How to practice: Vīrabhadrāsana I (Warrior I Pose)

by Delight Yoga

Vīrabhadrāsana I, or Warrior I Pose, is the fourth posture in the Primary Series of the Astanga Vinyasa yoga system. The Primary Series is said to be the most demanding because it is the first series you learn as a beginner - and every beginning is hard.  It is called Yoga Chikitsa, meaning Yoga Therapy. It is a series for cleansing and healing the body.

The Primary Series sets the foundation for all of the following series. If you look superficially, it may seem as if the Primary Series is the easiest of the six series in the Astanga Vinyasa System, but in fact, it is the most demanding. It is here that you start your practice, where you get used to the breath and Vinyasas, and to your daily yoga practice. 

Virabhadra was the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger’s skin. Virabhadra’s Pose is also known as the Warrior Pose (there are three variations of Warrior, of which this is customarily numbered 1). It may seem strange to name a yoga pose after a warrior; after all, aren’t yogis known for they’re non-violent ways? But remember that one of the most revered of all the yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita, is the dialogue between two famous and feared warriors, Krishna and Arjuna, set on a battlefield between two great armies spoiling for a fight.

What’s really being commemorated in this pose’s name, and held up as an ideal for all practitioners, is the “spiritual warrior,” who bravely does battle with the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of all our suffering.

Vīrabhadrāsana I Instructions

1. ekam
Inhale, raise arms overhead, palms together
Dhristi: to the middle of the thumb (añguṣṭhamadhye)

2. dve
Exhale, fold forward, hands to ground
Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

3. trīṇi
Inhale, lift head, lengthen the spine
Dhristi: in the middle of the eyebrows (bhrūmadhye)

4. catvāri
Exhale, hands down, float back, elbows close to chest (Caturāṅga Daṇḍāsana)
Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

5. pañca
Inhale, roll on tops of feet, open the chest, straighten arms
Dhristi: in the middle of the eyebrows (bhrūmadhye)

6. ṣaṭ
Exhale, roll over the toes, push back, lift hips, straight arms. Left foot 45 degrees to the side, step right leg forward.
Dhristi: to the navel (nābicakre)

7. sapta
Inhale, lift arms up, palms together

- 5 breaths, Vīrabhadrāsana I (right side)
  Dhristi: to the middle of the thumb (añguṣṭhamadhye)

8. aṣṭau
Exhale, turn to the other side

- 5 breaths, Vīrabhadrāsana I (left side)
  Dhristi: to the middle of the thumb (añguṣṭhamadhye)

Vīrabhadrāsana I Benefits

- Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, hips and  groins (psoas)

- Strengthens the shoulders, the arms and the muscles of the back

- Strengthens the neck and helps improving hearing

- Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves and ankles

- Therapeutically used in rheumatic conditions