Reverse Warrior Guide: Mastering Viparita Virabhadrasana

Written by:

Joanne Highland

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published date:

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Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) is a gentle backbend that stretches the side body and strengthens the lower body.

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Key Takeaway

Reverse Warrior Pose, or Viparita Virabhadrasana, is a dynamic asana that balances effort with ease. It strengthens the lower body while opening the chest and side body, improving respiration and boosting energy. Learn proper alignment, breath cues, and tips for integrating this asana into your next session with complementary yoga poses.

Alternate name:Viparita Virabhadrasana
Difficulty level:Beginner
Pose category:Standing backbend
Muscle groups:Quadriceps (front thigh of the bent leg)
Hamstrings (back thigh of the bent leg)
Gluteus Maximus (buttocks of the bent leg)
Adductors (inner thigh of the straight leg)
Abductors (outer thigh of the straight leg)
Calves (both legs)
Ankle stabilizers (both ankles)
Obliques (side torso of the extended side)
Intercostal muscles (between the ribs of the extended side)
Erector Spinae (lower back)
Deltoids (shoulders)
Trapezius (upper back)
Latissimus Dorsi (mid-back)
Rotator Cuff (shoulder stabilizers)
Triceps (back of the upper arm of the lifted arm)
Biceps (front of the upper arm of the arm sliding down)
Forearm muscles (both arms)
Wrist extensors and flexors (both wrists)
Core muscles (abdominals)
Physical benefits:Strengthens the glutes, leg muscles, and ankles; increases spinal mobility and flexibility.
Therapeutic applications:Strengthens leg muscles; increases spinal mobility and flexibility.
Preparatory poses:Malasana (Garland Pose)
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Cat and Cow Stretch (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
Counterposes that follow well:Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Chakras activated:Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
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For yoga teachers like myself who take a dynamic approach to yoga, guiding students through movements paired with breaths, Reverse Warrior Pose is an all-time favorite.

Viparita Virabhadrasana (its Sanskrit name) is a pose that builds power and creates expansion in the body. I love how this asana perfectly demonstrates yoga’s dualistic qualities: effort and ease, strength and grace, stability and flow.

I prefer to incorporate Reverse Warrior Pose into my yoga sequences using breath cues to cultivate mindful awareness. Even when held statically, this pose works the leg muscles and stretches the side body in a way that always leaves me feeling physically energized.

I may be biased as a yoga instructor, but I have a feeling you’re also going to love this empowering pose. Stick with me here as we expand your Warrior Pose knowledge with this invigorating backbend variation.

Watch our recommended steps for entering, holding, and exiting the pose.

Viparita Virabhadrasana Basics

Although Reverse Warrior Pose is a modern posture, it is rooted in the yogic tradition. Named after Virabhadra, a fierce soldier from Hindu mythology, this pose embodies strength and grace.

Viparita Virabhadrasana is a variation of Virabhadrasana II. While the classic versions of Warrior I, II, and III are detailed in B.K.S. Iyengar’s 1966 book Light On Yoga, this pose developed much more recently.

Thanks to the yoga boom of the past few decades, we’ve seen many creative new variations added to the library of yoga poses.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Reverse Warrior Pose

Any yoga teacher will tell you that the secret to Viparita Virabhadrasana is in creating a strong foundation. Your set-up will be the same as Warrior II Pose, so let’s begin there.

Create Your Foundation

  1. Stand in Warrior II with your right foot forward.
  2. Bend your right knee, bringing the right thigh parallel to the ground.
  3. Keep your left leg straight and ground down through the outer edge of the left foot.
  4. Extend both arms out from your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and gaze over the fingers of your right hand.

Alignment checkpoint: before proceeding to the next step, follow these cues to be sure you’re properly set up:

  • Be sure your feet are separated wide enough that the bent knee of your front leg does not move forward past the ankle.
  • Your front knee points in the same direction as the toes of your front foot rather than collapsing inward.
  • Your shoulders and hips are open to the side, and your core is engaged to support your torso.

Now, you’re ready to continue into Viparita Virabhadrasana.

Entering the Pose

  1. Flip your right hand over, palm facing the ceiling.
  2. Inhale deeply and grow taller through the crown of your head.
  3. Exhale and start to lean back, lifting your right arm over your head. Open your heart to the sky while keeping both sides of your waist long.
  4. As you come into this small backbend, slide your left arm down the back of your left leg. Press your left hand into the back of your thigh for stability without putting too much weight on it.
  5. Shift your gaze up to follow your right hand.
  6. Stay in this position for a couple of breaths, feeling your right side body lengthen.

Exiting the Pose Safely

  1. Press down through both feet to maintain your stable foundation.
  2. Engage your core to support your spine as you prepare to move.
  3. With an inhale, return to Warrior II Pose.

Finally, pivot to the other side and practice Reverse Warrior Pose with your left leg in front.

Tips from a Yoga Teacher

Here are some cues I always share with my students when practicing Reverse Warrior Pose:

  • Keep driving forward into your front leg. There is a tendency to shift your weight toward the back leg as you lean into the backbend. However, nothing in your legs should change.
  • Think about lifting your heart first, then arching back like a rainbow rather than bending from the waist.
  • As you reach one arm toward the ceiling, I’ve noticed a tendency to let the shoulder creep up toward the ear. Press your shoulder down, keeping length in the neck.

Modifications and Variations for Different Skill Levels

Supportive Modifications

If you are working on improving your mobility, you can easily modify the reverse warrior pose by altering the position of your arms or feet. Try these modifications and see what feels best to you.

  • Rather than sliding your arm down your back leg, bend your elbow and place your hand on your hip or lower back. This will help your torso feel more supported.
  • Place your back foot against a wall to help yourself balance.
  • Only lift your front arm to a height that is comfortable for your shoulder.
  • Shorten your stance with the front knee only slightly bent if you have trouble balancing or are lacking strength in your leg muscles.

Deepen the Pose

Intermediate and advanced students might seek extra challenges in their practice. Here are a couple of ways you can intensify the backbend and add strength.

  • Bend your top arm and bring your hand to the back of your head. Let your head drop back into your hand as your chest lifts.
  • Try lifting onto the ball of your back foot to challenge your balance and strengthen your ankles and calves.
  • Add a half bind by reaching your lower arm around your lower back, bringing your fingertips toward your front hip.
Deepen the side body stretch by reaching your bottom arm around your lower back.

Benefits of Reverse Warrior Pose

Physical Gains

The reverse warrior pose offers a range of physical benefits.

  • Strengthens the glutes, leg muscles (thighs and calves), and ankles
  • Stretches the hips and side body
  • Increases spinal mobility and flexibility
  • Opens the ribcage, increasing breath capacity
  • Builds balance
  • It increases circulation and boosts energy

Mental Boosts

Reverse Warrior Pose also contributes to mental well-being.

  • Boosts focus and concentration as you balance
  • Fosters mindfulness and breath awareness
  • Calms the mind as you breathe deeply
  • Encourages emotional release as a heart-opening pose

Reverse Warrior Pose Contraindications

Not everyone should attempt the Reverse Warrior Pose. Students experiencing any of the following should practice this pose with caution.

  • Severe back pain, spinal injury, or neck issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Issues in the hip, knee, or ankle joints
  • Pregnancy, as balancing your weight is more difficult

In these cases, you may be able to use a modified body position. However, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider before incorporating this asana into your routine.

Yoga Sequence Integration and Transition Tips

Preparatory Poses

To prepare the body for Reverse Warrior Pose, you should focus on warming up the legs, spine, and hips.

Malasana and Bound Angle will help open your hips while twisting poses, Cat and Cow Stretch, and Standing Crescent get your spine ready.

Since Reverse Warrior Pose engages the whole body, I also recommend flowing through a couple of Sun Salutations so your muscles are warm.

Follow-up Poses

After practicing the Reverse Warrior Pose, it’s important to counterbalance the stretch. I usually follow with an Extended Side Angle, Wide-Legged Forward Fold, or Triangle Pose.

No matter where your flow takes you, try to transition mindfully by pairing your movement with an inhale or exhale. This approach will help you avoid the tendency to rush through pose transitions.

Sequence Suggestion

My favorite way to practice Reverse Warrior Pose is in a mini-flow with Warrior II and Extended Side Angle. Here’s how:

  1. Begin in Warrior II, taking a deep breath in.
  2. Exhale to an Extended Side Angle, bringing your front forearm to your front thigh.
  3. Inhale and return to Warrior II.
  4. With your next exhale, transition to the Reverse Warrior Pose.
  5. Keep this flow going, each movement connected to an inhale or exhale.

Keep your bottom half completely stable so your upper half is free to flow like water, moving fluidly as you follow your breaths.

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Mastery of Reverse Warrior Pose

Reverse Warrior Pose is all about finding your flow and moving with your breath. Tap into what the pose feels like.

Mastering the Reverse Warrior Pose is a practice of connecting your movement to your breaths. My advice as a yoga teacher is to not worry so much about what your Reverse Warrior Pose looks like; instead, feel the complementary sensations of strength and stretch. Feel your lower body ground down while lifting your upper body skyward.

Use the cues you’ve learned here to practice safe alignment, of course! As a backbend, you must keep your spine supported in this pose. But try to approach the movement fluidly, without straining. Over time, flexibility will follow.

Try incorporating Reverse Warrior Pose into your yoga sequences like a moving meditation. Moving like water, using each inhale and exhale to change position between yoga poses, your mind will become calm as you enter a heightened state of flow.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Reverse Warrior Pose?

Reverse Warrior Pose, also known as Viparita Virabhadrasana, is a standing yoga posture that stretches and strengthens the body while focusing on balance and stability.

Can beginners attempt the Reverse Warrior Pose?

Yes, beginners can practice this asana with modifications such as using a wall for support if needed, or they may alter the position of the arms and feet.

What are some advantages of practicing the Reverse Warrior Pose?

Practicing this pose can enhance the range of motion in the spine and hips, strengthen leg muscles, stimulate abdominal organs, and improve respiratory function.

How should I incorporate the Reverse Warrior Pose into my yoga sequences?

Reverse Warrior Pose can be integrated following standing yoga poses like Triangle or Extended Side Angle. You can practice it as a static pose or in dynamic yoga sequences.

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About Joanne Highland

Joanne Highland is a 500-hour certified yoga and barre fitness teacher. Originally from the central coast of California, she attended the University of Southern California, graduating in 2007 with a degree in music and a minor in health promotion. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn | Personal Website

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