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Inner Warrior

A whistle-stop tour through the warrior poses. By Isabel Lankester

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1. Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Fold)

Begin in standing at the stop of your mat, hands at your heart, eyes closed. Take a deep breath, inhale and reach your arms upwards to Urdhva Hastasana (upwards salute, image not shown), exhale as you forward fold to Uttanasana (standing forward bend, image not shown). Start to inhale towards a half way lift of the spine into Ardha Uttanasana (standing half forward fold). Option to use blocks (as illustrated here).

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2. Virabhadrasana B (Warrior 2)

Exhale step back into a plank pose, lowering down onto your knees, chest and chin. Slide onto your tummy and press into your hands. Inhale baby cobra (Bhujangasana, not shown). Exhale start to draw back into downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana, not shown) where you can walk out your legs by alternatively bending your knees. When you are ready, find stillness in your down dog and lift your right leg up and back. Step forward to a warrior two pose (Virabhadrasana B). In this pose, your front knee bends to creat a stretch in your hips, your arms engage and extend straight out from your shoulders, and your gaze, or dristhi, remains calm and steady toward your front hand. It is the second of three poses dedicated to Viabhadra, the Hindu god who incarnated as a human, who enhances the strength and stamina of both beginner and advanced yogis alike.

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3. Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior)

Hold for a few breaths before reaching up and back with your right arm into reverse warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana). Exhale release both hands inside of the front foot, option to lower the back knee into lizard pose (not shown). Hold here for a few breaths. This pose will help to open the hip flexors and soften the body in between the stronger warrior asanas.

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4. Virabhadrasana (Warrior 1)

When ready step back to down dog. Lift your left leg up and back and repeat the sequence from warrior 2, reverse warrior and lizard on this left side. After finishing via down dog, make your way to the top of the mat, remain in a forward fold, inhale to Ardha
Uttanasana (see image 1), a half-way lift before releasing the spine completely in Uttanasana, a deep forward fold. Inhale, press into your feet and raise your arms over head, looking towards your thumbs in Urdhva Hastasana (upwards salute, not shown). Exhale  bring the hands back to your heart, begin to settle your breathing.

Inhale and reach your arms upwards again to Urdhva Hastasana, exhale as you forward fold to Uttanasana. From here lean your weight into your right foot and step back with you left foot. Encourage heel to arch as you enter warrior 1 pose (Virabhadrasana A). Option to look up to your thumbs or if you’re feeling a little unsteady look directly ahead.

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5. Virabhadrasana C (Warrior 3)

Draw your left hip forward and press down into your right foot and left inner arch. Slowly draw hands to the heart, lean into your right foot and come forward into a warrior 3 pose (Virabhadrasana C). Option to either keep your hands at the heart or reach your hands forward for a bit of a challenge! Keep a little bend on the right knee to prevent locking it and engage through the left glute muscle. Hold for three full breaths before stepping back into warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana B). Can you feel the right hip externally rotate while you feel a light internal rotation of the left hip? Hold for three breaths before stepping forward and repeating on the left side.

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6. Utthita Eka Padasana (Standing Balance One Leg Pose)

A little tip! If you're finding you are off-balance in warrior three, try this pose again after practicing Utthita Eka Padasana (standing balance one leg pose). Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose, not shown) in front of your mat, keeping your feet together, arms down. Keep the shoulders relaxed, and keep your breathing relaxed and normal. Now, while deepening your breath, take both the hands onto your waist and try to lift the left leg. Hold a few breaths and move into warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana C - Image 5) from here. Try this on both sides.

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