Warrior 1 Alignment
I hear it all the time for yoga teachers. They really dislike Warrior 1. They even stop teaching it completely. And for such a classic pose, which is integrated into so many sequences, this is a problem. I want to share with you how to listen to your body. If Warrior 1 hurts, something isn't right. And let's consider some of the reasons it hurts, and how you might adjust your practice so Warrior 1 feels better in your body.
Why do I think its important? Again, Warrior 1 is a classic pose, and if we can help you feel better in Warrior 1, I bet your whole practice will start to feel better.
So, question 1: Do you teach "tuck tailbone" in Warrior 1?
You might have already stopped using this cue, as the cue to tuck tailbone has fallen out of favour. But you might use a cue like "lengthen your tailbone" or "move your tailbone forward". Anything related to the tailbone moving under, down or forward, do you work with that?
My advice: Stop this immediately.
Tailbone tucking is something we should do when the spine is in flexion (like cat pose). In Warrior 1, your spine is in extension, so tucking the tailbone will create a conflict between your body's design and the pose you are trying to do.
You might think "But, I have to keep myself from collapsing into my lower back, because that doesn't feel good either". I agree completely. But what if you solved that by drawing the pelvis a little backwards, or moving the torso up and forwards. Even if you are leaning a bit forward in your Warrior 1, for now. No problem. Get yourself out of pain, but without creating a different problem.
When you tuck tailbone in Warrior 1, it can create a number of different problems. First thing, it pushes your body weight forward into the pelvis. This is an issue for the leg that is extended behind you. If you feel a "deep stretch" or pain in the place where your torso becomes your leg, that is because the tailbone tuck is putting too much unsupported weight on that area. The ligaments and muscles that cross the hip joint in front don't like to be pushed into like that, especially not with the weight of your upper body also pushing down.
What you can do:
First, let go of moving the tailbone down, forward or under. You can even let it move BACKWARDS AND OUT!!! If that crunches your lower back, then lean your torso forward a bit, and see if that helps.
If you can't figure it out from there, walk around and shake out your body. Put your hand on your sacrum (the bony middle of the back of your pelvis, in between where the bum flesh and muscles are) and feel it moving as you are walking. Then take some big steps and feel what happens in your pelvis. DO NOT OVER-CORRECT. Warrior 1 is an exaggeration of walking. So what your body naturally does in walking, you want it to do in Warrior 1.
Question 2: Are you trying to line up your two feet?
For most people, lining up the tow feet in warrior 1 makes it less stable or comfortable than having the two feet as if they are on "railroad tracks", or each in their own lane. But where are these lanes, and how far apart should the feet be.
Your hip joins are about a fist distance from the midline of the body. So if you stand with your feet "hip distance apart" that is about 2 fists between the feet. So that is a good guideline for Warrior 1. Stand with the feet this distance apart, then step one leg back. KEep each leg in its own lane, or own its own track. That should help!!!
Question 2: Are you cueing or thinking of "squaring the pelvis" in Warrior 1?
We use this cue to help students distinguish between the orientation of the pelvis in Warrior 1 and Warrior 2. And it is important for the execution of the pose that we are oriented forward (the legs in the sagital plane) vs sideways (vertical plane).
But here is the thing. The pelvis is not square. There are absolutely no squares in the pelvis. And more than that, in Warrior 1 the pelvis is assymetrical. The legs are doing completely different things, and so should the 2 halves of the pelvis. (Did you know you have 2 halves of your pelvis and the move in relationship to each other? It is true and it is part of the magic of our design).
You don’t believe me, do you? Try this.
Stand near a wall for balance. Put one hand on the wall and your other hand on your “hip”. Then take the leg further from the wall and swing it forward and back. You can start small at first. With the leg swinging, you will feel the pelvis moving in relationship to the leg. As the leg swings forward, the top rim of the pelvis rolls back. As the leg swings back, the top rim moves forward. Now, try to swing your leg without letting the pelvis move AT ALL. It is nearly impossible.
When you say “square the pelvis” it is like you are trying to swing the leg without moving the pelvis. Again, you are creating an argument in your body between what should be happening when your legs are so wide apart, and what someone told you to do in Warrior 1.
So what do you do instead?
The pelvis in Warrior 1 is twisted. You can imagine it by holding a small towel or eye pillow in front of your pelvis. When you leg swung to the front, the pelvis rolled up and back. So the half of your prop representing that leg twists towards you. When the leg swung back, the pelvis rolled forward. So the half of your prop representing that side moves forward, away from you. You will see a twist in your prop. BUT you haven’t changed the orientation of your pelvis to the side. It is still warrior 1.
How to do this in your body?
Put your hands on your two “hips” (ASIS to be precise, which are also sometimes called hip pointers or hip bones). Step one leg forward or back, bigger than a normal step. You can come to the distance of Warrior 1, if you are confident, or stay a bit smaller at first. The ASIS of the front leg lifts up away from the thigh. The ASIS of the back leg rolls forward. You might be able to feel that the pelvic half of the back leg and the leg itself create one diagonal line.
Same as above, if this causes the lower back to feel collapsed or crunched, then bring the torso forward. It is ok to lean a bit forward for now with the pose. But, now, also check that the ASIS of the front leg hasn’t collapsed forward. If you lift that ASIS up, you might feel the pelvis swivel towards the front leg, or you might feel some of the extension (backbend) taken out of the lower spine. You must do both parts (rolling up and back on one side, and forward on the other) at the same time and with equal intensity. In fact, I think it should really be equal ease. This is not about trying to fix the pelvis, although for some people the range of movement is less natural and available. It should be about finding the natural movement in the pelvis that allows the pose to feel good.
Another way in
Stand with on foot about a metre in front of the other, like the size of a big step. Then, push off your front foot (a bit like jumping off of it.) You will feel that the impulse pushes the torso backwards in space. If you push off the back foot, it sends the torso forward in space. Warrior 1 alignment happens when those two forces are balanced in the body. Now try again with your feet even wider, more like Warrior 1. Push back and forwards a few times, and get the sensation in your body. Then make the pushing off smaller and smaller, like you are doing both at once. The push from your front leg lifts the torso up. Th push from the back, sends it forwards. This particular one can help if your lower back feels crunched. Push more from the back leg and see if that helps.