Born from Hindu mythology and tradition, Warrior poses are some of the most recognizable modern yoga shapes, and are found in many of the yoga styles practiced today.
From Hatha yoga to Ashtanga and Vinyasa, you are likely to find at least one warrior pose variation when you go to class.
Although there are mainly 3 warrior poses, you can use warrior pose variations to explore and enhance your practice, to make it more accessible, and have a little fun on your mat.
In this article you will find:
- Origin and meaning of warrior poses
- Benefits of practicing warrior poses
- Reasons to add warrior pose variations to your practice
- Common Warrior Pose Variations
- Warrior Pose Variations for Accessibility
Origin and Meaning of Warrior Poses
Virabhadra was created by Lord Shiva to avenge his wife Sati’s death.
He is described as a fierce warrior with a thousand arms and a body as dark as storm clouds. He charged into Daksha’s sacrifice where Sati had immolated herself. Virabhadra beheaded Daksha and his followers to avenge her death.
There are three major warrior poses, and this series is said to embody his strength and courage.
All 3 warrior pose variations are standing asymmetrical yoga asanas designed to foster strength and stability, build heat, and invite the mind to focus.Virabhadrasana 1, 2, and 3 are often used to represent the qualities of courage, strength, and determination in the physical practice in order to learn to tap into these same energies in our daily lives .
The pose is said to help you connect with your inner warrior and face your fears head-on.
Here is a bit more about each of the three poses in the warrior series:
To do Virabhadrasana I, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart at the top of your mat, in Tadasana.
Bring your hands to your hips and begin to shift your weight toward your right foot, and once you are ready, step your left foot back.
Turn your heel about 45 degrees, and keep your hips square to the front – if you’d like to make sure, keep your hands on your hips for a moment and notice the alignment of your lower body.
Bend your front knee as little or as much as you’d like, perhaps until your right thigh is parallel to the floor, stacking your knee over your ankle, but not much beyond. Keep your back leg straight and engaged, and your core active.
Inhale, and extend your arms up to the sides of your ears and face your palms toward one another, or keep your hands together in front of your heart in Anjali Mudra.
Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Warrior 2 requires more hip opening and flexibility than Warrior 1, so it may require a longer warm-up period before practicing the posture.
You could begin from Tadasana, like we did for Warrior 1, or if you rather, you can set up for this Warrior two starting in a wide legged stance and facing the side of your mat.
Turn your right toes toward the top of your mat, and keep your left toes facing the side.
From there, bring your hands to your hips and align your shoulders right over them as you start to bend your right knee as much as feels good for you, or until your right thigh is paralell to the floor.
Try to keep your right knee stacked over the ankle.
Now from here, open your arms wide like a T, facing your palms down, and take a few breaths in Virabhadrasana 2.
Once this side feels complete, come back to a wide legged stance, and take the same steps, this time facing the back of your mat.
Warrior 3 requires not only strength and stability, but is also a great pose to play with and explore balance.
To practice the traditional variation of this pose, start in Tadasana at the top of your mat, and ground firmly into your right foot and leg, and shift your weight toward the right foot.
Once you feel steady, start to lift your left foot off the floor, finding your balance.
As you begin to lower your torso forward, extend your left leg back behind you.
Eventually, bring your torso and left leg paralell to the ground, engaging the entire back of your body, and take a few breaths in the posture.
Come back to Mountain pose, shake it out, and try the other side next.
Benefits of Practicing Warrior Poses
Warrior pose is a versatile pose that can be modified to suit your individual needs and abilities.
There are a plethora of warrior pose variations, all with their own benefits, but here are some of the benefits you can experience when practicing many of the warrior pose variations out there.
With regular practice, you can reap the many benefits of these powerful poses:
- Strengthens the legs, hips, and arms
- Stretches the chest, hips, and legs
- Improves balance and coordination
- Promotes flexibility
- Improves stability and balance
- Increases energy levels
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves mental clarity
Reasons to add warrior pose variations to your practice
There are many reasons to move beyond the three classical warrior pose variations and explore other ways to practice the virabhadrasana shapes:
- To spice up your practice and add variety
- To add a layer of accessibility
- To challenge your body or mind
Common Warrior Pose Variations
There are a few warrior pose variations that are commonly used in yoga classes like hatha, vinyasa, and power, and that can bring a little bit of fun into your sequence.
Here are some of them for you to try:
Reverse warrior is a variation of Virabhadrasana II that opens up the side body, and can bring about a feeling of exhilariation and joy.
Another of the popular warrior pose variations is Humble Warrior, and it represents the balance between strength and humility.
As mentioned before, the VIrabhadrasana is the strength, courage, and determination, while the humbleness represents the willingness to learn and grow.
The pose is a reminder that we should always strive to be both strong and humble, and that we should never let our ego get in the way of our progress.
The hands are clasped behind the back represents our connection to the divine, reminding us that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, and that we should always strive to live in harmony with others.
The head is bowed, which represents our humility.
3# Parivrtta Viparita Virabhadrasana (Twisted Reverse Warrior)
By adding a twist, and a side bend, this variation of Virabhadrasana represents the sun and the moon.
The twist is said to represent the balance between the two energies, promoting harmony and balance in the body and mind.
A combination warrior 2, reverse warrior, and side angle pose, this is a great warrior pose sequence to play with and try some of the warrior pose variations we’ve mentioned so far.
Read this article for more on the Dancing Warrior Sequence.
Warrior Pose Variations for Accessibility
To try a few warrior pose variations focusing on making the practice more accessible, grab some props, and explore the postures below:
5# Virabhadrasana II with the back knee down
A way to keep warrior 2 closer to the ground, hence requiring less balance, is by pivoting the back foot, yet keeping the nee to the ground.
6# Virabhadrasana I, II, & III with hands on your hips
For more stability and to help you check on your alignment, try keeping your hands on your hips on any of the three main warrior pose variations.
7# Virabhadrasana I II, & III using a chair
If you’re wanting some stability and support, use a chair in front of you as a prop to keep you more balanced when practicing virabhadrasana variations.
8# Virabhadrasana I & II seating on a chair
For those wanting to remain seated, you can practice both Warrior I and 2 seated on a chair.
9# Virabhadrasana III with blocks
When working on strengthening the standing leg or your stability in Warrior 3, bring blocks underneath your hands, and stay on your fingertips with the spine long.
A Warrior Pose Class to Try
Play with some of the warrior pose variations mentioned here with this class:
There are 3 major warrior poses: Warrior 1, 2, and 3, and each of them can be explored through a wide variety of options and variations.
Whether you’re looking to make your practice more accessible or want to try something new, there are many warrior pose variations.
For more on the Humble Warrior pose, read this next.