Warrior 1 or Virabhandrasana One is a grounding foundational pose that challenges the total physical body as well as mental will and determination. This pose, with all its contrasting energies, will enable you to unleash your own inner Warrior, and feel the power and strength within yourself.
In a vinyasa class setting this pose it typically started from downward dog, raising one leg up and then sweeping it between your hands, noticing that your front knee is over your front ankle, then placing your back foot down at a 45 degree angle (which means toes aren't pointed forward, and they're not pointed to the side, they're in between the two creating a diagonal line with the backside of your foot) then ground down through your front foot and back side of your back foot and feeling your stability and firm foundation, extend your arms overhead.
The fingers are spread wide, palms facing each other, arms over the shoulders and shoulders down the back of the body, away from the ears. Chest is open.
Checking your posture, ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips.
Squeeze your glutes and focus on keeping your tailbone pointed downward. Back heel of back foot reaching behind you, front foot planting down but reaching forward to help lengthen through both legs, but keep your back hip moving forward and your front hip moving back to keep the hips side by side. Keep your front knee towards your pinky toe, keep your back knee in line with your back leg without locking it out, focus on using your glutes, thighs, and calves to hold your back leg upright.
Inhale tall out the top of your head, long spine. Exhale to soften your shoulders down your back, draw your belly button in towards the back of your spine, and sink down further through the hips and heels.
This pose is everything all at one, but by building yourself from the ground up; feet, legs, hips, core, shoulders, arms, fingers. Then, once your set, come back to your breath and focus on inhaling up your body to check your set position and then exhaling down your body to sink and ground everything down, you'll be able to acknowledge and maintain the contrasting energies that you'll experience with this pose.
Tips for full version of this pose:
Since this is a standing pose, and a total body pose, feel free to focus on your body in parts instead of the whole if you find your mind trying to wander or if you're feeling fatigued. Get your feet first, then work your way up if you can, but with any pose, focus on your connection to the ground and then see if you can bring the energy up and down from there.
To modify this standing position in the arms, you can bring your hands to your hips, into prayer pose in the center of the chest, or down by the sides. Whatever works for you on any given day. Just try to still activate yourself in the arms, where ever they may be.
Shorten your lunge stance. Bring your back leg more forward, but still keep yourself upright and your front knee over your front ankle.
Use Props! You can stay on the ball of your back foot in a lunge position instead and place a blanket or sandbag on the back of your foot for support. You can also use a block on your front knee against a wall to help practice keeping your front knee stabilized. You can also use a chair for your hips. So many ways to practice this pose, find the one that works for you!
Mountain is the best place to start for practicing standing poses. Here you can feel the firm foundation of your feet underneath you, and notice how energy travels up and down your body as your standing and activated.
Starting from the ground up, notice your feet and plant them underneath you, about hip distance apart. Bend your knees and sink down and feel all of your weight sink into your feet. From there dig into the outsides of both feet like you're going to tear your mat in half with your feet, it's a down and out. Then take all of that energy back into the ball and heel of your feet. Plant yourself into the floor and use that pressure to lengthen and straighten your legs (knees still slightly soft/not locked out) but feel your calves, thighs, and glutes engage. Grow long through the spine and out the top of your head.
Once you've secured the lower body, bring it to the top of your body, and everything meets in the middle. Bring your shoulders down the back of your body, and extend your chest up the front of your body. Extend your arms along your sides (or modify as you're accustomed to in your practice) palms face foreword, fingers spread wide. The fingers are reaching out and down, but the shoulders stay in the body. Bring your hands and arms slightly behind your periphery to help open out through the chest.
Inhale to pull the energy up from the ground, all the way out the top of your head, grow tall and lengthen yourself. Then exhale to take the shoulders down your back, hug your low belly towards your back, and sink through your feet.
Feel the pull and push of the energy flowing through you.
This pose could also be a modifier for Standing Warrior 1. The focus is on grounding through the front foot, to help lighten the load in your back knee, and stabilizing through the hips and core to keep your torso forward.
Bring one foot forward and have your knee over your ankle, just as if you were standing, dig in through your front foot and have your knee towards your front pinky toe.
You can have your back leg underneath your hip or a little further behind you for a deeper stretch, just notice where you are on any given day and how you feel. Your back hip is moving forward and up, and your front hip is moving back and down so that both hips are side-by-side.
Lengthen through the spine, shoulders are down and then extend the arms overhead, or modify for yourself. Where ever your arms are, just try to engage throughout the entire body, be intentional with your moments.
Kneeling lunge can be a great place to come to not only to warm up for Warrior 1, but as an alternative to Standing Warrior 1. If available you may want to have a blanket or knee pad underneath your back knee for more comfort.
Warrior 1 is a pose built for concentration and stability. As common as it is, it's easy to go on autopilot when getting into the pose, but try to allow your true inner Warrior to emerge. Feel the power coursing through you from the ground up. Unleash yourself.