Not just any warrior, but a peaceful warrior. We have enough anger, resentment, and self-infliction in the world, but practicing the warrior poses alongside healing breathing exercises is a safe and fun way for a child, young adult, and grown-up to feel more powerful and brave towards conflicting situations and emotions.
These poses help to provide strength – physically and mentally, an inward and outward focus, balance of form and emotion, feeling as a part of a peaceful tribe, and so much more.
But just as with anything, it takes practice. With consistency the child will feel results much sooner than you think. I have found my own students on numerous occasions taking a break from work cycle to do a few warrior poses outside. Hmmm.. Did I mention motivation, decompression, and self-respect?
So here are three yoga poses to help our children become peaceful warriors – within and without…
I. Virabhadrasana I – Warrior I (I am STRONG)
1. Begin with your feet together in mountain pose.
2. Then, bring your left foot behind you about a leg’s distance apart until your right knee can bend until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Your left foot should be flat on the floor with the toes pointing in as far as possible (about a 40 degree angle).
3. Take a big breath in as your lift your arms up over your head like you’re about to shoot up into the sky. Arms are strong and fingers are pointing straight upwards. Shoulders are relaxed. Find a drishti and after your next big breath in, say, I am strong with calm force as though you truly believe it. Stay in Warrior I for another 3-5 breaths and continue saying I am strong after every inhale.
4. On your last exhale bring your left foot back to the front in mountain pose, then repeat the same steps for the left side by bringing your right foot back behind you this time.
5. End back in mountain pose.
II. Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II (I am BOLD)
1. Begin with your feet together in mountain pose. Bring your left foot back behind you as you did in Warrior I, with the back foot slightly turned in (if that’s too hard to grasp, then just having it in an L-shape is fine).
2. Take a big breath in as you lift your arms out to the sides and parallel to the ground until it looks as though you are about to fly. Make sure your shoulders are down away from your ears and you are relaxed. Smile, you are a Warrior! After another big breath in, say to yourself or out loud I am bold! Stay in Warrior II for 3-5 more big breaths.
3. On your last exhale bring your left foot to meet your right foot as you come back to mountain pose, then repeat the same steps for your left side by bringing your right foot back behind you this time.
4. End back in mountain pose.
III. Virabhadrasana III – Warrior III (My own balance I can HOLD)
1. Begin with your feet together in mountain pose. On your next big breath in, lift your arms up over your head in tall mountain.
2. On your next exhale, very slowly lift your right leg up off the floor while you bend forward at the hips. Keep the standing leg very strong, and it is ok if you bend it slightly.Bring your arms slowly out to the side as though you are flying.
Say, My own balance I can HOLD! For younger kids, you can pretend to be an airplane by making airplane sounds and moving your body from side to side. For older kids, you can hold this pose for as long as their balance will allow. Many kids like to make a big deal out of losing balance and falling to the ground. I try to gear them away from this by telling them that if they feel they are about to fall then to simply put the foot back down and start over again.
3. Come back to mountain pose and repeat the same steps on the other side. Then, end in mountain pose – right back where you started!
Putting it all together:
So now that you know your warrior poses you are ready to put them together into one sequence without coming back to mountain pose between each pose. This is when it really gets fun for the kids, because they move into each pose and say the affirmations along with them as though its a tribal warrior yoga dance.
Simply go from mountain pose to Warrior I, then open your arms and hip to Warrior II, then very slowly lift the back leg up and square your hips to Warrior III. I am STRONG! I am BOLD! My own balance I can HOLD! Then play with Airplane if you’d like. Finally, come back to mountain pose to do the other side.
For older kids, you may not need to use the affirmations for each pose but I feel it’s all in how you introduce it. For younger kids, they really like to announce each mantra loud and clear. For older kids, I have found that they will either mutter it to themselves or not say it at all (but are possibly repeating it in their minds, which is just fine too).
When moving into each pose, be sure to show how a big, calm breath is taken in before saying each mantra. The breath is always a very important part of the practice, but the child does not need to feel forced or it will no longer be fun and he will most likely lose interest.
I’d like to give a big, heartfelt credit to Karma Kids Yoga in New York City for providing the wonderful affirmations included with each Warrior pose during my children’s yoga teacher training several years ago.