While I wrote about my frustrations with yogi glamor shots on Wednesday, the same photos I dislike have also brought students into my classroom. Recently, awareness has been pointed in the direction of a practice for everyone, through the #realyogiselfie project. Their current contest is not about celebrities doing yoga or a product being auctioned off to the best pretzel, it’s bringing the simple life back to the practice. Glimpses of yogis doing yoga will always inspire me, especially if they’re in savasana.
So, what do I do in my own practice to build strength, stability and stamina? I create complexity under the surface. During my 300-hr advanced teacher training, one rule of sequencing given to me was to always include Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Extended Side Angle in each class. At the time, I appreciated the nice little nugget and followed the guideline. Now that I have had a few years distance between the advice and my current practice, I see the wisdom in those 4 simple poses.
The beauty of Warrior 1 is the back leg’s combination of strength and stretch. As the lateral edge of the back foot presses into the ground, the stretch of the peroneals on the outside of the ankle is a nice counterbalance to the flip flop loving and arch collapsing stride of most students’ posture and gait. By activating the inversion muscles of the foot and lifting the arch, you can start to strengthen the muscles of the feet. The strength that we build in our foundation will take us off the mat to enjoy other activities like running, hiking or just simply climbing stairs.
After strengthening the lower leg muscles, I like to move into Warrior 2 and bring my focus to the front leg. The deep flexion in the hip and knee require a great amount of strength in the quadriceps. To dial it up a notch and strengthen my hamstrings more, I focus on pressing the foot into the ground while maintaining the flexion of the knee. In Yoga Tune Up®, we love to create asymmetry to add an additional element of strength and awareness by placing a block under the front foot in Warrior 2 (as seen in the photo).
I continue with the theme of lower body strength as I move into an Extended Side Angle. The focus of this pose is the stretch to the latissimus dorsi. With the supporting arm placed on the thigh, I can bring my attention to the flexion and external rotation of the upper arm. If you sit at a desk all day and find yourself mimicking a vulture in front of your computer, the latissimus dorsi can be super tight. By lengthening this muscle, you’ll be freeing up tightness to increase your range of movement in the shoulders and restore healthier posture.
The last movement that I never leave out of a daily practice is a Yoga Tune Up® pose called Adductor Slides. Building strength in the inner thighs will influence the way you walk and hold yourself, not to mention it’s a good core workout as well!
This is how I live better in my body and I encourage you to find unique ways to express yourself on and off the mat, while embracing simplicity in your yoga practice. Remember, #ImitationIsLimitation!
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I love this article! I have learnt so much from your explanation for each of the poses in the article, especially how we activate the inversion muscles of the foot and lift the arch! I always look for ways to strengthen my peroneal muscles! Thanks for sharing! Michelle
Thank you for sharing this! I love simple simples, and learning to do them well, especially these warrior poses, is so powerful. I love the adductor slides, they’re so hard but so worth it to build strength and create a well balanced movement/yoga practice.
Great to see a YTU teacher breathing new life into familiar poses like Warrior I, II and extended side angle. I find myself frequently returning to these poses and have been wondering lately if I over-use them in my classes (partial motivation for diving into YTU level I training!) It will be great to incorporate these different nuances into teaching these classic poses because who doesn’t want to be empowered to be a warrior for self as well as others?!
Thank you for sharing. I am just completing the Yoga Tune Up Level one training and was looking up blog posts on Warrior 2. I think for me and my students that using a block will allow for improved hip and hamstring strengthening. I liked when you shared “to dial it up a notch and strengthen my hamstrings more, I focus on pressing the foot into the ground while maintaining the flexion of the knee.” In Yoga Tune Up®, creating asymmetry adds an additional element of strength and awareness with the placement of a block under the front foot. The more we create awareness in our body, give us a road map to allow for increased physical and mental health.
I love the reflective nature of your post, and the idea of going “back to basics” if you will but in a smarter way by dissecting the “basic” poses and really examining what is going on in the body, what muscles are activated, what muscles are acting as synergists, the proper directions of motion, and how these movements of the body which are sometimes lost in our sitting, slouchy, culture can affect change in our every day lives. Thank you for mentioning the lateral edge of the foot in Warrior 1 and how bringing our attention to what that foot is doing can not only have benefits for the feet off the mat, but can completely change the pose and add the strength piece to that strength and stretch. I feel like it’s a cue that is often left out of classes and I appreciate it very much as it’s a cue I often say in my own head when I’m practicing.
Thanks for breaking down the nuts and bolts of these classical postures as well as the adductor slides. I agree with an earlier comment that the Yoga Tune Up® version of warrior 1 with a parallel back leg is interesting. I also think it’s important to include at least some standing postures in every practice because, as my teacher would say, standing postures teach one how to “connect the legs to the spine”.
It is great how you talk about the little nuggets you learned in your yoga teacher training. Warrior1, Warrior 2 and Extended Side Angle are staples in a yoga sequence Now I have got to start including Adductor slides in my class. Thanks for the advice about finding unique ways to express myself on and off the mat Imitation definitely limits.
As a current Level 1 YTU Teacher Trainee, it’s beginning to become a bit more clear. Your explanations for why you do the poses was great! Thanks!
More you practice the same pose, more you discover it. I always felt weird in my beck leg knee in warrior 1 pose until on one YTU class teacher proposed not to turn back foot outward but to keep both feet parallel for alignment.
The 4 “simple” poses that you were taught to always include in a sequence are a great example of needing to go beyond just the superficial look of the pose, especially when we have done the pose over and over. The wisdom of the poses truly lie in exploring them in a deeper manner just as you described. It’s when we begin to think that they are simple that we may find ourselves in a rut.
I too enjoyed reading about Kirsten’s pose anchors. It can be fun to see yourself change over time as one does the same poses wedge inbetween different warm ups, ball work, and toning work. Limitation is limitation – doing the same poses through time would encourage a person to begin with the limitations they are experiencing on any given day because they KNOW these poses will come around again in the next class. Moving beyond your limitations in open chain poses invites compensation and potentially injury down the road.
I totally agree that “Imitation is Limitation”!
I had been struggling my own traditional yoga practice until Yoga Tune Up!
Wow! Thinking out of the box, how easy and deep into my fascia and poses became so deep and felt great!
Seeking my own way to practice is the most profound way to develop and deep meditation.
I look forward to taking Kristine’s class!
Thank you for sharing wonderful topic and I love it!
This is very good information !very helpful .thank you for sharing this practice .
I appreciate you sharing the foundational fixtures of your own practice. Building off your carl paoli reference in your last post, your warrior 1, 2, and extended side angle in the yogasphere are analogous to his burpee, muscle up, and pistol in the strength and conditioning world. Amongst all the rabbit holes one can find oneself down, I feel it is very important to establish a short list of essentials to anchor one’s practice.