Yoga Pose Breakdown (and Breaking the Myths of) Warrior I

Renowned teacher Brett Larkin breaks down one of the more common yoga poses, and offers step-by-step instructions to make it work for you.

You’re in yoga class and you’re feeling strong. You’re breezing through every pose like confidently filling in the bubbles on an exam you’ve been studying for for weeks. Then your teacher casually names ‘[insert Sanskrit name]’ pose.

And in an instant your heart drops. Your yoga mojo is gone. Does this sound familiar?

If you notice this, first—that’s fantastic! One of the most important parts of yoga is becoming aware of these internal reactions so we can learn about ourselves. Secondly—and let’s emphasize this here—you’re not alone. We all have those postures that we don’t like or that make us feel annoyed, frustrated, or even angry!

This can come from not understanding what we’re supposed to be doing, or maybe the pose has something especially juicy to teach us about our minds and bodies.

In my experience, Warrior I is a pose that tends to spark a sense of uncertainty. Although the pose seems simple, there’s actually a lot going on. It’s a powerful pose that’s worth exploring, as it opens your chest, stretches your calves and hip flexors, and strengthens your thighs and ankles.

Let’s walk through four steps to refine your Warrior I so you get all the goodness this posture has to offer and can tackle it confidently in your next class!

Step 1: Fix your feet.

Traditional Ashtanga yoga calls for heel-to-heel alignment, but feel free to take your legs wider from left to right for more balance and stability. Traditional postural yoga was also created by men, so for ladies it can be especially beneficial to keep the feet hip-width distance apart to honor our beautiful, curvy hips.

Step 2: Fire up your front thigh.

Don’t deprive your legs of the amazing strengthening benefits of this pose by straightening the front knee. Keep it directly over the ankle and as close to 90 degrees bent as possible—let’s make those thighs strong!

Step 3: Charge the back leg.

Turn the toes of your back foot out to 45 degrees and press down through your back heel. Feel the ankle and quad activate while the calf and hip flexor get a stretch—so yummy!

Step 4: Don’t be a square about your hips!

Traditionally, we thought the hips needed to be “square” with the hip points facing forward to stretch the hip flexor. We now understand that this doesn’t work in all bodies and isn’t always beneficial. So if you feel discomfort in the hips or lower back as you ground into your back heel, shorten your stance and let your hips open towards the top corner of your mat. Focus on the first three steps and you will still get all the strengthening and stretching benefits of the pose!

So maybe Warrior I was one of those shapes that could really kill your yoga vibe. But now that you know some of the key actions of the pose and that it’s totally okay to not square your hips, maybe you’ll even come to love when your teacher cues it in class. Remember yoga is a “practice”!

So keep practicing and observe how your experience of this pose changes over time while getting to enjoy all the strengthening power and fire of this warrior shape.

Brett-LarkinBrett Larkin teaches vinyasa flow yoga at top San Francisco studios, companies like Google and Pinterest, and on her YouTube channel, where thousands of students have studied with her for over 6 million minutes. Get her free yoga playlists, yoga teacher training tips, and free dance, yoga, and meditation classes at Beginner or intermediate yogis can enjoy her online course on deepening your yoga practice.