Many names of yoga poses come about because the sight of the pose brought something to mind for the viewer. Many of them make good sense, like the cobra and the lion poses. But others, like the warrior poses, have been a challenge to work my brain around. These poses don’t look warlike to me.

But recently, I began thinking of warrior in the Don Juan’s terms. That is to say, one who lives every moment consciously and with courage. In that case, Warrior I is a tableau of the warrior’s aspiration to be more than he or she has been. This pose is certainly about striving toward something.

To do Warrior I, spread your legs as far apart as they will go without threatening pain (or splitting your pants). Turn one foot out 90 degrees. Turn your other foot in 45 degrees. Turn your body so that your hips are facing the turned-out foot. Bend your front knee so your shin is perpendicular to the floor. As you inhale, lift your arms straight up over your head and look up. Imagine angels are holding your hands and pulling you upward. Feel the stretch.

Return to the point where your legs are spread but feet are pointed forward and repeat this pose in the other direction.

Warrior I opens your chest for improved breathing, as well as strengthening your legs, knees and ankles. It also improves balance and concentration. According to B.K.S. Iyengar (who was a major figure in the popularization of yoga in the United States) it cures neck stiffness and reduces fat around the hips.

You can do this pose in an armless chair as well. Sit toward the front edge of the seat and bring one knee and foot out approximately 90 degrees to the side, thigh and hip supported by the chair, body and hips facing bent knee. Stretch the other leg straight out behind you. This version provides a different stretch and a different perspective. Pay attention to how your body feels at every point.

Always, in yoga, do the best you can and you will receive the benefit! It doesn’t matter what other people can do.

The spirit in me salutes the spirit in you. We’re all in bodies together.

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