There is a reason and deep wisdom as to why most methods of Yoga asana practice have standing poses as one of the cornerstones of their sequencing. More often than not, they are placed toward the beginning of a practice. The administration of focus and strength required to cycle through the various standing poses competently, confers musculoskeletal skill that pervades into the rest of ones life. This is important not to lose sight of, as it is exactly the time that is off of the mat, that constitutes the majority of life.
Among them are the class of lunges that are collectively referred to as Warrior poses. As with any other posture, the techniques implicit within them are all different from one another, to varying degrees.
The prevalence of Warrior 2’s (Virabhadrasana 2) in many popular practices earns it the respect of anatomical analysis that will safeguard us against unnecessary, and sometimes even irrevocable damage.
I wanted to address one common misunderstanding that echoes through the community, which is the application of an adducting force from both legs, that comes in the form of “hugging/squeezing the legs towards one another”. When configuring the action of the legs in any single posture, it is first important to decide to what final position we are working.
Abductors (Gluteus medius, minimus, and TFL)
To look at the back leg of Warrior 2, is to understand that its main direction of movement is to be away from the midline of the body into a movement known as hip/leg abduction.
The hip abductors are the mechanism by which the leg moves into abduction. Whenever there is a certain direction of movement, the muscular contraction that is required to carry out that task, also requires its opposing muscle groups to release and stretch, by way of the agonist/antagonist relationship implicit in the “reciprocal inhibition” reflex. This reflex is the feature of the nervous system, without which movement and locomotion would not exist.
In order for this reflex to be capitalized on, there has to be a conscious demand applied to the active abduction of the back leg. This means that the bag leg has to be pushed away from the front leg/midline. When this occurs, it will not only engage the abductors, but it will simultaneously allow the release of the already commonly restricted inner thigh muscles collectively referred to as the "adductors".
This is a beautiful instance of when one correct action, recalibrates the function in other places in the body, and thereby reveals the continuity of the entire body.
More on Warrior 2 in future posts.