How to Do Warrior 1 Pose: Avoid Knee Pain with Proper Alignment and Modifications

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About Warrior 1 Yoga Pose

Sanskrit Name: Virabhadrasana 1

Pose Level: Beginner

Warrior 1, or Virabhadrasana 1, is a foundational standing yoga pose that helps build strength and focus. Warrior 1 stretches and strengthens the ankles, feet, calves and thigh muscles. It is great for improving balance and posture.

Although Warrior 1 is considered a beginner yoga pose, many people find it difficult to perform without discomfort on the knees or hips.

This common problem comes from the setup of the back leg and the hips. The wrong setup can potentially put pressure on the knee and cause strains or even injuries.

Warrior 1 Step-by-Step with Modifications

Starting in Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward, bend your right knee. Flatten the left heel to the mat, point the toes 45 degrees to the left and press against the outer edge of the foot.

Classically one would align the right heel with the left heel. 

Exhale and square the front of your pelvis as much as possible to the front of your mat.

Lengthen your tailbone down and arch your upper torso back slightly without sticking your ribcage out.

Check that your right knee is bent and over the ankle, shin is perpendicular to the floor.

Lift your arms over your head, lengthen your spine and open your chest. If possible, bring the palms together.

Gaze forward or look up towards your thumbs.

Modification 1

Classically one would align the right heel with the left heel. If this is too difficult for you or if it causes knee strain, widen your stance. This gives space to your hips so that you can turn it towards the front of the mat more easily.

Modification 2

If widening the stance still hurts your knees, you can also point the back foot more towards the front of the mat instead of 45 degrees. This allows your ankle and knees to be in the same direction as your hips and prevents straining the joints.

Modification 3

To ease the discomfort, instead of squaring the hips completely to the front of the mat, try instead to allow your hips to naturally turn diagonally in the same direction as the back knee/foot. Turn your torso forward from the ribs and chest rather than the pelvis. This allows you to give space and freedom in your knee and hip.

There is a lot going on in Warrior 1 at once, so if you feel that it is difficult to focus on all the alignment cues together, try to work on one thing at a time mindfully, starting from the feet up to the head.

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Warrior 1 Yoga Pose
Warrior 1 Yoga Pose

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