Dear Willow: Need Help With Warrior One

Willow Ryan

Contributor - Yoga, Massage & Bodywork

Portland, Oregon, United States


Dear Willow,


I struggle in Warrior One. What is the deal with heel-to-heel alignment? Why can’t I get my hips square and my ankle to stop hurting in Warrior One?






Dear Sloan,


Warrior One is a pose that challenges most practitioners. The specific alignment comes from old school yogis who developed their own system based on the needs of their bodies. Historically yoga was done by thin men and boys with narrow bones and hips. The U.S. is extra large in comparison, and as they say in India,“You Americans are healthy.”


warrior one, warrior 1, warrior pose, yoga, forrest yoga, willow ryanWork with your body and your bone structure. Women’s physiques and bones are lined up differently than most men. A big distinction is in regards to the hips. I personally have a broadened trochanter region (the outer part of the top end of my femur) that is wider than my actual pelvis, so for me to line up my feet heel-to-heel makes absolutely zero sense. The base becomes narrower and the pose becomes more top heavy. To mitigate discomfort and work with my own body alignment, I have my feet trochanter width apart which brings a more natural lift from the feet all the way up the body.


When people line up the feet heel-to-heel and the hips are broader than this placement, the femurs sway in (opposite of bowlegged) putting pressure on the knee joints. This knock-kneed alignment carries down into the medial shins and creates collapsed arches in the feet.




Potential complications:

  • Collapsed arches
  • Compression in sacrum and ilium (SI joint)
  • Protruding abdomen from inactivation of belly muscles
  • Sway back with butt sticking out
  • Low ribs protruding forward
  • Shoulders up by ears, compressing the neck



  • Feet too close together front to back
  • Feet not wide enough apart
  • Too much or too little bend in front knee
  • Inactive glute muscles, unable to draw the sacrum into a posterior tilt (tail tucked down)


Steps to alleviate anatomical issues in Warrior One:

  • Widen foot stance to align ankles with greater trochanters (outside edge of the top of your femur).
  • Press the lateral edge of the back foot into the floor while lifting up the plantar arch.
  • Load more trunk weight on back leg.
  • Activate glutes to line up your ASIS (the bony protrusion at the top front of your pelvis) forward and posterior pelvic tilt (tailbone down). This action frees space in the low back and decompresses the SI Joint.
  • Move the ribcage over the pelvis. This action frees up the diaphragm to draw in more oxygen and takes torso pressure off the front leg.


With all that being said these technical elements can alleviate your ankle pain and help you align your hips to be squared. The biggest learning here is to check out your own body structure and temper alignment cues by your instructor to meet your physical needs.


Breathe Deep,


(Click here for articles by Willow)



Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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