Hells no I didn’t set out to be a spiritual warrior. My own best thinking had me on a trajectory that likely would not have led to indoor plumbing. And while I changed that direction ages ago by giving up drugs and alcohol in my teens–minus a couple years of foray in my late 20s–I held on to intellect over love. Until everything broke. Luckily, though almost against my will, I’d begun to practice yoga. I was living in Qatar at the time, where the gyms held “ladies” hours while this “lady” was at work. It was my only fitness option, and I was physically falling apart. Mentally and emotionally I wasn’t doing so well either, but I never had any expectations on that score from the gym except maybe a bit of a calming effect. But it was through my frustration at my lack of progress, my ego swell when I did it “right,” and my boredom with day in day out hitting the mat, that I began to see how these very escapes were what I used off the mat.
Without anything lecturing, I was learning from my body’s own wisdom, how to be strong on the inside, yet soft on the outside. I am still learning this, and I expect it will continue for another 48 years or so. If I’m lucky.
Some of this information came through these very poses, because Warrior A and Warrior B seemed easy. Just something to get through til I could get on to something, ya know, juicier, like Utthita Parsvakonasana. Until, thanks to the very boredom and frustration and ego, I began to really drop into what was going on in these poses. They are hard! Here are my favorite tips:
1. Build from the ground up
Your foundation is the most important part of any pose. Warrior A & B have a different stance. In Warrior A your hips face forward. That starts at your feet. In Warrior B, you open the hips and feet and widen your stance, all the while dropping into the center. Don’t lean forward, it takes the stretch away from the hips. And finally, pretend there’s a tiny tear in your mat you want to make bigger.
2. Engage the core
I remember when I first heard you were supposed to breath that weird ujayi way throughout practice. Right. Whatever. I still can’t claim to do that perfectly, and now I’m supposed to keep my bandhas engaged at all times too? Without shrugging my shoulders? Well, yes, and these poses are the perfect place to practice that engagement. Begin with your inner arches, and imagine lifting all the muscles of your legs and abs in an up.
3. Keep your neck and shoulders (and face!) soft
Begin with the arms out to the side, palms facing the wall in front of you. Bring the hands together and lift overhead, keeping an eye on your thumbs, all the while rolling your shoulders toward each other. Don’t forget to keep that front thigh parallel to the floor. Now, smile.
And remember, child’s pose is always an option. Practice so you make it to your mat tomorrow.