I was blessed to be able to spend some time this weekend with Noah Maze, an amazing yoga teacher based in LA. One of our practices focused on Virabhradrasa I. When I say focused, I mean we did the pose about 1000 times! :) While that may be a slight exaggeration, we did do the pose a lot. Noah had us take a picture of our first attempt to show us that sometimes the posture that we THINK we are doing is different from the posture that we ARE doing. If you come in to Vira I the way that BKS Iyengar suggests in Light on Yoga, your knee will be directly over your heel and your hips will point straight ahead. In the first picture, I was CERTAIN that I was doing this. Over time (two + hours) I was able to make subtle adjustments to my posture to make it look like it does in the second picture (the lighthearted encouragement from other students around me was also helpful!) Shortening and widening the base,and opening up the hip flexors, calves, hamstrings and glutes were all important adjustments to make.
As Noah said, I had to "Use the pose to get into the pose." There are still things I can do to "improve" this pose, but I need to take my time and listen to my body. The next time you step on to your mat, really pay attention to what you are feeling when you come into the posture. Try making subtle adjustments to different aspects of the pose and notice if it feels better for your body. If you ever have questions about a posture, feel free to ask!