This pose incorporates many actions that sure will give us a good workout. The most obvious characteristic is that it belongs in the standing pose category. Virabhadrasana 1 requires us to work on balancing, back bending and even twisting. See if you can recognize this work when we align and refine our pose.
Instructions for Virabhadrasana 1:
- Stand in the middle of your mat facing the long side. Be in Tadasana – Mountain Pose.
Bring your fingertips in front of your chest and have the elbows lifted out to the sides. On an inhale step or jump your feet about 4 to 4 ½ feet apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Then turn your arms so that the palms face the ceiling and reach them overhead. Your palms now face each other.
- On an exhale turn your right leg and foot out 90° and your left leg and foot in about 45° to 60°. Turn your hips and torso so that they are now facing over your front leg.
- Use your inhale to strongly reach your arms up and to lift your chest. Keep that as you bend your front knee, trying to get your front sitting bone as low as the back of your front knee. To say it more simply, work towards forming a right angle with your front leg.
Watch out that your front knee does not go past its ankle as this is not good for the knee joint.
- If you feel balanced, gaze up at your fingers. If this is uncomfortable keep looking forward.
- After a few breaths direct your gaze forward again, straighten your front knee and turn to the other side to repeat the pose.
- After you finished the second side, turn back to face the long edge of your mat, bring your arms out to the sides and then step or jump back to Tadasana.
The journey into and out of the pose. (This is how to practice the pose in an Iyengar Yoga class)
Pictures A/B/C/D: prepare for the pose:
Pictures E and F: getting into the pose for the right side:
Now repeat moving as in picture E and then D and repeat the pose on the left side
Pictures G and H: Virabhadrasana 1 for the left side:
To finish up, repeat the steps in picture G, D, B, A and your journey ends with Tadasana/Mountain pose.
- You can practice this pose with different arm positions. In step 4. you can keep your arms extending out to the sides as you turn to side to enter the pose. You are practicing Virabhadrasana 1 with airplane arms. This variation of the pose is called Vimanasana-Airplane Pose and is very helpful if balance is an issue for you.
- Another option would be to take your hands to your hips in step 4. and proceed into the pose. This variation allows you to concentrate more on aligning and refining the leg and torso actions. By squeezing the elbows together behind your back, you can work on lifting your chest.
This picture shows Vimanasana/Airplane pose
This picture shows Virabhadrasana with your hands on your hips. Keep working on squeezing the elbows together behind your back. Lift the chest strongly. The thumbs can direct the top buttocks flesh down out of the lumbar area-preventing compression in this area
Work in the pose for alignment:
- Ground your front big toe mound as you let its inner knee reach toward the pinkie toe side – remember Virabhadrasana 2 also required this action so the knee does not collapse inward.
- Isometrically push your front foot forward so you can bring weight into the back foot. This will help to ground the outer back edge of your back heel down and back. As a result the back thigh presses back and make the leg very straight (boy, lots of “backs”-sorry about that), which is what we want!
- Keep turning your front leg hip forward and your back leg hip back. It is very helpful to focus on rolling the front of the back thigh from the outside to the inside (the back of the back thigh rolls from the inside to the outside)
- To avoid compression in the lower back, reach your top buttocks flesh down away from the lower back—your hip points in the front body will lift towards the navel.
- Try to bring a ‘backbend’ into your upper back by pressing the tips of your shoulder blades into the back and at the same time rolling your collar bones up towards the ceiling. (Looking up makes this action easier to accomplish)
- If you actively reach through your pinkies, notice how the front of your torso lifts. As you actively reach through your thumbs, notice that the back ribs lift off the pelvis.
- Keep your shoulders and neck soft.
- Using the wall to refine your pose.
In this variation my toes are up the wall and the front knee presses into a foam block at the wall.
At first I’m leaning my torso towards the wall and work the actions:
-turn the back front thigh from the outside in, allowing the back hip to turn forward towards the wall. At the same time- eventhough the front knee presses the block into the wall- pull the front outer knee back to its hip and move that hip side back. It helps pressing the hands into the wall to get the actions.
– allow the front sitting bone to descend down to the height of the back of its knee.
– lift the inner back thigh up to the ceiling, making that back leg straight.
-now pull your hands isometrically down to bring your trunk up to vertical. Roll the shoulders back and down and lift your chest.
Now repeat all this with your back heel down and end up with your arms lifted:
- Using a strap loop around the back foot to prevent the its arch from collapsing and pulling on the strap to lift the chest more and to help bring a backbend into the upper back
I should have had the strap running on the outside of the lower back leg for a more effective arch support. This way though helped me with lifting the lower leg away from floor instead of sinking to floor.
- Using a strap loop around the back thigh to encourage its front to roll in and also to pull on the strap for that upper back backbend.
pressing the front of the back thigh up to the ceiling help straighten the back knee and prevents a collapsing into the back hip.
- , M., S. Mehta: 1990. Yoga, The Iyengar Way, A DK Book, London, England
- Inspirations from the asana classes taught by Iyengar teachers that I attended
Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley. In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.