Reverse Warrior — Viparita Virabhadrasana (VIP-uh-REE-tuh veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing yoga pose that stretches the waist and energizes the whole body. It’s usually practiced in Vinyasa Flow classes as part of a “Dancing Warrior” sequence that moves from Warrior I to Warrior II, then directly into Reverse Warrior. For this reason, Reverse Warrior Pose is sometimes referred to as “Dancing Warrior.”
Its name comes from the Hindu mythological warrior, Virabhadra, an incarnation of the god Shiva. Virabhadra was a tall, dark, and fierce deity, depicted with a thousand arms, flaming hair and eyes, and wearing a garland of skulls. The word “Viparita” means “reverse” in Sanskrit, and “asana” means “pose.”
Benefits of Reverse Warrior Pose
Reverse Warrior strengthens and stretches the legs, groins, hips, and the sides of the torso and waist. It improves flexibility in the spine, inner thighs, ankles, and chest. It also builds strength in the thighs, shoulders, and arms. A deep stretch to the torso, Reverse Warrior increases blood flow throughout the body, which reduces fatigue and helps calm the mind. Practicing this pose regularly will build stamina and can help to relieve low back pain.
Warrior pose battles inner weakness and wins focus. You see that there is no war within you. You're on your own side, and you are your own strength.
Do not practice Reverse Warrior if you have a recent or chronic hip, knee, back, or shoulder injury. Avoid this pose if you are experiencing diarrhea or high blood pressure. Those with neck injuries should not tilt their head backward in the pose, but should remain gazing forward. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Turn to the left and step your feet wide apart, about 4-5 feet. Align your heels.
- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat. Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle.
- Raise your arms to the side to shoulder-height, parallel to the floor. Your arms should be aligned directly over your legs. With your palms facing down, reach actively from fingertip to fingertip.
- Exhale as you bend your front knee. Align your knee directly over the ankle of your front foot. Your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. Sink your hips low, eventually bringing your front thigh parallel to the floor. This is Warrior II.
- On your next exhalation, drop your left (back) hand to the back of your left thigh. On an inhalation, lift your right arm straight up, reaching your fingertips toward the ceiling. Your right bicep should be next to your right ear.
- Keep your front knee bent and your hips sinking low as you lengthen through the sides of your waist. Slide your back hand further down your leg and come into a slight backbend.
- Tilt your head slightly and bring your gaze to your right hand’s fingertips.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed, chest lifting, and the sides of your waist long.
- Hold for 10-20 breaths.
- To release, inhale as you lower your arms back into Warrior II. Press down through your back foot and straighten your front leg. Lower your arms all the way. Turn to the left, reversing the position of your feet, and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
Reverse Warrior is a great way to add flexibility to the spine and prepare the body for many other poses throughout your practice. Remember to take it slowly and never push your body to achieve a deeper backbend. Try these simple changes in the pose to find a variation that works for you:
- If your hips are tight, shorten your stance and straighten your front leg to a degree that is comfortable as you work on gaining flexibility.
- If you have a shoulder injury or if you are still building upper body strength, place your hands on your hips. Work on lifting your chest and lengthening your spine without over-straining your arms and shoulders.
To correctly practice Reverse Warrior, it’s important to stay focused on the various points of alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Work on getting the feet and leg placements first. Build the pose from the ground up.
- Make sure your front knee stays aligned with your front ankle. Do not allow the knee to drift to the inside — this can strain the knee joint. Instead, imagine it slightly moving out toward the baby toe.
- Keep your front shin vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
- Press down through the outer edge of your back foot, and keep your back leg straight.
- Remember: You don’t have to go far in the backbend! If you sense crunching or collapse in your low back, lift out of the backbend to regain space in your spine.
Dancing with Your Warrior
Practicing Reverse Warrior can be a fun and flowing way to add strength, power, and beauty to your daily routine. As you practice this pose on a regular basis, you might discover an increase in your ability to flow through life with ease and grace!