September 23, 2014

Why the Bleep Are We Still Holding Warrior II?


Fifty pairs of eyes plead with me as I tell them, “Five more breaths.”

I briefly channel Sookie Stackhouse, imaging the student’s collective inner thought that they have already been in the pose for 20. “Why the bleep are we holding Warrior II for so long?”

Yogis are brave spiritual soldiers. For 90 minutes a class, asana practitioners choose to go into the uncomfortable.  They breathe through discomfort and challenging holds, not to get a nicer butt (although this is definitely a by-product!), but to observe the quality of the mind when it is confronted.

Standing asanas include Warriors I through III, Trikonasana (triangle) and Crescent pose, to name a few. They are safe and accessible. Almost every type of practitioner from beginner to advanced, elderly to child can do them.

Unless wildly misaligned, they can be held for long periods because the risk of injury is relatively low. They are also grounding. A standing pose by definition means that we are on our feet and in our legs. In turn, they provide practitioners a sense of stability.

On an even deeper level, standing postures build confidence.

Psychological studies show that when one stands tall and takes up space, like outstretching the arms in Warrior II, levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower. Long holds in standing poses are opportunities to practice inner equanimity no matter the external circumstance. It is amazing that making a shape with the body can actually teach someone how to be a more self-assured and calm person.

Yet in order for these powerful effects to take place, a pose must be held for some time. Flowing through poses is fun and has its benefits, but because of the dynamic nature, there is no stillness and therefore no opportunity to sit in and experience what is happening.

When we pause we can observe our reactions. It is hard to catch ourselves when we are already onto the next thing.

Life is constantly moving, the hamster wheel ever turning. Our practice is the time to stop and the standing poses are the section of class where we can do that. So the next time the teacher holds you in Warrior II and you think to yourself, “Why the bleep am I still in this pose?”—stand back, relax and breathe into the experience.

You will be taking a vinyasa before you know it.





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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr

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John Sep 24, 2014 12:41am

"Flowing through poses is fun and has its benefits, but because of the dynamic nature, there is no stillness and therefore no opportunity to sit in and experience what is happening"

That may be the case for you. The whole point of flowing through poses is that is the best way to achieve that internal stillness. For some of us stillness is easier to achieve by flowing than by being static. All those people saying "be like water" are not thinking of a stagnant puddle.

I'd disagree about "Warriors I through III, Trikonasana (triangle) and Crescent pose" being safe, easy, or accessible too, to be honest. There are a tiny minority of people who do them "correctly" without too much effort because the shape of their hip bones suit these poses. Most people are just compressing in the knees, hips, and lower spine. I know at least one very respected teacher who doesn't teach Warrior 3 to most students because of what she's seen thousands of students do to their hips in it. I know a few older yogis who trained the traditional way for decades with long holds in these standing poses and are now looking at hip operations as a result. Look around a class holding warrior 1 and you'll see most of the students doing all the things teachers warn are "dangerous" in back bends and twists plus a few that aren't good for their knees. As for easy – well, I'm glad for you that you find them easy, but I find them far harder to do well than pretty much any other poses my skeleton is capable of.

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Sarah Ezrin

Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading teacher trainings, workshops, and retreats. She is a writer and regular contributor for many publications. A background in psychology and life coaching infuse her classes, which are dynamic and alignment-based. For Sarah, yoga is beyond the postures; it is about connecting to one’s brightest and most authentic Self. Life should be spent laughing with those we love and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! For more information on Sarah please visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.