Yoga can create a seriously toned physique thanks to its complex poses that hit several muscles groups at the same time. Even newbie yogis can reap the benefits of the practice by mastering just a few of the multitasking poses. (This yoga flow is perfect for beginners.)
Enter: the warrior series. Despite being the second pose in the warrior series, warrior II (Virabhadrasana II, demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) is typically more accessible than warrior I, so it's standard for most yoga practices, says Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga.
"This pose focuses on external rotation of the hips and is a great balance for warrior I, which focuses on internal hip rotation," she explains. "The two pair together to build range of motion in the largest joint in our body (your hips) while building strength in the largest muscle groups in our legs." (Here's how to master warrior I pose.)
She recommends entering the pose from downward facing dog, crescent lunge, or warrior I. After holding it for a few breaths, move into side-facing hip poses like extended side angle, half moon, and triangle.
Warrior II Variations and Benefits
There's a good reason this pose is called "warrior": You'll feel like one after practicing it! Warrior II strengthens your core and entire lower body, but it's also a great hip-opener and strengthener, notes Peterson. (Not to mention, it's great for building a strong butt!) Because of the openness in the front hip, it can help you maintain or restore range of motion. (Try these other hip-opening yoga poses to get them feeling loose.)
If you have ankle, knee, or hip pain, you can modify this pose by taking a shorter stance and bending your front knee less, says Peterson. People with low back or SI joint pain can also vary the pose to accommodate by taking the hips to 45 degrees rather than square to the side wall.
To make it more advanced, align your front heel with your back arch and deepen the bend in the front knee to a 90-degree angle. Hellooo, quads!
How to Do a Warrior II
A. From downward dog, step the right foot forward between hands and spin back heel down to the floor, parallel to the back edge of the mat.
B. Lift torso and turn chest and hips to left side wall while reaching right arm straight over the right leg and left arm straight back over the left leg, parallel to the floor.
C. Bend right knee to 90 degrees, pointing right knee and foot forward and externally rotating the right thigh. Gaze forward over right fingertips.
Hold for 3 to 5 breaths then move on with your flow. Repeat pose on opposite side.
Warrior II Form Tips
- Seal the outside edges of feet down onto the floor and lift the arches.
- Draw tailbone down and draw the bottom points of ribs toward hips to fire up the core.
- Broaden shoulder blades and collarbones while engaging and extending arms, keeping shoulders away from ears.