For strengthening the hips and thighs, few poses beat Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). Hip and thigh strength is useful for many everyday activities, from going up and down stairs to bending over to pick up your grocery bags. Also, strong hips and thighs can contribute much to overall knee health and protection.Warrior Pose II derives its name from the powerful lunging thrust made with a sword used by ancient Indian soldiers to combat their foes. This lunging motion is great work for the large quadriceps muscles on the front of your thighs.
This pose can do more than just build strength. Many knee problems that arise from misalignment can be corrected with Warrior II. To check your knee alignment, stand in front of a mirror with bare legs.
If your kneecaps point straight out over the midline of your feet, this is healthy. However, if kneecap points inward and your thighbone also rotates inward in relation to your shin, this can be problematic. This position can cause undue stress on the knee ligaments and cartilage.Two actions must be focused on in Warrior II to correct this misalignment.
Stretching the hip adductors is the first thing. Do this by lying on your back perpendicular to a wall with your feet on the wall and your knees and feet bent at 90 degrees. Imagine sitting in a chair that has fallen over backward. While opening the knees to the sides, move your feet farther apart so that your shins remain perpendicular to the wall and parallel to the floor.
Allow your inner thighs to relax and stretch while you stay in this pose for 5 breaths.Then, while remaining on your back, create the form of Warrior II by leaving your right foot where it is and extending your left leg out to the side while turning your foot inward as you plant your sole on the wall. Your left arch should line up with your right heel so that a line drawn between them would be parallel to the floor. Stretch your arms out to the side and stay there for 1-2 minutes. Then repeat on the other side.Another secret for correct alignment of the bent leg in Warrior II is strengthening the external thigh rotators like the gluteus maximus.
To build these muscles, stand with your back to the wall with your feet 4 to 41/2 feet apart. Set your right foot out 90 degrees, parallel to the wall and rotate your left foot in a little. Make sure your right hip is touching the wall. Bend your right leg into Warrior II and ensure that your right thigh is parallel to the wall and your right knee points out over the center of your right foot. Then place a rolled-up yoga mat between the wall and your bent knee.
Press your knee firmly into the rolled-up mat through your left foot, keeping your left knee straight and your left thighbone pushing back toward the wall.This work to strengthen your external hip rotators and open your hip adductors will allow you to align your knees and thighs safely in Warrior II. Once you can safely engage in practicing Warrior II you can accomplish much towards strengthening the quadriceps. Practice this pose consciously and slowly. Focus on correct biomechanics.
With time and practice you will train your quads and hips to support your knees in an optimal aligned position when bending.Becoming mindful of this alignment will allow you to be aware of protecting your knees when bending and performing everyday activities. Warrior II will not only provide your yoga practice with a healthy foundation, it will extend this healthiness in your entire life.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga.
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By: Michael Russell