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Some yoga poses are more well-known than others. Downward Facing Dog, Standing Forward Bend, and Plank pose are all fairly popular yoga asanas. Another to add to this list is Warrior 2, making this an important pose to know about.
While the information shared below is geared toward teachers, it’s also important for anyone with a regular yoga practice. Here we provide the benefits of Warrior 2, how to do it, and mistakes to avoid. We also share variations of this pose, who should avoid it, and how to include it in a yoga sequence.
But first, let’s start at the beginning by talking about what the Warrior 2 yoga pose is.
Warrior 2 is sometimes written with Roman numerals instead of a number (Warrior II). In Sanskrit, it is Virabhadrasana II. It is named after the warrior Virabhadra.
Virabhadra comes from a story in which Daksha was against the marriage of his daughter Sati to Lord Shiva. After Daksha hurled public insults about Shiva at a party at his home, Sati became humiliated and angered. She meditated intensely, increasing her inner fire until she was consumed by flames.
Once Shiva heard of this, he pulled his hair out. From his hair came the fierce warrior Virabhadra. Shiva ordered Virabhadra to return to the party and destroy Daksha and his guests. While at the party, Virabhadra assumed a threatening stance. That stance is known today as Virabhadrasana II.
Warrior 2 isn’t the only Warrior pose. Other Warrior poses include:
Warrior I – the first Warrior pose, which is when Virabhadra held two swords upward
Warrior III – which came after Virabhadrasana II, representing the pose Virabhadra was in after beheading Daksha
Reverse Warrior – the reverse Warrior pose represents standing strong in one’s personal truth
Other than being part of an interesting story, Warrior 2 does offer a few physical benefits for yoga practitioners. (Keeping these benefits in mind is helpful when setting your yoga class rates.)
For example, one benefit of Warrior 2 is that it builds strength in the muscles around the hip joint. This includes the hip flexor muscles and the glutes (buttocks). Warrior 2 also strengthens the abs, back, front thigh, inner thigh, and ankle.
This pose also stretches the upper body. Extending the arms during Warrior 2 helps elongate muscles in the shoulder and chest. This can reduce tightness in these areas.
An additional advantage of incorporating this asana into a yoga sequence is that it promotes better balance. Studies have also shown that engaging in a yoga program containing Warrior 2 pose can even improve well-being during pregnancy (1).
If you’ve taken yoga teacher training, you likely already know how to do all the Warrior poses. Even so, it’s always good to have a refresher.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to Warrior 2:
Stand in a wide stance with each arm extended to the side at shoulder height, palms facing down. Verify that each wrist is above the corresponding ankle.
Turn the right foot and right knee so they are both facing forward.
Turn your left foot until the toes are pointing toward the front left corner of the yoga mat.
Bend the right knee, being careful not to extend the knee beyond the ankle.
Keep your weight on both legs while pressing through the outside edge of the right foot.
Turn your head to the left, as if gazing past the fingertips of the left arm.
Your upper body is straight (head over pelvis, shoulders over hips) while reaching or stretching as much as possible with the left and right arm.
Hold this position for several breaths.
To transition to the other side, so the left leg is facing forward and the right leg facing the side, exhale while pressing through the feet. Next, straighten your legs while inhaling. This returns you to the starting position, where you can repeat the steps on the opposite side.
One of the qualifications of being a yoga teacher is the ability to recognize when students are doing a pose incorrectly. In the case of Warrior 2 pose, a misalignment issue to watch for is the knee extending past the ankle. If you notice this occurring, have the student pull their knee back.
Another misalignment to notice is the bent knee falling inward. To correct this, suggest that the student widen the space between their right and left thigh. Or have them imagine that a rubber band is pulling their knee outward.
For the upper body, look at their shoulder height. If their shoulders are scrunched up to their ears, instruct them to pull the shoulder blade back and down.
Some people have a hard time with Warrior 2. Most often, it’s because they struggle to keep their balance while in this pose. Overcoming this difficulty is possible with a few small modifications.
One potential variation of Warrior 2 involves reducing the stance width. This lowers the amount of balance needed to stay upright.
Or they can do this pose while standing against the wall. This can also reduce the risk of falling over when trying to stay in position. A yoga block can be placed between the bent knee and wall to help make this variation more comfortable.
Another variation consists of lowering the body to a chair. That turns this yoga pose from a standing to a sitting asana. While it may require less effort from the lower body, the upper body is still fully engaged.
A practitioner can also do Warrior 2 while holding a chair with the arm extended above the bent leg. This keeps more of the tension on the lower body while supporting better balance.
If Warrior 2 is still too hard, it may be better to switch to a different pose instead.
Research indicates that Warrior 2 places stress on the hip during extension (2). Therefore, individuals with a hip injury or recovering from some type of hip surgery (including hip replacement) should seek approval from their physician before trying this pose.
Individuals with a knee, groin, or hamstring injury should also not do Warrior 2 without prior approval. This helps prevent any further damage to these areas.
When designing a yoga class, sequence is important. The transition from one asana to another should feel seamless.
Good poses to do before Warrior 2 include:
Bound Angle pose
Extended Triangle pose
Warrior 1 pose
Wide-legged Forward Fold
Poses to add after Warrior 2 include:
Extended Side Angle pose
Reverse Warrior pose
Standing forward bend
Interested in leading yoga classes? ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers a 200-hour Yoga Teacher training course. This online, self-paced course is Yoga Alliance-approved. It also includes LIVE weekly virtual study studio sessions.
Holden, S. C., Manor, B., Zhou, J., Zera, C., Davis, R. B., & Yeh, G. Y. (2019). Prenatal yoga for back pain, balance, and maternal wellness: A randomized, controlled pilot study. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 8. https://doi.org/10.1177/2164956119870984
Mears, S. C., Wilson, M. R., Mannen, E. M., Tackett, S. A., & Barnes, C. L. (2018). Position of the hip in yoga. The Journal of Arthroplasty, 33(7), 2306–2311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arth.2018.02.070