The “Yoga Fails, Fixed” series is for any person who’s ever felt lost, confused or just plain awkward when trying yoga. The first article in the series offered simple fixes for Downward Facing Dog. In this installment, we explore the common (and potentially risky) mistakes people make when they perform Warrior 2.
About Warrior 2
It’s nearly impossible to participate in a yoga class today without being asked to perform Warrior 2 at some point.
The pose is popular among instructors because it’s really effective at improving flexibility in the hips, strengthening the quadriceps, and increasing the stability of the ankle muscles—so you’ll be less likely to roll your ankle when you land on somebody’s foot during a basketball game. That’s a plus.
RELATED: The 10 Best Yoga Poses for Athletes
As you might’ve guessed from the inclusion of the number 2, there are several derivations of the Warrior pose, which people often confuse with one another.
In Warrior 2, the toes of your lead foot point straight ahead, and your rear foot is set perpendicular to your body. Your back leg is straight and your front leg is bent at the knee. Your arms are raised to shoulder height and held straight, with each hand pointing away from your torso.
Because his form is really good, and because I never pass up a chance to look at Kevin Love, here’s the basketball player demonstrating the pose:
Kevin Love performs Warrior 2. Note: Basketball not required. (Image courtesy of GAIAM)
RELATED: Kevin Love’s Yoga Workout
In addition to the lower-body benefits listed above, Warrior 2 can also help increase your stamina, since maintaining the posture for a long time is surprisingly difficult. The move also stretches the muscles in your chest, which helps you breathe better.
Warrior 2 can clearly be helpful in many ways, but its benefits depend on being able to do the pose correctly—which means steering clear of these all-too-frequent mistakes.
Warrior 2 Fail #1: lead knee in front of ankle
Under no circumstances is it OK to have the front foot behind the knee in this posture. When your knee drifts in front of your toes, it puts a ton of unnecessary pressure on the muscles around your kneecap (or patella, if you want to go with the more fancy anatomical term).
Wrong: Knee in Front of the Ankle
THE SIMPLE FIX: If you’re having a hard time keeping your knee in line with your ankle, it probably means the space between your front and back foot is wrong. The appropriate distance varies from person to person, but somewhere between 3 and 4 feet is a good starting point.
From there, adjust so that the center of your front ankle is directly below your knee when the knee is bent at 90 degrees. If your knee moves in front of your ankle when you try this, step your rear foot back a few inches to create more distance between your feet. Keep adjusting the distance between your feet until your knee sits comfortably above your ankle.
Not everyone is able to comfortably achieve a 90-degree bend in the knee. If that’s the case for you, shorten the distance between your feet and don’t bend as deeply at the knee. Just make sure your lead knee stays in line with, and not in front of, your ankle.
Correct: Knee Above the Ankle
RELATED: See Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson’s Complete Yoga Routine
Warrior 2 Fail #2: lead knee collapses inward
Man, the front knee in this pose is tricky, eh? Yeesh. So let’s say you’ve adjusted the distance between your feet and you’re standing in the pose with a perfect 90-degree bend in that front leg. You’re good to go, right?
Not necessarily. Too often in Warrior 2, the knee in a person’s lead leg collapses inward of the big toe. This happens because of tightness in the inner thigh and weakness in the outer thigh.
Wrong: Front Knee Collapsing Inward
THE SIMPLE FIX: Focus on pressing evenly into the ground through the ballof your front foot. Keep your toes pressed into the ground and draw your bent knee slightly toward the pinky toe side of your foot. The center of your knee should line up with your second and third toe.
Correct: Front Knee in Proper Alignment
Work on these adjustments until they becomes a natural part of your Warrior 2 pose. Eventually, you won’t have to think about it. But until you reach that point, keep checking your front knee whenever you perform the pose.
Other posts from the “Yoga Fails, Fixed” Series:
How Not to Mess Up Downward Facing Dog