Adam Whiting takes us through Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III), a balancing pose that is often built up to in a sequence.
Benefits of Warrior III
Warrior III, and other poses that strengthen the posterior chain (muscles running along the back of the body) are endlessly important in the practice of asana. In an age where we have the tendency to be over concerned with extreme ranges of flexibility and more flashy postures, we must include poses like Warrior 3 that focuses on strength and stability. When done correctly, this intense balancing posture will wake up the erectors and paraspinal muscles running parallel with the spine, which will protect the vertebra and intervertebral discs. In addition to this, the lifted leg will ignite the fibres of the lower glute max and hamstrings which will wake up the muscles around the sacroiliac joint, an area that is a common trouble spot for so many yogis.
The most common misalignment in Warrior III is to open the hips, elevating the lifted leg side of the pelvis higher than the standing leg side. While in the posture, briefly place your hands on your hips with your index and middle fingers touching your frontal hip points. This will give you the proprioception point to ensure that both frontal hip points are at an equal elevation. In addition to this, remember to continue to broaden through your collar bones, thinking cobra or locust in the upper body bringing the spine into slight extension.
- Full Warrior 3 with your hands above your head is an extremely challenging variation. As with all poses, there are several modifications that you can take to experience all of the benefits while minimising the suffering. Start with your hands on two blocks, placed under your shoulders at their highest level. This will allow you to focus on finding the alignment in the back body without experiencing the load of the unsupported pose.
- The next step is to slightly bend your standing leg and place your interlaced hands just above the knee. This will lift you a little higher and necessitate more strength and balance to hold the pose.
- From there, you are ready to fly, letting the arms fly behind you, interlaced behind your back, or into the full warrior 3 variation with the hands extended over your head.
When it comes down to it, this is a balancing posture. On top of all of the strengthening aspects of the pose, your awareness also has to be fully involved with keeping yourself standing steady on one leg. Set your drishti on the floor in front of your mat to keep your head gently lifted, your spine in extension and your balance locked in.
Adam Whiting is a travelling yoga teacher and musician based in the US and Australia (adamwhitingyoga.com / @adamwhitingyoga). Photo by Tippy Dray (tippydray.com).
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