Warrior 2: Do’s and Don’ts And Practical Tips When You’re Just Starting Out

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Reasons why Warrior 2 is Good for You

  • Targets the groin and inner thighs which helps address lower back pain
  • Strengthens the legs and feet
  • Helps to build strength and mobility in your hips, ankles, and core
  • Improves lower body strength and endurance 
  • Tones abdominals and surrounding core muscles
  • Improves balance and stability
  • Increases mental focus and concentration
  • Stretches arms and shoulders, increasing circulation flow
  • Useful for office workers to combat the negative effects of sitting
  • Increases agility and reduces the chance of injury for athletes

Do’s

In order to do Warrior 2 correctly, here are the steps:

  1. Start in a wide stance with your feet parallel. You should be facing the long edge of your mat.
  2. If you are less mobile, start a little wider than hip’s width apart. Turn your toes slightly in toward each other.
  3. Rotate your right foot 90 degrees, and bend your right knee so that it stacks directly over your ankles.
  4. Keep your hips facing the long edge of your mat.
  5. Engage your glutes to squeeze your right leg to the right. Engaging your right glute muscles helps facilitate the stretch of your right inner thigh.
  6. Squeeze your legs toward each other to engage your inner thighs.
  7. Place your hands on your hips to ensure that your hips are even and square. Beginners may benefit from pushing the back hip into the front hip to align the hips properly.
  8. Keep your back leg straight and engaged by pressing into the back edge of the foot. Keep contact between the outer edge of the foot and the ground.
  9. Raise your arms to shoulder height in a “T” position with your palms facing the ground. The elbows should be straight, but not locked. The fingers are reaching out away from each other.
  10. Turn the head toward the top of the mat as if you are looking out over your right fingers to work on your neck mobility. 
  11. Lift your ribs away from your hips.
  12. Stretch your hands away from each other to stretch your chest. Lower the shoulders down away from the ears.
  13. Lift the crown (top) of the head to the sky by lengthening the back of the neck. Keep the chin parallel with the ground.
  14. Press down through both feet as you stretch your spine tall.
  15. Lengthen your spine with every inhale. Sink deeper into your lunge with every exhale.
  16. Repeat on the other side.
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Practical Tips:

You should be feeling a stretch in the following areas:

  • Stretch in chest and biceps
  • Stretch through groin
  • Engagement of core, thighs, and glutes

You should not be feeling:

  • Pinching in lower back; if you do, squeeze glutes and tighten abs to reach the tailbone down
  • All your weight in the front leg; if it is, shift hips directly under your torso and center your weight

Do This, Not That!

Common mistakes beginners make:

Don’ts

Shifting the butt backwards: In making warrior 2 pose, there is a common tendency to arch the back, sticking the butt out in Warrior II, but this is not a back-bending pose. In order to do this pose correctly, keep your spine elongated and straight, maintaining a straight line from the shoulders to the hips. This keeps the spine aligned for maximum safety and benefit in the stretch.

Raising the shoulders up toward the ears: It’s a common mistake for beginners to elevate the shoulders up around the ears when doing poses where the arms are raised. This is a mistake because it compresses the bones and shortens the muscles of the neck and shoulders creating unnecessary tension and possible nerve impingement. Instead, lower the shoulders away from the ears while lifting the crown of the head to the sky.

Forgetting to engage the arms: While concentrating on the hip opening aspects of the pose, some beginners can forget to actively engage the arms. Push your front arm forward while pushing your back arm in the opposite direction. Extend your arms further with every breath. Keep them actively engaged, as if you were trying to push a boulder away with each hand.

Compressing the neck: Another common mistake in

Compressing the neck: Another common mistake in warrior 2 is to try to create more stretch by tilting the chin up toward the sky. This compresses the bones of the neck and the base of the skull placing strain on the delicate tissues of this area. The correct form is to lift the crown (top) of the head toward the sky while stretching the back of the neck and keeping the chin parallel to the ground.

is to try to create more stretch by tilting the chin up toward the sky. This compresses the bones of the neck and the base of the skull placing strain on the delicate tissues of this area. The correct form is to lift the crown (top) of the head toward the sky while stretching the back of the neck and keeping the chin parallel to the ground.

Incorrect alignment of the feet and knees: When practicing Warrior II for the first time, it can feel challenging to get the legs and feet in the correct position. Failing to create the proper foundation can compromise the entire pose, leaving you open for discomfort and possible injury.

The proper alignment is to have the feet positioned so that there is an invisible line moving from the heel of your front foot to the heel of your back foot. The back foot should be perpendicular to the front foot. The front foot should have toes facing the top of the mat. Do not let the front knee move right or left, but keep it stacked directly over the ankle.

Collapsing the arch of the foot: Some beginners in warrior 2 have a tendency to let the back foot drop, or collapse, at the arch. This leaves the foot rolling toward the inside, weakening the foot and compromising the safety of the ankle. Press the toes, heel and outside edge of the foot against the ground to keep the arch engaged.

Placing hips too far behind shoulders: It’s common to line up Warrior 2 in such a way that your hips are shifting backwards and your shoulders are shifting forward. The correct alignment is to have your hips directly under your shoulders with both facing the long side of your mat. To do this, you can take your back hand and gently press your back hip forward until your hips are directly under your shoulders.

Collapsing the front hip: It’s important to make sure you are keeping your hips in line with each other, too. There’s a tendency to let the front hip drop down below the back hip. Correct this by engaging your front foot and leg to elevate your front hip, and let your back hip sink a little further down into the pose. You can use your back hand on your back hip to help lower it if needed.

Hips Facing Forward: Some beginners may forget to rotate the hips to the side, especially if doing it quickly as part of a sequence. Be sure to engage your core and rotate your torso to face away from the front of the mat.

Too long or too short stance: There is no one perfect distance to have between your feet in Warrior 2, but it is important to make sure your stance is the right distance for your body. If you aren’t getting enough stretch, and the pose is properly aligned, then you can lengthen your stance. If you’re getting too much stretch, or feel any discomfort in your joints, then shorten your stance.

A longer stance may make it more difficult to push your back foot out via the outer edge and may make it more difficult to keep your front leg from caving in. It can also make it more difficult to keep your arms straight.

If your stance is too short, it is likely that your front knee will be too far forward of your ankle.

Front knee caving in toward the inside: Limited hip mobility can make it difficult to keep your front leg from caving in. For correct alignment, squeeze your knee toward the outside and firmly engage your external hip rotators (glutes). If that doesn’t work, try shortening your stance.

Reason for Modification

You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

  • Discomfort in the hips, knees, ankles or feet
  • Excessive back pain/discomfort or tension
  • Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders
  • Difficulty maintaining balance

Modifications—Solutions to the above:

Discomfort in the ankles or feet:

If you have excessively tight ankles or feet, you can adjust the position of your back foot so that it is at a 45-degree angle instead of being fully perpendicular.

Alternatively, you can curl the back toes under to remain on the ball of the back foot while keeping it aligned with the rest of the leg. The heel will be elevated, and pointing behind you; the toes will be pointing forward.

Excessively tight knees:

For knee injury or excessive knee tension, you can modify this pose to a Low Lunge by lowering the back knee and foot to rest on the ground. (The back foot would not rotate, but would remain in line with the rest of the leg.) Placing a folded blanket under the back leg can add additional comfort and support.

If you are unable to bend the knee properly, you can place a folding chair under your front thigh to provide more support and stability at the knee while sustaining the weight of the upper body.

Discomfort, tension or restriction in the hips:

The proper alignment is to have the back foot should be at a 90-degree angle. The front foot should have toes facing forward. Those who have tight hips can rotate the back foot toward the front foot from a perpendicular, 90-degree angle to a 75-80 degree angle.

That is, instead of keeping your back foot perfectly perpendicular, beginners with tight hips can rotate their back foot 10 to 15 degrees toward the front foot while still getting many of the same benefits.

If you have overly tight hips or sciatic pain, avoid rotating the back foot. Instead, curl the toes of the back foot under, lifting the heel off the ground to remain on the ball of the foot. Align the back foot with the rest of the leg. The elevated heel will be pointing behind you and the toes will be pointing forward.

Alternatively, you can adjust the base of the pose so that your front knee is resting on the ground.

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You can also place a block or two under the front foot during Warrior 2 to provide additional support for tight or restrictive hips. This decreases the degree of the bend in the hips and keeps the back foot from collapsing so you can maintain the integrity of the pose.

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Excessive back pain, discomfort or tension:

If you feel excessive strain in the back, you can shorten your stance so that the back foot is closer to the front foot. The distance between the feet laterally should remain at hip’s width.

Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders:

If you experience pain or discomfort in posing for warrior 2 your shoulders during this pose, you can do it without raising your arms overhead. Simply rest your hands on your hips. Keeping the feet actively engaged against the ground can be extra helpful in this modification.

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Another option for overly tight shoulders is to use a strap during Warrior 2. Hold one end of the strap in the front hand, and the other end in the back hand. Drape the rest of the strap behind your back, so that it will help you keep your shoulders squared and keep your chest from collapsing forward. Adjust the length of the strap to match your body’s shape and flexibility.

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Difficulty maintaining balance:

If you struggle with keeping yourself balanced in this pose, you can practice it against a wall. Begin by standing facing the wall. You should be about one foot away from the wall in front of you. Follow the instructions above to come into the pose. When raising your arms to shoulder height, rest the front-facing arm against the wall in front of you for support and stability. 

Alternatively, you can place a folding chair under your front thigh to provide more support and stability while sustaining the weight of the upper body.

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Bonus: Those with limited mobility can also practice this pose seated on a chair. Follow the same steps as above using the seat of the chair as support below the front leg.

Once lowered into a lunge position, check to make sure that your hips are squared to the outside, your back foot is rotated 90 degrees, and your front knee is over your front ankle. Raise your arms one at a time to the extent that your mobility permits while bracing the chair for support with the other arm.

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Common Questions

  • What muscles does Warrior 2 work?
  • Should I arch my back in Warrior 2?
  • When is Warrior 2 contraindicated?

What muscles does Warrior 2 work?

Strengthens the muscles of the core, hips, legs and feet

Lengthens and strengthens the muscles that support the spine

Stretches the hip flexor muscles, alleviating back pain and tension

Should I arch my back in Warrior 2?

No. Warrior 2 is not a back-bending pose. In order to do this pose correctly, keep your spine elongated and straight, maintaining a clean line from the shoulders to the hips. Equally engaging the muscles of the front and back of the body supports the spine for maximum safety and benefit in this pose.

When is Warrior II contraindicated?

Acute neck and shoulder injuries

Acute sciatica pain

Vertigo or other impairments to balance

High blood pressure or other cardiovascular disease

Acute back injuries, particularly those affecting the low back 

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