Pratipaksha Bhavanam

Pratipaksha Bhavanam in Action

A practical workbook to Pratipaksha Bhavanam: how your warrior two pose can reveal how your live your life…and how you can be better at it

Reading time: 5 minutes

You might say it’s that moment when we want the pose to be over that our yoga begins. Things get uncomfortable, and all we want to do is reach for our water bottle even though we aren’t thirsty, fix our hair, adjust our yoga pants. A challenging postural moment allows us to access Pratipaksha Bhavanam in ways that not only further our yoga, they inform our person.

Even if you’ve been practicing yoga for 5,000 years, hanging out in warrior two for a while gives you some serious Pratipaksha Bhavanam bang for your buck!

I’m going to ask you to hold warrior two for 2.5 minutes on each side. You’ll set the timer on your phone, clock, or fancy Fit Bit/ Apple Watch and off you’ll go.

Set it up this way:

Facing the long edge of your mat, step out into warrior two. Bend your front knee and from deep in your hip, turn your right foot to face the right short end of your mat. Shift your back heel at an angle that has your heel a bit closer to the back edge of your mat than your toes. Warrior two is often explained as heel-to-arch alignment (front heel aligning with the back arch on the middle line of your mat), but everybody is different, so adjust that a bit as needed. Remember, as you design this posture (or any other) that you’re neither chasing an outside aesthetic nor enduring sharp pain. Embracing that dull roar of progress you’re feeling, however, is turning challenge into an opportunity to grow, and is Pratipaksha Bhavanam in action.

Imagine a racing stripe along the inside of your right thigh, elongating your inner thigh towards your front knee. Use a second energetic racing stripe running the opposite direction along the outer right thigh to draw your right hip back towards your back heel. Allow the external rotation in your right hip and the actions of your racing stripes to coerce your front knee more towards the pinky toe side of your foot instead of caving in towards your big toe.

Activate your back leg, creating symmetry in your foundation. Focus on the outer edge of your back foot feeling heavy against the ground and the arch of that same foot lifting instead of collapsing. Let go of any nutty gripping in your toes, face, jaw, hands and anywhere else you come across it. Allow the evenness of your base in the ground to guide you to an all-encompassing steadiness and surrender. With your arms outstretched, feel as though you are pressing the air down with the palms of your hands, reminding your overactive upper back and shoulder muscles to climb out of your ears and stop being so bossy. Releasing these muscles allows even the emotional drama you may be experiencing (anger and annoyance are popular) to subside, and helps you find your way to calm amidst intensity.

If the physical intensity is too much, simply lower your arms for a moment or straighten your front leg for a second and return to the full pose when you’re ready. You’re still practicing yoga — you are tuned in to your breath and your inward turn and you are listening carefully to what the sensations are telling you. In fact, I would argue that you’re practicing very advanced yoga by mindfully modifying. Sometimes what appears to be stepping back is actually moving forward.

Andrea Marcum

While you’re holding the pose, close your eyes for a minute and feel where it’s loudest to you — maybe your quadriceps screaming, or your arms yelling, or just the growl of impatience… oh, and your ego might step in with some suggestions. Ease back if accomplishment starts to eclipse care and consideration. When you impulsively want to leave it — don’t. Stay just a little bit longer than you thought you could, using your exhales to soften the muscles and quiet your increasingly challenged mind.

The treasures you uncover here are the real deal. The visceral experience you’re having in warrior two is merely a straightforward and immediate example of the obstacles you bump up against when you’re a warrior out in the world. When Pratipaksha Bhavanam feels elusive or murky off your mat, know that your warrior two here on you mat is an intuitive tune-up you can visit anytime.

Fancy poses are fine, but an ongoing relationship with deceptively simple postures is fascinating. They are a palpable reveal of who you really are: body (the frequency and way in which you sit, stand, repeat motions like reaching for your mouse or steering wheel or carry your bag on one side); mind (where your thoughts wander off to and the stories you tell yourself); and spirit (your perceptions and emotions).

Returning to these poses day after day, season after season, deepens your relationship with your self — your warrior is both a mirror and a metaphor. How we do one thing is how we do everything. Pratipaksha Bhavanam is an encouraging nudge, not an overwhelming or intimidating push that turns limitations into inspiring gurus.

Andrea Marcum leads retreats around the world and is the author of Close to OM: Stretching Yoga From Your Mat to Your Life. Practice with her at:


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