Welcome to The Practice. Here we will address certain technicalities of yoga poses.
But first, I’d like to wax poetic about “practice” itself.
I love having a practice. I’ve had one of some sort or another my whole life. For the longest time, it was playing the piano. I would practice for hours, sometimes playing scales for an hour at a time. Although I didn’t know it at the time, playing scales was a meditative experience, one that provided a constant anchor throughout the winds of change that blow relentlessly though my life. Practice provided a way to understand myself, how I felt from day to day, and how to measure personal development. On days when I felt blue, playing scales gave my body something to do while other parts of me processed emotion. On days when I felt enterprising, scales offered me something to hone my technique and sharpen the blade of my skill. On days when there was a lot on my mind, playing scales opened up a space for a different part of me to “think” about the problems, and often I came up with exciting and creative solutions.
When economic demands no longer allowed for hours of piano practice, I ceased. But I transferred my practice of practice onto yoga. Another endeavor of the mind/body ilk, it proved well-suited to my purposes.
It is my sincere hope that all “practitioners” come to love their practice in the ways that are familiar to me, and that there are other ways that you will bring into the dialogue here. Ultimately, practice is the art of “doing,” not the art of discussion, philosophizing, or debate. So what follows creates friction. But, thus is the way of life—contradictions, shades of grey, no escape.
Please enjoy this column, and take what works for you, and leave what doesn’t. But, make sure to take it to your mat and practice it. This is the way to know yourself.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Oh, dear me. Warrior I. This is a challenging pose. And there are many different ways of aligning the pose. I remember Yoga Journal did an article on Warrior I with pictures of the poses from different lineages. It was a very interesting survey, and showed clearly the many different ways to do Warrior I.
In my own lineage (Forrest Yoga) we do a “square hipped” Warrior I. We like to twist and backbend from the pose, and to do these things safely, it requires that the hips be square, meaning both hip crests pointing evenly towards the front of the mat. In order to get the hips “square” (not really possible to do completely, but going that direction is the idea), you must align your feet in a way that allows for you to do so without torquing your back knee.
So, to do this:
- Line up your feet, hips width distance apart
- Point your back toes towards the same front corner of the mat.
- Engage your back leg strongly to help you lengthen the low back, and steer your hips to square.
- From there, press down into your feet, inhaling, lift your ribs up, telescoping them away from the low back, getting taller.
Over time, you may find that the act of lifting easily takes you into a gentle backbend.
I think that a good pre-pose to do routinely before introducing Warrior I is Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), to open up the hip flexor. With the hips squared, Warrior I asks for a lot from the hip flexors, Achilles, and calves. Low Lunge can warm those parts up more gently, so that by the time you get to Warrior I you feel open and prepared.
For those of you who are more visual, check out my little YouTube video below!
**Photos and video in this post courtesy of Pravassa