Woman doing Warrior 2 pose on beach

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How to Do Warrior 2 Pose, According to Experts

Want to simultaneously stretch and strengthen your body? Practice Warrior 2 pose next time you're on the yoga mat.

By K. Aleisha FettersJanuary 23, 2024


If you want to properly practice Warrior 2 Pose, known as Virabhadrasana 2 in Sanskrit, you need a combination of mental focus, balance, and strength. It might sound intimidating (especially for beginners), but in reality, this standing yoga posture is relatively straightforward and easy to modify.

“Warrior 2 is a strong posture that not only helps build strength, but it’s also wonderful for tapping into your personal power,” says Tara Salay, a New York-based physical therapist and yoga instructor. So, if you’re just starting your yoga practice, add Warrior 2 to your list of must-learn poses, and if you’re experienced, double check that your form is topnotch.

Below, Salay and Peloton instructor Kirra Michel walk us through how to do Warrior 2 and discuss common form mistakes, helpful modifications, and more.

What Is Warrior 2 Pose (Virabhadrasana 2)?

Warrior 2 is a standing yoga posture that appears in many types of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, and power yoga. When you do it, you position your legs in a wide stance that provides you with a strong, sturdy foundation. Your back is straight, your arms extend straight out from your shoulders, and your eyes gaze over your front hand, as if you’re looking toward a battle in the distance.

What Muscles Does Warrior 2 Pose Work?

Warrior 2 works muscles in two ways: strengthening and stretching.

Strengthened Muscles

  • Thighs, including your quads and hamstrings, which help your front leg stay in a bent position.

  • Glutes, which stabilize your pelvis and help you return to a standing position.

  • Core muscles, including your transverse abdominis (your deepest abdominal muscle) and your lower back muscles, which stabilize and support your spine.

  • Shoulder muscles, which extend and stabilize your arms as you hold them out.

Stretched Muscles

  • Hip flexors, the muscles at the fronts of your hips that stretch as you draw them toward the long side of your mat.

  • Groin and inner thigh muscles, which you engage in your back leg while holding Warrior 2.

  • Chest muscles, which stretch as you activate and extend your arms.

  • Calves, which stretch as you press both heels firmly against the floor.

What Are the Benefits of Warrior 2 Pose?

Warrior 2 Pose comes with major benefits, such as:

  • Strengthening your legs, primarily your quads and hamstrings since these muscles are your Warrior 2 foundation.

  • Improving your posture as you root your legs into the floor and stand tall.

  • Opening your chest and hips as you position your body toward the long side of the mat.

  • Building stability throughout your entire body as you balance in the pose.

How to Properly Do Warrior 2

GIF Kirra Michel doing Warrior 2 Pose

To do Warrior 2 with correct form, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Stand facing the long edge of your mat with your feet double hip-width distance apart.

  2. Point the toes of your back foot toward the long side of your mat and the toes of your front foot toward the front of your mat.

  3. Lift your chest, roll your shoulders back, and extend your arms straight out from your shoulders so they’re parallel to the floor. Keep your palms facing down.

  4. Bend your front knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor at about 90 degrees (or as close to 90 degrees as you can comfortably get).

  5. Keep your torso upright and turn your head forward so you can gaze over your front hand’s fingers. Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.

  6. Hold this position for three to five slow breaths.

  7. Press through your front foot to return to a standing position and repeat it on the other side.

Warrior 2 Pose Variations and Adjustments

If you want to make Warrior 2 easier or more challenging (or you just want to mix things up), consider taking a variation. “It’s so important to practice yoga poses in a way that suits your unique body,” Salay says. “We all have individual needs, and what proves effective for one person might differ for another.” Consider the following options:

Beginner: Warrior 2 with a Chair

Kirra Michel doing Warrior 2 with chair

If holding Warrior 2 is too challenging for your leg muscles, use a chair for support.

  1. Sit on a stool or chair (if it has a back, put it on your right side). Your legs should be in front of you, with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. 

  2. Extend your left leg straight behind you, turning your toes out to face the side of the mat. 

  3. Extend your arms straight out to your sides and fix your gaze just past your fingertips.

  4. Hold this position for three to five breaths, with your butt resting on the chair at all times. 

  5. Bring your back leg forward and switch sides.

Intermediate: Reverse Warrior

Kirra Michel Reverse Warrior 2 GIF

Warrior 2 flows seamlessly into Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana). To do this pose from a standard Warrior 2, reach your back hand to your back leg and your front arm overhead, allowing for a slight backbend. Aside from this extra step, nothing about your Warrior 2 form changes in this pose.

“In Reverse Warrior, you receive all the benefits you would in Warrior 2, with the addition of stretching the side of your torso,” Salay explains. 

Advanced: Warrior 2 with a Raised Heel

“For an advanced version, keep the same alignment as in a traditional Warrior 2 Pose and lift your front heel so that you’re on the ball of the foot or toes,” Salay says. “This adds a balance challenge and builds the strength of your calf muscle.” As you get more comfortable, progress from holding this pose for three breaths to five breaths.

Warrior 2 Pose Mistakes to Avoid

Earlier, we mentioned that Warrior 2 is relatively straightforward, but there’s still plenty of room for error. Here are some of the most common missteps, along with advice from Kirra and Salay on how to fix your form.

  • Your front knee falls in or out. This misalignment can put excess pressure on the inside or outside of your knee, increasing the risk for pain or injury. Keep your front knee forward, aligning it with your second and third toes.

  • Your stance is too narrow (or too wide). An incorrect stance can put stress on your joints, including your front knee and ankle. Keep your front knee stacked directly above your ankle. If it extends beyond your ankle, it’s a sign you need to widen your stance. If it’s behind your ankle, move your feet closer together.

  • You dump weight into your front leg. Warrior 2 is meant to strengthen both legs simultaneously, but that won’t happen if you’re leaning forward. Hold your torso upright to keep your weight equally distributed between both legs. 

  • Your butt sticks out or your pelvis is tucked under. Allow your pelvis to relax while actively drawing your hips down toward the ground. Maintaining a neutral spine and pelvis is the best way to avoid adding stress to your lower back, so draw your navel toward your back body (and don’t forget to engage your core). 

  • You push through pain. You should never ignore pain, but if you’re unsure whether you need to back off, pay attention to your breath. Holding your breath is a sign you’ve gone too far, so consider taking a modification until you can breathe slowly and deeply in this pose.

How Far Should I Spread My Feet in Warrior 2? 

Separating your feet about double hip-width distance apart is a good rule of thumb. However, the optimal stance for you depends on how deeply you want to lower into the pose, Salay says.

“If you want to make your Warrior 2 more challenging, take a wider stance with a deeper bend in the front knee," Salay says. You can do that with a more narrow stance, but then your front knee won’t bend as much. Be patient with yourself and monitor how your body feels. As Kirra says, “It may take time to build up to this pose, and you don’t have to automatically have your front knee at a 90 degrees if it causes pain or deep discomfort."

You can always challenge yourself to more advanced variations after working on your strength, balance, and flexibility. The most important thing, regardless of which modification you take, is to keep your front knee directly over your ankle, tracking in line with your second and third toes.

What Is the Difference Between Warrior 2 and Warrior 1?

There are three main differences between Warrior 2 and Warrior 1, and knowing them will help you flow more easily between these foundational poses.

  • Hips and torso: In Warrior 2, your hips face the side or long edge of your mat while your gaze is fixed toward the front of the mat. In Warrior 1, your entire body faces the front edge of the mat.

  • Feet: In Warrior 2, your feet are perpendicular to each other. Your front toes point to the front of the mat and your back toes point to the side of the mat. In Warrior 1, your back foot is less turned out, with your toes pointed toward the corner of the mat.

  • Arms: In Warrior 2, your arms drop to be parallel to the floor. In Warrior 1, your arms are straight overhead.

Practice: Try a Yoga Sequence with Warrior 2 Pose

For more guidance as you practice Warrior 2, Peloton App users can take Kirra’s 20-Minute Focus Flow: Warrior 2. Once you feel comfortable in the pose, the next step is integrating it into a sequence, like the one in this 30-Minute Yoga Flow, also taught by Kirra. This active, Vinyasa-style class is a great opportunity to practice flowing between poses and linking movements with your breath. Just remember to listen to your body and never push through pain. Yoga is an ongoing practice, even for those who have been doing it for decades.


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