Young yogi practicing an accessible variation of  Warrior ll Pose using chair.

Accessible Yoga Poses: Kneeling Warrior Pose Variations

Kathryn Boland, R-CYT, R-DMT
Updated: 
November 30, 2022

Scroll yoga corners of social media, and it doesn't take too long to see strong Warrior Poses: Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II), Exalted Warrior Pose (Viparita Virabhadrasana), and Extended Side-Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), for example. These images (of lithe young bodies, for the most part) often exude both strength and ease. Yet these poses aren’t necessarily accessible to all bodies. They require strength and mobility not intrinsic to everyone in many regions of the body. Can these postures be more accessible yoga poses, though? 

The answer is a resounding yes! One need only make some changes to the poses’ foundations and to the upper body sometimes, depending upon a given practitioner’s needs. As accessible yoga master teacher Jivana Heyman affirms, it’s about finding the essence of a pose and its benefits. Then we can modify it to carry that essence through to a more accessible version. 

Modifying Yoga Poses For You: Accessible Yoga Poses

The following gentle yoga sequence includes Warrior yoga postures, modified to have a foundation on one knee. This makes them more universally attainable but with the essence of the traditional standing pose very much on offer. We can still benefit from strengthening, enhanced mobility, and deeper kinesthetic awareness. That’s not to mention the mental and spiritual benefits, such as feeling more centered, grounded, and empowered. 

Such fruits of practice can be available to all, including more advanced practitioners. Being able to do a more physically rigorous version of a pose does not mean that one has to. Plus, trying out yoga modifications can have wonderful things to teach us! Finally, one last note before we jump in. If your knees feel tender while practicing these kneeling poses, place a folded blanket underneath them—a yoga blanket or any household throw blanket. Or roll or fold your mat for extra padding. 

Those experiencing more significant knee issues might want to consider alternative variations. Not to worry: find the essence of the pose, and there’s a way! As always, notice what you’re experiencing in a particular pose and respond accordingly. That’s a big part of what the practice is. (It’s not athletic feats that get hundreds of likes on Instagram.) Modify yoga poses so that they’re right for you and not for any external ideal, and the practice will confer myriad benefits for all who come to it. 

Accessible Yoga Poses: 3 Warrior Pose Variations

After practicing these accessible yoga poses, practice them on the other side, starting with your right leg forward. 

Kneeling Warrior II Pose: Yoga Pose Modifications

  1. An accessible and kneeling version of Warrior ll Pose or Virabhadrasana ll Pose.From Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana), step your left foot forward into a low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) with your right knee resting on the floor. Spin your right foot toward the long left edge of your mat so that your right shin is parallel to the top (short) edge of your mat. Your hips will open to the right, naturally to some extent. Don’t try to “square” your hips. 

  2. Reach your right arm down, forward, up, and back for your spine to raise up to vertical. Extend both arms outward at shoulder level.

  3. Gaze over your left middle finger to find focus. If this bothers your neck, gaze straight ahead. Accompany that new focus with a steady breath: full and rhythmic.

  4. Your pose is established, and if it feels attainable, refine it. Let your back hip come slightly forward. This is a more sustainable alignment and can also make the pose feel better! Isometrically squeeze your front heel and your back knee toward each other to light up your inner thighs and solidify the foundation of your pose. 

  5. To further refine the pose, lift your front hip off your front thigh to align your torso directly over your hips. Check to ensure that your front thigh isn’t turning in. Instead, engage your left thigh to draw it just a little bit to the left.

  6. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths, or however long feels manageable for you. (Note that with this pose and the following ones, high blood pressure might necessitate shorter holds.) Breathe in and feel your spine grow ever so slightly taller. Breathe out and ground more deeply into your pose. Press into your front heel and bend perhaps a bit deeper into your front knee, as long as it doesn’t go notably past your front ankle. Only practice this adjustment if bending deeply doesn’t aggravate any knee complications that you may be experiencing. 

  7. Come out of the gentle yoga pose, and then take a couple of breaths to simply notice how you feel. What does your body need and not need today? 

Kneeling Exalted Warrior Pose: Reaching and Grounding

  1. Exalted Warrior Pose variation, practiced in a kneeling variation.Check back in with your alignment: torso rising off your front hip, front knee drawing ever so slightly to your left, your back hip angling just a bit forward. 

  2. Reach your front arm up and slightly back, pointing your fingers up toward the ceiling. Face your palm back toward your right leg. If you’re experiencing significant shoulder tightness or injury, reaching that arm directly up to the ceiling might be a more advisable alignment for you. 

  3. Let your gaze (Drishti) follow your front arm, looking up at your top palm. If that bothers your neck, continue looking forward or even down at your mat. 

  4. Keep your front knee bent. There’s a tendency to come out of the bend when the torso is in the more vertically lifted position here. 

  5. Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 breaths or however long it feels accessible to you. Breathe in and feel just a bit more lift and space through both sides of your torso. It’s not advisable to sacrifice length in your back side of the body to achieve a certain aesthetic or to feel as if you’re achieving a deeper pose. 

  6. Breathe out and ground deeper into your pose's foundation, pressing into your front heel and bending just ever so slightly more into your front knee, as long as it doesn't aggravate that joint. 

Kneeling Side Angle Pose: Firm Foundation and Open Space 

  1. Side Angle Pose variation, this is an accessible kneeling variation of Side Angle Pose or Parsvakonasana.In general, the foundation of this pose (the lower body) stays the same as in the previous pose while your upper body shifts. Check back in with your alignment points, as discussed. Of course, note your body's messages as you perceive them and then respond accordingly. 

  2. Slowly, gradually, and mindfully, take your arms and torso back to Warrior II alignment. Shift with care into Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana). 

  3. Place your front forearm just above your knee, on your lower thigh, avoiding direct pressure on your knee. Spin your left palm up to face the ceiling. 

  4. Your pose is set up. If you feel stable here, work on refining it. Draw your front (left) hip in and back toward the right leg. Lean your heart back to align your torso directly over your hips, as if there were a wall behind you and you were leaning back into it. Feel your bottom lung spin just slightly more to face the wall in front of you. 

  5. As with the previous poses, to the extent possible, stay here in this pose for 3 to 5 breaths. Feel your spine growing just a bit longer, through both sides, as you breathe in. Soften and release around that new length as you breathe out. 

  6. Come out of the pose by windmilling your arms down to your mat. Return to Tabletop Pose by spinning your right foot back to again point toward the back of your mat (its shorter back edge) and step your left foot back to meet your right foot. 

  7. In Tabletop Pose, enjoy any gentle movement that your body might be calling for. Or simply be still, and notice the resonance of movement through your body that’s come from your gentle yoga. Notice how it feels to practice more accessible yet still grounding and empowering poses. The essence, the rooting inward to then rise and flower outward—that’s the good stuff. 

 

Doug Keller, Yoga Teacher YogaUOnline Presenter

 

Kathryn BolandKathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and at Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, and PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity in every adversity and doing all she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!