One of my favorite aspects of the standing poses in a yoga practice is the element of strength that is required to practice them well. One of my least favorite aspects is the hidden compensatory movements that we rely on to avoid doing the work. The smart use of yoga props addresses both these aspects.
Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) is one of the poses that, in my experience, is misunderstood. It seems that intense focus on external rotation in the front hip overshadows the oh-so-important abduction – particularly the isometric contraction of the abductors once you find the pose. The back leg is often mis-instructed to be internally rotated when it should be neutrally rotated. In a neutral rotation, the work of extending the hip joint (rather than hyper-extension or “jamming” of the knee) can be explored. By using a wall and two blocks, you can learn what these actions feel like so you can try to replicate them in the middle of the room at your next vinyasa class.
Here’s a video:
I love this clip because you can see how quickly the blocks help you make sense of the pose. Jodi, on the first side is struggling with back leg. By the time we do the second side she understands the work to be done. Using props is way easier than using anatomical language to explain the pose to your students.
Hint for the yoga teachers out there: Once you understand the poses, the planes of movement, and the joint actions which occur in these planes, you can make up your own uses of yoga props to help the students find those joint actions. It’s really very empowering and it’s what we teach in the Udaya Teacher Training. Join us for our next module.