As a society, or perhaps as part of the human condition, we tend to see only what is in front of our faces, and even that can be challenging at times! This same problem exists in yoga class when attention is paid primarily to the detail of the front body while what’s going on behind your field of vision, well, takes a back seat. When this happens, you are missing out on some key activation in the asana, therefore not getting the full benefit of your practice.
To illustrate my point, we’re going to look at two commonly practiced postures, Warrior I and Warrior II. Because of how often they show up in class, people might be less mindful of the details. But the reason they are showing up so much is because they’re awesome, and the details are worth your time. As a teacher, and as a practitioner, I observe students in classes at a variety of levels making these same mistakes, so I am shedding light on the subject in hopes that it will bring more awareness to your practice.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
Common Misalignment: Inwardly collapsing back foot.
When the back foot is collapsing toward the inner edge, not only is your ankle compromised, but you’re not optimally strengthening the quadriceps (front thighs) or lengthening the hip flexor muscles which we spend most of our day compressing.
Correction: Back thigh engaged, back foot connected to the floor.
When you press your thigh back and connect your back foot to the floor, your quadriceps are fully engaged to straighten your knee, you are lengthening your ankle and calf muscles, and your hip flexors are enjoying some much needed elongation. This really juices up the pose and gives you a strong base to arise from.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
Common Misalignment: Back arm bent, wrist bent.
Here you see that there’s not a whole lot of “life” in the back arm. Often students don’t even look back to see what their arm and hand are doing. What you think is going on back there is often not the case. Here, I am not accessing my optimal range of strength or length.
Correction: Back arm extending straight back from shoulder socket, wrist straight.
Can you see the shift in energy? Whenever I bring students into this posture in class, I guide them to look at their back arm first, then bring their gaze forward. This encourages the arm to extend straight back, which engages the triceps, lengthens the biceps, and extends the wrist. We put so much demand on our upper body with chronically bent elbows and wrists from all of our driving and computer time that missing out on opportunities to fully extend is a disservice to yourself. So take a moment to look back when you come into this posture to activate your back arm, feeling the full strength and grace of this posture.
I invite you to bring more awareness to the back of your body during your asana practice, taking a moment to look with your eyes so you can feel the full energetic benefit that each posture presents when your limbs are extending and your muscles are engaged. Your body deserves it!