Yoga: Warrior II

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One of the absolute best compliments to any running program is yoga. Not only can you make your whole body stronger and more balanced, but you can also become less prone to injury. Many runners neglect upper-body strength, but it has an immense impact on form. Too, distance runners don't have much of a need for intense lower-body strength training. But the lunges and leg-feats required by yoga are just the thing to kick your glutes and other muscles into gear.

I do two power-packed sessions of yoga a week, and I'm thinking of increasing to three. I used to do it far more, but got lazy. When we joined our gym a few months ago, Stephen and I decided to attend some classes together. Now that our gym membership is almost up, we've brought our practice home. We both have trouble with the meditative and slow poses. But we're working on it -- because yoga can be as psychologically beneficial as it is physically.

My increased flexibility astounds me. I used to, gulp, be a cheerleader (yeah, about that . . . ) and dancer when I was young. I could sit in splits for days, etc. And now I can do them just as well as I could then. But you had asked me to do even one during our marathon training? I would have laughed in your face. Hard.

So now, each Wednesday, I'll be featuring a yoga pose . . . and if you have anything you'd like to see me try. Or any other questions about yoga for that matter -- just leave a comment or email us at

The poses I've chosen for today are essentially a deep side lunge . . . then a side stretch in the position. It's called Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II, though I'm not terribly familiar with the "real" names after a long break in practice -- so I looked it up), for those of you who are new.
  • To start, stand in the center of your mat with your feet hip-width apart. Exhale and step your right or left foot about four feet apart. Then bring your arms up -- parallel to the floor -- and reach out to the sides. Your palms down.
  • You'll then want to turn your back foot in just a bit (in the direction of whatever way your front foot is) and your front foot out ahead (see in the photo). Align your heels for balance. Then exhale (don't forget to breathe!) and bend your front knee over your ankle, make sure that front shin is straight -- and that your thigh and shin form a 90-degree angle.
  • But don't forget your back leg -- press your foot into the floor and feel the energy and balance equally through your lower body. Breathe.
  • Now take a moment to see what your pelvis is up to. Tuck it in slightly. And bring your back up straight. Picture someone above you with a string pulling your head straight up. Good posture. And if you haven't already, bring your gaze forward.
  • Stay in the position -- to start -- for 30 seconds if you can. Then gradually increase that to 90 seconds. Enough time to really feel those muscles working. And pair this with the side stretch pose . . .

  • While still in your Warrior II stance, bring your front arm down so it touches the floor inside your front leg. If you can't quite reach the floor yet, use a yoga block (or large hardcover book, whatever is around) for balance.
  • Bring your other arm straight to the ceiling, palm forward, and then shoot it over your head -- extending for a long stretch like in the photo above. Your gaze should go out above that shoulder. Or forward. Whatever feels best to you.
  • Breathe here for 30 seconds and feel the deep stretch in that side of your body. As well as the power of your supporting leg.
  • Then return to your Warrior II pose . . . stay if you like for a few breaths . . . and then straighten the front leg and repeat with your other side.
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