Rework Your Warrior I Alignment
Dear Aunt Yoga,
I have read conflicting information about the proper way to do Warrior I.
I have been told and I have read that you are supposed to square your hips. I have also read that you shouldn't square your hips, you should allow them to rotate slightly to be inline with the back knee, or you can twist your back knee.
I feel awkward and uncomfortable in Warrior I. Can you provide instructions which more specifically advise how to properly square your hips without hurting your back knee?
I can and I will.
As you have noted, there is a lot of conflicting advice out there about the best and proper way to do each pose. Some types of yoga take a pretty hardline approach to enforcing their particular alignment paradigm, but most contemporary styles are more open to accepting that all bodies are different and offering a range of alignment options.
For Warrior I, the conundrum you are talking about comes from the both the Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions (not surprisingly, because Ashtanga founder Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar had the same teacher, T. Krishnamacharya). In their versions of Warrior I, the feet are set up in what we’ll call the “tightrope position,” meaning a straight line that is parallel to the long side of your mat connects heel of the front foot to the heel of the back foot, as if you were standing on a tightrope.
In this position, it is indeed very difficult for most people to both square their hips to the front and keep their back leg straight. Something has to give, and in most cases it’s the rotation of the hips. Allowing the back hip to open more in the direction of a Warrior II alignment does make some room for your leg to straighten.
But there is another way to go that allows you to keep both your hips bones pointing forward, which is, to my mind, your priority in the posture. Instead of lining up your feet in the tightrope position, line them up in the “train tracks position.” With train tracks, your move each foot out toward the side edges of your mat until you feel comfortable with your hips facing forward and your back leg straight. It could be a little, it could be a lot. It’s as simple as that.
This alignment is coming into more common usage in modern yoga because it works for more bodies. The tightrope position makes for, as you said, an awkward and uncomfortable experience. The train tracks position is still challenging, but it feels more like it was intended to be done by humans.