| Simon Bradley | Août 2019 |
Warrior 1 / Virabhadrasana 1
There are various Warrior postures in Yoga, and then many variations of each Warrior posture once the basic pose is mastered. Warrior 1, or Virabhadrasana 1 in the ancient language of Sanskrit, is the first of these postures, and often first to be encountered in many sequences found in yoga practice, like a “Sun Salutation” or “Vinyasa” sequence. Today we shall look at the posture by itself. (In fact it is interesting to note that such postures can be done either as part of a sequence, or isolated and as “stand-alone” postures, depending on the style of yoga practiced – for instance it features as part of the basic sequence followed and repeated in Ashtanga yoga, but can often be approached differently and held a while longer in a style like Iyengar yoga).
A good place to begin is in the Mountain Posture or Tadasana (see February issue “Posture, Strength, Flexibility”). From Mountain Posture, step your feet apart a little wider than “leg distance” (you can always adjust and fine tune this distance once in the posture – it is allowed and “legal” to do so !!). Turn your right foot ninety degrees to the right and then turn your left foot about forty five degrees also to the right. Check your heels align, so the right heel is now in line with your left heel (an older version of foot position is to align heel with instep, however a more modern approach is heel in line with heel which allows more turn in the hips and pelvis).
Now twist and rotate your torso and hips to the right and bend your right knee until the knee is right over the foot or ankle, the shin or lower leg bone is vertical and perpendicular to the floor, and the thigh is as horizontal as your individual flexibility allows (you may find that at this point shifting the back foot forwards or backwards accordingly will help get the thigh flatter). Raise your arms skyward with the palms facing each other and the hands strong, fingers active and pointing straight up. Some teachers will ask you to connect your hands together above the head, some will suggest keeping them apart. I personally feel having arms and hands apart allows you to then look up towards the sky more easily and more freely in the neck and shoulders, so that is my own preference and is seem in the accompanying photograph.
A final but optional step is to look up between the hands and then to also arch the torso and move arms and shoulders further backwards, forming more of a curved shape to the posture and creating more of a back extension or back-bend as well. This will again depend on the teacher and style of yoga. (It is worth noting that even in the same style of yoga, a different teacher will teach in a slightly different way – confusing for beginners, I know !!).
In practice, all of the above happens simultaneously, and the posture is held for a period of time and then released, or progressed into another step in a sequence, depending on style. The Warrior is a beautiful posture to behold and its benefits are many and varied. It can help develop a practitioner’s balance (especially in the variation looking skyward) and breathing (working the ribcage muscles, again especially when arching and expanding upwards and backwards). It also works the muscles of the arms, shoulders and back, and like all Warrior postures, is a powerful workout for all the leg muscles, strengthening and lengthening them at the same time !
So there you have it. The first Warrior, Warrior 1.
In the last issue, we looked at the “Plank” exercise, as way of strengthening the core muscles of the body. This time we will examine another core exercise, but one that is working more directly on a specific set of muscles within the core – the abdominal muscles, or rectus abdominis, or as many people will know them – the “six-pack” muscles.
An important difference between the Plank exercise and the Crunch is that a Plank is a static exercise, held for a certain period of time, be that in seconds or minutes, whereas a Crunch is a movement repeated a certain number of times or “repetitions” in a set, which may then even be repeated again over a series of sets and repetitions, depending on the fitness program and individual client goals. This repetition triggers a response in the muscles which, when combined with a program of adequate rest and nutrition, leads to the muscles getting stronger and more developed over a period of time.
(It is probably one of the biggest and oldest misconceptions in fitness that exercises like crunches and the like will lead directly to a “six pack” – but it should be noted that these exercises are no different to any other “resistance-type” exercise in that you will only see the results when combining your training with proper nutrition in order to strip the fat tissue away and therefore see the muscles being developed underneath. But then you do also need such exercises to “define” and shape the muscles that form the classical six-pack).
The Crunch is performed lying supine on the floor or an exercise mat or even on an exercise bench. (There are also other variations such as a crunch over an exercise ball or using cables and incline or decline bench too – but we will focus here on a flat bench or horizontal version). It is important to prevent the lower back from arching excessively and so to begin the exercise it is advisable to first bend the knees a comfortable angle so that the soles of the feet are completely flat on the floor and about a hip distance apart. Then tilt the pelvis or rock it backwards and forwards a few times, and then engage the stomach muscles while holding the downward-tilting position, effectively pushing your lower back towards the floor in order to better isolate the abdominal muscles. Bring your finger-tips to your temples or your hands lightly to the sides of your head (its best not to link the hands behind the head to avoid pulling on the neck muscles – in fact your head and neck shouldn’t move from here-on-in. Visualise your head neck and torso as a “unit” so that the following movement is all in the mid-section)
Start the movement by curling the head and shoulders off the floor a little way until you feel the bottom, base or “tip” of the shoulder blade touching the floor and pause. This is in fact both the start and finish position of the exercise – the head doesn’t actually need to come back down to the ground until the full set of repetitions finishes. Take a breath in to prepare, and then on a breath out squeeze your stomach muscles and slowly and with control curl the torso as high as you can, visualising bringing your ribcage towards the pelvic bones. Make sure you don’t swing or throw your body up using momentum as opposed to muscle contraction! The full range of movement of the stomach muscles themselves is actually quite small, and it is unlikely you will raise the body very high. The lower back will remain on the floor and the upper back and shoulders will only raise a few centimeters depending on your individual flexibility. The movement itself will in all likelihood be over before you finish the breath out, and so therefore hold at the top of the crunch to finish your out-breath before slowly curling back down and gaining equal benefit from the negative or downward part of the movement. The key as described is “slow and controlled”. You may be surprised how intense this exercise can be when performed correctly !
So there you have it. The Warrior and The Crunch. You are on your way to a Warrior Core!! See you next time.
Disclaimer: It is always advisable for anyone and everyone to consult a doctor or healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise program (including yoga). The above article is for informational purposes only. It is always advisable to seek the guidance and instruction of a qualified teacher or trainer before trying the exercises given in the article.