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At my cozy, crazy family’s home in Southern Illinois, my most valuable yoga practices have been those in which I can tune out the unending human clutter around me within Warrior II pose. I distinctly remember one evening while home for the holidays when my mother was performing a joyful kitchen concert of Sound of Music at the top of her lungs, my younger brother was snapchatting expressions of loudly pronounced disgust while blasting Arcade Fire on his old-school record player, my chocolate lab was ferociously barking at a cut cantaloupe, and my father was continuously pausing his vacuum cleaner to ask me grammar rules in poorly-phrased French as I tried desperately to squeeze in a yoga session in the unavoidable center of everything.
To make matters worse, I was in a phase of experimentation with my American espresso tolerance (decidedly zero) and was thus forced to practice with a racing heart, racing mind, and sweating, slipping palms. Finding concentration amidst physical and psychological chaos was a battle, to say the least. Yet instead of throwing the towel in and rolling up my mat, I simply lifted my chin and sunk deeper to find focus in my Warrior II stance.
Warrior II pose is an enigma of a yoga stance that precisely reflects the many layers of complexity that many modern warriors may add to their over-scheduled lives. We may be bombarded with over-booked overstimulation down to our commitment to ceaselessly scroll through Instagram even in the short downtime of a grocery store line. Similarly, the elements of alignment of Warrior II are intricately interwoven and anatomically loaded upon reflection. The front heel bisects the back arch if the stance were to be measured from a front-of-mat gaze. The fully grounded back foot is pointed roughly 45° toward the top corner of the mat, while the front foot is pointed straight ahead.
The back leg is strong, internally spiraled, and straight without crossing over to hyperextension, while the front leg is in external rotation and deeply bent, approaching 90° or parallel with the mat. More importantly, the front knee is in line with the toes and does not track in front of the front ankle in order to protect the knee joint – the stance should be lengthened if this alignment principle is difficult to attain. Hips and chest are moving toward square with the long edge of the mat, spine is straight, core is engaged, low ribs hug in, collar bones are open, and shoulder blades squeeze down the back. Hands are two long extensions from the heart, emanating palm-face down from straight arms.
Yet all of these scattered pieces of the anatomical puzzle simply seem to fall into place when we add in the very last jigsaw bit: the drishti, which can be roughly translated from Sanskrit as intentional gaze. Once we shift our eyes to an unmoving point straight ahead of the middle finger, perhaps closing our eyes when we find focus, we may hone in our attention to the true importance of the pose, which at its essence is to stay present within the fleeting moments on the mat. The bigger picture than the intricate inner-workings of the pose is that we are fully here, now, practicing yoga. In the flow of the moment, the pose may simply slide into place. We can recall this principle of focus off of our mats, which may inspire us to realize that there are bigger fish to fry than the number of Instagram likes we attain on our latest poetically hashtagged latte shot. By shifting our drishti to our larger career plans or life goals, we again are reminded of the telescope view of our lives. In this lens, we may then focus as we have time and time again on our yoga mats, finding the beauty that concentration amidst chaos bestows upon dream achievement.
If you have only room for one yoga pose in your own never-ending daily routine, Warrior 2 is a strong candidate. Dedicate yourself to the intricacies of the pose before focusing your drishti on to a singular point of concentration each time that you arrive in this pose on your mat. With determined effort, carry this principle of unfailing focus of the mat, no matter the extent of career challenges, romantic battles, or truly crazy family conundrums that life as a modern warrior may bring.