………..If Tadasana is standing then Warrior 1 is walking……..
The Power of Touch. A Guide for Yoga Teachers. p.62. (2015) Monica Voss and Tama Soble (www.esteryoga.com)
The title of this book is poignant at a moment in our history when remote contact is becoming the norm. Your yoga class may include “hands-on assists” , or your teacher may employ verbal cues/assists more generally. You may be used to a combination of the two approaches but the key, and I agree with Monica and Tama wholeheartedly, is “..relaxation……both the student’s and the teacher’s (p 62). Yoga teachers providing “assists” will know that students need time to understand the support – to sense that held tension can be reduced. Tense bodies may not readily accept support ; thus patience is essential. It is perfectly natural for a student to be tense at this stage since the “assist” comes with the premise that something can be “improved”. In a weekly/regular yoga class, trust is established between student and teacher; ethical considerations are paramount; the principle of non-harm, a fundemental part of yoga, is observed.
The importance of relaxation and patience are even more relevant at this time, I believe. In home practice, the absence of a regular teacher may be unsettling. Online teaching has taken off and thus verbal cueing/assists are more common. Warrior pose may be very useful for home practice since, as menioned in TfHP9 – Warrior 1, it looks simple but there are many aspects to relaxing into it that help us understand the intention of lengthen and grounding. Such understanding comes with an appreciation of how the ease of breathing enriches our practice. Often a “fill-in” before the stronger Warrior 2 and 3; perhaps it merits attention. Added to this, the connection to walking makes it a perfect pose to “take off the mat”.
Tips to sense Warrior 1 from the feet up:
- Forward/backward distance between the feet = 1 natural walking step.
- Avoid the “tightrope” stance – feet may need to be placed wider.
- Anchor the back heel – imagine that a helpful hand is there rooting the heel.
- Exhale, root the back heel down. Now you are activating and lengthening through the back line of the body by dropping, grounding the heels and feet.
- Hands at the waist may square the hips and help you find your feet more easily. These “helping hands” will sense the downward movement of the sacrum..
- Helping hands at the back of the body – with back of the hands relaxing on the sacrum, fingers pointing down and elbows out to the side, we can notice the elongation of the spine as the thoracic area releases upwards.
- Or place the palms of the hands on the back of the pelvis, fingers pointing down and elbows softly bent. This may open the chest for some but it depends upon how the arms are set into the shoulder sockets.
- The use of hands may prevent the shoulders from getting involved too early and taking us “off our feet” as the centre of gravity moves upwards.
- Then practice the movement through the thoracic and pelvis see TfHP9 – Warrior 1
- If all ok and breath is even and tension free. – arms can float up to a suitable level – not holding the arms up – let them sit in the shoulder sockets . This informs you of the best position for you – ie soft bend at the elbow, cactus arms or hanging arms.
The more the feet are rooted, the more the sense of the spine lengthening will be real. With a reduced stance the postural muscles, which are closer to the joints “have their day” and this takes the load away from some of the global muscles. This is useful for general agility. The wide lunge produces great force into the ball of the front foot, the quad is loaded and has to work hard to get into balance. Practice immediately on the other side.
Follow on movement:
Warrior 2 or Warrior 3 is often practised after Warrior 1 . From TfHP9 – Warrior 1 the suggestion of simple extension moves on all fours or dog face up may help you to investigate extension through the thoracic and to “map” that movement, but also try:
- An easy squat/ half squat to reinforce foot placement, assess stability and how your body is coping with load
- From squat perhaps down to child with arms forward to open the shoulder girdle
- Then dog down, using the feet and legs to unravel the spine, rather than pushing up with the arms, thus creating tension in the shoulders.
- Then…… see how you feel. That’s the beauty of home practice.