Rule of thumb in your practice of yoga: Be comfortable so you can be calm.
If you aren’t comfortable when you meditate, you probably won’t come back. So if you aren’t comfortable, review, modify or adjust. A lot of times people seem to fear making adjustments and have to be exactly like the picture in the text book. There seems to be some concern that if you don’t do it like the picture you aren’t doing yoga. I say don’t worry so much, focus on practising SAFELY to get the maximum benefits that you can at any given point in time. Your body is constantly changing so why wouldn’t your practice evolve accordingly?
The idea is to make practice sustainable so you can carry on practising for the rest of your life. Just to be clear, I don’t mean for you to slouch your way through your set of yoga postures! Ahhhh, so comfortable. NO. You’ll need to be actively participating in your chosen posture: think of every fibre of your being as awake and alert but not tense.
As an example, below are some modifications that you can make in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), a fundamental posture that is the cause of a lot of worry over alignment for many people and can be challenging to sustain for some. Mr Iyengar writes in Light on Yoga, “All standing poses are strenuous, this pose in particular. It should not be tried by persons with a weak heart. Even people who are fairly strong should not stay long in this asana.”
So let’s look at how we can make you more warrior and less worrier here, ok? Ok.
IMPORTANT: I’ll add here that if you are pregnant, you may find that standing postures are definitely too tiring to attempt in your first trimester. That was the case for me, but towards the end of my first trimester it felt GOOD to be in the posture and I absolutely love it in my third trimester now. Alternatively you may be just dandy hanging out here. Be aware of any signals your body throws your way. Your yoga practice may be altered during pregnancy but that doesn’t make it less yogic. Never force!
Virabhadrasana I, here we come:
Start in standing, arms above the head (palms touching) with the legs about 4 feet apart.
Swivel to the right, turning the right foot to face forwards and the left foot slightly to the right (see below).
Bend the right knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor, knee above the ankle.
Keep the left leg engaged in one long line.
Look up towards the palms, letting the head drop back.
20 to 30 seconds in the posture (each side) with normal breathing is plenty but if you find yourself getting breathless, stay calm and exit a little sooner. This is a tough posture so don’t get discouraged! Start with 5 seconds next time and build up your stamina. I used to find this posture tiring, my arms ached from holding them up and my thighs BURNED. Now I don’t even notice such things and truly enjoy the posture. The key was to practice patiently.
If your shoulders seem to be bunching up around your jaw then keep the palms parallel instead of touching (see below).
(The legs are a little closer together here so that you can see the placement of the both feet. But if you find too intense a stretch in the groin, then by all means have the legs a little closer together like this!)
If you have high blood pressure, keep your arms down (see below) – placing them on your hips is a great way to check the alignment of your hips. In Virabhadrasana I the body faces forwards. Women may experience high blood pressure in pregnancy – be aware of this and modify accordingly.
If you feel dizzy, don’t look up but look straight ahead or down instead (see below).
Or don’t look up so high (see below).
If you have neck issues, don’t look up but look straight ahead or down instead (see below).
If the posture is too strenuous to begin with, have the front thigh a little higher than parallel to the floor (see below). Keep actively engaging the muscles in the leg though!
There you go, I hope that helps you to find more ease and comfort as a Warrior.
Let me know if there is anything else bothering you in your Warrior pose and I’ll be happy to make some suggestions! All the best in your practice! x