The “one” posture which, when, practiced religiously with special attention to intricate details, for 2-3 months, can have an amazing impact on your running performance. I am talking about Virbhadrasana -2, commonly known as Warrior -2. This posture offers a unique combination of Strength and Flexibility and touches upon every part of the body with its predominant presence on the lower body. This blog covers, this posture, in its minutest of details, to help you understand, align, adjust and eventually master it.
Movement analysis & how it helps runners specifically
- This posture stretches and strengthens the lower extremities, especially the hip flexor and the knee extension. Firmness brings stability and the suppleness does the job of shock absorption. Both of these characteristics are required for runners to perform better on the road as well as to prevent injury.
- External Rotators & Hip Flexor– If you are a runner and also at a job that requires sitting for long hours, this posture will increase the fluidity and keep knees free from extra stress. Otherwise, the locked hip joint due to long sitting position may misalign the posture and the same may get transferred into your running form.
- Virbhadrasana-2 plays a specific role in increasing the range of motion of the ankle joints as well (we do need certain level of fluidity in the ankle joint for propelling forward while running). Pressing the heel, lifting the arch, stretching the bottom of the feet, curling, extending and spreading the toes and then placing it on the floor, help align and develop the weight bearing points of the feet – the big toe mount, the baby toe mount and the center of the heel. This alone can help prevent lot of injuries from happening. The arch of the feet helps absorb shock during walking and running. Stretching and lengthening the arch increases blood flow as well as releases the cramped feeling and tightness caused due to closed shoes for hours, thereby helpings in better absorption and further injury prevention.
- Knee injury is very commonly associated with running and the reasons could be ample – tight hip, it band, flat foot etc. This posture focuses on each of these nuances. Flexed thigh works on developing strong quadriceps (thigh), thereby protecting the knee from unwanted stress.
- Apart from developing muscular strength, it also develops full range of motion for flexion and extension thereby allowing lot of movement, which otherwise limits running endeavors. The whole process helps increase stride length in runners particularly. The inner thigh stretch also builds isometric strength.
- Enhances Lung Capacity – Stretching the arms away from each other helps stretch your lungs’ elasticity thereby assisting in deep breathing over shallow breathing which is pretty common among runners.
- A well-balanced pelvis helps prevent back pain and running becomes a back pain free experience.
- Core and hips work as stabilizers, important components for being a better runner and again preventing unnecessary injuries. Pelvis balancing in the posture requires co-contraction of core and hips for the right alignment and even weight bearing purposes. Similarly stretching the upper part of your body away from the lower part or vice versa activates and strengthens the core strength as that can only happen with complete engagement of your core.
- Regular practice removes cramps in the thigh and the calf.
- Stand in Tadasana; Place your hands on your waist;
- Exhale and jump 4 to 4 ½ feet apart (do not jump in case of back or knee pain)
- Move your attention to your right heel, press it firmly on the floor and raise your right toes up to the ceiling. You are on your right heel now.
- With your right heel firmly on the floor and toes off the floor, rotate your right foot out 900 to the right. Lengthen the arch of the right foot with your toes flexed in. Place the right big toe mount on the floor, flexing your toes to the maximum. Feel the activation of your right foot. Softly yet firmly place your right toes on the floor.
- Your left toes turn slightly to the right (turning could be somewhere from 100 to 400 as per your comfort) and left heel slightly out and away from the body.
- Hip alignment – body would have automatically moved slightly to the right by now. Pay your attention to the hips and align them with each other. Hips are now in one line, co- contract both your hips and abdomen to align your mid-section.
- Groin alignment – the moment your hips are aligned, your groin too will almost align itself.
- Pelvis Alignment – The pelvis is playing the role of weight bearing muscles here and it is important to keep it engaged thoroughly using the upper (through head, neck, spine and rib cage – pulled up) as well as lower (hip socket, legs, knees and feet – pushed down) parts of the body otherwise the impact of misalignment would be compensated by other parts of the body leading to muscular imbalance and injury. In short, keep your hips and core locked and stabilized without holding your breath.
- Upper part of the body – maintaining the firmness throughout your body, inhale, stretch and lengthen your arms (without a bend on the elbow), cross them in front and raise it up to the ceiling. Your whole body is lengthened with your feet grounded to the floor. Exhale; slowly and widely open your arms out in a way that with each movement of opening, your shoulder blades are coming close to each other. Your arms are parallel to the floor at the shoulder level (arms slightly above the shoulder level will create more tension and strength), stretched away from each other with your shoulder blades close to each other. Chest and sternum bone is diagonally lifted up.
- Check your hips again and drop it down while lifting your groin up to the ribs.
- Rotate your right knee, bend it till it is over your right ankle (rotating and then placing helps avoid direct strain on the knee). Right knee is in line with the second right toe, right shin is perpendicular to the floor; right thigh is parallel to the floor (how? – pull the muscle fibers of your right thigh into your right groin and push your right groin down to the floor). You are forming a right angle under the right knee.
- Left leg is stretched with a tight grip on the outer side of the left heel; push the back of the knee away from the floor while the thigh is lifted up and left groin rotated externally to align your hips.
- Turn your head and look at the right thumb. Check that your arms, forearms, and shoulders are in one line.
- Maintain the posture with the intensity of a warrior.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
- Hip & Groin –Hips have a tendency to go towards the ceiling. Continue to drop it down to the floor and also keep them aligned with each. For hip alignment, focus on the left groin and left hip and rotate it out. This external rotation will automatically rotate the right groin in and get the hips in one line.
- Stretched leg at the back – maintain the length of the stretched leg focusing exclusively on the back part of the leg which is fully stretched and locked. Avoid hyper extension at the knee by pressing outer edge of your left heel on the floor and pushing your left thigh away the floor and to the ceiling.
Be aware of opposing forces (keeps you alert and firm)
- Arms away from each other
- Inner thighs away from each other
- Lower part of your body away from the upper part of the body – continue to drop your hips down to the floor while raising upper part of the body up to the ceiling.
Weight bearing with pelvis
If the knee is tilting to one side or you are feeling stress at the lower back, chances are you have not aligned your pelvis.
Injury Prone Areas
- Over – extension of hips range of motion can cause the muscles of the inner thighs or groin to tear. Make sure that the positive tension is maintained throughout the body to avoid over extension.
- Knee – the moment we say bend your knee, complete focus goes on the knee thereby causing strain on the knee, in many cases. Make sure that you are lengthening the surrounding areas (thigh is the source, if the thighs are tight, it will immediately impact the knee) to get your thigh parallel to the floor by bending your knee instead of jerking it forcefully to get into the posture. Aligning the knee to the ankle with shin perpendicular to the floor ensures that weight bearing is not lopsided but spread evenly throughout your lower body.
There are three musts in this posture:
- Feet grounded to the floor
- Torso tall and straight: Lengthening of the body
- Knee in line with the ankle and shin perpendicular to the floor; equalizing / neutralizing the weight bearing aspect
How to Proceed
- Go as slow as possible. Spend a few days trying to understand each movement, alignment and engagement.
- Once familiar with that, perform the posture. If it is proper, you will be able to stay in the pose only for a few seconds.
- Ask someone to click a picture to check your alignment.
- Hold for 10 seconds while breathing normally
- Gradually increase the holding and come to 45 – 60 seconds in three months’ time.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.