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The Warrior poses in yoga are the foundation for most of the other standing poses in your practice. Warriors build strength and balance as well as mental fortitude, especially if you hold them for more than 30 seconds at a time. You may practice them as part of variations on the classic Sun Salutation warmups or independently during a session.
Sometimes called Warrior A, or by the Sanskrit Virabhadrasana, Warrior I is a foundational pose done by standing in a lunge-like position with your front knee bent, back foot fully engaged in the mat at a 45-degree angle and arms reaching for the ceiling. Physically, this pose activates the erector spinae, muscles that lie along the low spine, the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps, the hamstrings and the adductors of the inner thighs. The deep transverse abdominus, gluteus medius and minimus at the outer hip, calf muscles and side abdominal muscles known as the obliques also assist in execution of the pose. The pose also brings an opening stretch to the hip flexors, shoulders, neck, chest, ankles and trunk. "Yoga Journal" notes that Warrior I can also be used to alleviate sciatica, pain or numbness that affects the leg and hip caused by a compressed spinal nerve in the low portion of the back.
Warrior II, or B, is done by standing with your feet three to four feet apart and bending your front knee. Extend your arms to the front and back of your mat and turn your head to look over your front arm. This pose strengthens the glutes, thigh muscles and calves -- as does Warrior I -- along with stretching the ankles, chest and shoulders. It provides an even greater stretch to the hip flexors than Warrior I. Holding Warrior II for 30 seconds or longer builds stamina. The pose can help with digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs and may potentially help alleviate back pain in pregnant women. People with flat feet, carpel tunnel syndrome and sciatica may use Warrior II as a therapeutic pose. Warrior II, along with other Warrior poses, is a weight-bearing exercise that is beneficial for people with osteoporosis.
Warrior III is a balancing posture in which you stand on one leg, hinge forward from the hips until your trunk and floating leg are parallel to the floor and your arms extend past your ears. The pose hones balance and strength in the base leg's thigh and ankle. Your abs work hard to keep you in the position and your back and shoulders engage to reach forward.
A variation of Warrior II, often called Reverse Warrior or Peaceful Warrior, involves sliding your back hand down the back leg and reaching your front arm to the ceiling to do a side bend while your feet remain in the lunged position. This pose stretches the chest and opens up the lungs so you can breath more easily. It strengthens the side obliques of the abdomen while the lunging action continues to strengthen the muscles of the thighs and buttocks. Sometimes, teachers will call Revolved Side Angle pose "Revolved Warrior." In this pose, you are in a deep lunge with your back foot grounded at 45 degrees. You then twist to get the opposite hand or elbow outside the front knee as you look up toward the ceiling. This pose is considered beneficial for digestion and elimination as well as for stretching and strengthening the hips and buttocks. The pose requires significant balance and spinal mobility. People suffering from constipation, infertility and osteoporosis are thought to benefit from doing this pose regularly and holding it for several breaths.