One of the basic yoga poses, Virabhadrasana II is easy to take for granted. Itís often used in flow classes as a linking pose; for this reason, it can be tempting to think of the asanaas something to move through rather than as a destination in its own right. This is a shame, as Vira II is a potential strengthener and a place where itís easy to work on linking breath and movement. Take this pose seriously, and your yoga practice will improve immensely.
Itís important to remember the alignment cues for this asana. The feet are stepped or jumped apart, and oneís stance should be wide enough that the front leg can bend to move the thigh as close to horizontal as possible; in a perfect world, one would find the thigh parallel to the ground. The front knee should never be farther out than the toes so as to protect the tendons and joints of that part of the body; one way to ensure this is to make sure that the toes are always visible when the upper body is in position. The front foot faces forward, with the heel drawing a line that bisects the instep of the back foot, which is at a forty-five degree angle. This is a great deal to remember, but taking the time to go over these pointers will safeguard the body and create a solid base for the asana.
There are five lines of energy in this position. The legs create three of them; the front leg has two lines creating an angle, while the back leg is straight. The torso rises from the intersection of the legs, creating a fourth line of energy. Itís easy to slack off here, but ideally the core is working as much as the legs, supporting the body and allowing the head to rise up to meet the sky. As this is an open-hip pose, itís important to make sure that the hips are not bisecting the legs in any way; itís helpful to pretend that two panes of glass are pushing the body into one flat plane.
The arms create the last line of energy, and itís important to remember that they are not only reaching out from fingertip to fingertip, but also secured within the shoulder socket. It helps to pull the shoulder blades together and draw the arms down before reaching out. The arms fall into the same plane as the rest of the body Ė this is as close to two-dimensional as most people will ever get.
Flow classes tend to move in and out of this pose quickly, and so itís nice to take time in a home practice to just breathe into the pose. There is a great deal of strengthening going on in the legs and arms, and this is a good place to connect with your breathing. Classes that hold poses will stay here for a minute or more on each side. Since you are doing different things with each leg, this is a great place to assess if there is an imbalance in muscle strength between the two, and to use hold time to address that issue.
When finished with the pose, you can come out of it by bending forward, dropping palms to the floor, and moving into a vinyasa. Alternatively, you can jump back to Tadasana or move into one of the other open hip standing asanas. When moving through Vira II in a class, always remember that this pose is an essential part of yoga practice and should be treated just as seriously as any other!