding master teachers from around the country who are trained in different schools of yoga. They have spent time with me, breaking down the posture and what I’m doing — or not doing. On my own, I’ve studied the nuances of this posture, and I am constantly taking inventory of my body and my thoughts in this posture. I can tell you what the design of this posture is, and I can tell you what to aim for in the legs, hips, ribs, arms, and so on. I can tell you what you should adjust in my body.

And yet my warrior posture still looks like this:

If you are a student of yoga, it might seem like I’m just not fully going into this posture. But believe me, just getting to this point is work. I have to marshal that yogic breath, and from the inside of this posture, it feels as if I am at my edge. There is major resistance in my body and my mind when it comes to warrior 1.

Some poses are just like that, but we learn so much about ourselves by trying to find a space where we can maintain a steady comfort in a nemesis pose.

I’m posting these photos to let you be the yoga teacher and tell me how you would adjust this posture. I realize seeing a static photo taken with an iPhone isn’t ideal, so feel free to ask questions as part of your observations. I was recently at a workshop with Tim Miller, and he put it about as concisely as you can: “A good adjustment starts with a good observation.”

What spurred me to think of this as fodder for a blog post is that applications for Hilltop Yoga’s summer teacher training program are due on May 10. I know a couple people who have already turned in their application, and I couldn’t be happier for them. It’s one of the best investments you can make in your life. I made my decision in 2009, during a weekend workshop on the root energetic lock — mula bandha — taught by Hilaire Lockwood, the owner of Hilltop Yoga. Hilaire has such a vivid way of instructing, and tapping into the subtleties of that energetic lock in which you lift the pelvic floor and spiral your energy up from the base of the spine helped me become friends with what at the time my was my top nemesis posture — chair pose (utkatasana). That one two-hour workshop completely changed my relationship with this posture. (Once utkatasana moved out of that top spot, virabhadrasana moved right into its place. And it has remained solidly there, despite all my attention to it. My struggle with virabhadrasana A runs deeper than more surface issues that can be addressed in other postures.)

At the time, I was really restless living in mid-Michigan and kept thinking there was a way I could get back to California. I jumped into teacher training solely to deepen my practice with this incredible teacher  because who knew? I might be moving at any time, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

There wasn’t a bone in my body that wanted to, or expected to, teach. And yet here I am, teaching at least four classes a week. Life has its course, doesn’t it.

But enough about me. Tell me what you see and what you would do to help me in this posture. Be the yoga teacher.

And if you’re on the fence about applying for the Hilltop teacher training, jump in — become a yoga teacher, even if the only person you intend to guide is yourself.

(Thanks to fellow WordPress blogger over at Evaporation Blues for being willing to miss part of the NBA playoffs to take these shots.)

© and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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12 thoughts on “Be the yoga teacher and adjust my warrior pose!

  1. Hon, I’m of two minds on your vira 1.
    1) Drop your tail, think about rotating your back inner thigh further behind than the outer thigh. I can’t really tell because of your hair being down, but I *think* maybe separate your hands to lift more fully from the side ribs and soften your shoulders.

    School of thought 2) Don’t think about your vira 1 for awhile. 😉

  2. I *love* that wordpress tells me my comment “is awaiting moderation.” Like so many of us, wordpress; like so many.

  3. If you hate Warrior I, have you thought about approaching it through a different flow and not thinking about it as Warrior I?
    * From cat pose, step your right foot in-between your palms. Inhale up, with your hands coming to your hips as you tuck your tail bone under. Right leg is at a right angle, but you’re comfortable, right? Inhale your arms up and lift your ribcage away from your pelvis. Stay here for five breaths, then bring your hands back down to your hips.
    * Lift your back knee off the ground, into a high lunge. Let everything else feel the same – right leg still at a right angle, tail bone still tucked under, pelvis still squared. Engage your back leg, pressing your thigh towards the ceiling. Inhale your arms up again, creating space. Again, stay here awhile before exhaling your arms back down to your hips.
    * Now pivot your back foot out to a 45 degree angle and root your foot into the earth. See if you can cultivate that earlier ease as you focus on keeping your tail bone tucked under and your hips squared. Inhale your arms up into a proud warrior!

    I also noticed that your back is pretty arched. Try starting in Tadasana and coming into an arched back. Then engage your belly and tuck your naval in to return to Tadasana. You can try this same motion in Warrior I :)

  4. The first thing I noticed is what the lovely Alisa and Anna already mentioned – you seem to be arching your back, but I think it may be coming from the top of your hips? I say this because my hips need constant adjustment in vira 1 and my back hip always needs to be reminded to pull back in vira 2. My nemesis posture is vira 3. You helped me so much with it when you held me in place and adjusted! I haven’t forgotten that. I can almost get hands free on my left side but on my right it isn’t happening. Keeping a closed hip and staying balanced is really difficult for me.

    Back to you :) I love the idea of coming into the posture differently…but that is hard in set series Ashtanga. Maybe that is part of the issue the pose is having?

    I want to do teacher training. It took me awhile to really dig and figure out whether or not I wanted to. I do! But, I think it will have to be in the winter, as we’re trying to buy a house this summer <3

  5. Is it tightness in that left leg, specifically the knee, that is preventing you from deepening in? Tailbone needs to come in just a touch as you engage the low belly. Lift and lengthen through the back ribs. :)

  6. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the post!!!! It’s the bain of my practice too but for different reasons. It’s that darn psoas of mine which doesn’t want to release to let me fully rotate my pelvis. I’d like to see your feet and legs at the knee (shorts pls or pants pulled up to above the knee to see how you’re engaging your legs). Happy Wednesday from Nils & Me.

  7. Hi Rose! I check in with your blog now and then, and wish our schedules matched better- I miss Ashtanga and you! Anyhoo, I believe that envisioning your pelvis as a dish will be helpful to you- right now that dish is tipped forward, sending an extra arch into your low back, your weight mostly into the right quad and heel, and causing slight stress into the shoulders and neck. I myself struggle with the arms and shoulders in this pose, and I teach my students to begin with an almost ridiculously short stance to keep attentiveness on the hips and pelvis. Rolling your tailbone down and under a bit, as Anna J mentioned, I also agree will take some of the work out of the front leg, allow your weight to equalize between both legs, and let you send that back heel into the Earth. Let the arms go- so what if you don’t lift them high? Try Namaste, or even Reverse Namaste- my favorite- because it releases the shoulders, neck, and face, and also opens the heart.

  8. Just so you know- if you would have began this blog by saying that you had “finally perfected your warrior 1”, I would be looking at those pics, standing in my living room and trying to mirror it. BUT- since you brought it up, I do have the smallest inclination to poke you in your Uddyana Bandha. And hope that drops your tail:) But maybe that is just me wanting to finally poke you back?

  9. Pingback: What My Yoga Teacher Reminded Me About Trust Today… | Healing Words Written With Love…

  10. Rose,
    i recently shortened my vira1 a lot and, althoughout i dont *look* so cool, i *feel* a lot better in the posture. just food for thought.
    you look great.
    i might be sensing some tension in the shoulder space–or is that b/c you know you’re having your picture taken?

  11. Hi Rose,

    Great discussion of a pose that is so easy to perform poorly! In short, I love the pelvis-bowl analogy suggested by Anna K. I use this one all the time. If your lower back feels compressed, push harder through your feet, draw your tailbone slightly forward, engage your core muscles, and grow taller through the waist (I use the cue to move ribs away from hips). I would also suggest that you give consideration to the placement of your feet right to left in the pose. I am not convinced that the cue to line up one heel with the arch of the other is very healthy for every person’s skeleton, especially for women. Read about the Q-angle. I tend to suggest that students arrange their feet about hip distance apart and work to push through the back foot to bring the hip around toward the front as the back leg spirals inward. Remember that your femur and your pelvis are connected, but they have independent movement. I consider squaring the hips to be of greater importance than the strict alignment of the feet. The ultimate goal is to create harmony among your joints and create a balance of strength and flexibility in your muscles. Best of luck on your warrior journey!

    • Thanks for the response! You have clearly put a lot of thought into this pose — how to help students connect to it, what’s most important, etc.

      I hear various things about the heel alignment, but I think heel-to-heel is generally what I have been taught. That said, I agree with you that what’s going on with the hips is more important.

      Lately, grounding the back foot an feeling that strength and stability throughout the back leg has helped what continues to be a deeply challenging posture for me.

      I will look up the Q-angle! :-)

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