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The Strength & Balance of Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

This month has me thinking about strength & balance and one of my favorite poses that truly reflects this is one of the Warrior Series Poses – Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III).

We need strength to keep our balance when things go awry in life. And doesn’t it seem like JUST when things are swimming along perfectly that something comes along that trows us off balance?

Yoga not only gives us the strength to hold the pose but it also gives us the strength to show up and protect our kids, our crew, our tribe. Strength can be the capacity to accept where we are wholeheartedly and be happy or make the commitment to change what needs to be changed in order to move forward. It can mean speaking your mind, sticking up for what you know is right for yourself or for someone else.

Being strong takes gusto, guts and fortitude.

It takes practice.

And that brings us to the secret of perfect balance – strength.

It is strength that keeps us upright, standing tall, fully balanced – both figuratively and literally. It is mental fortitude and focus as much as it is muscle, fiber and bone.

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Cue Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)…

This is the perfect blend of strength and balance and good medicine for what life throws our way.

To get into Warrior III:

Always start with some sun salutes to warm up.

From Tadasana (standing tall at the front of your mat) bring your hands to heart center.

Find Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha (lift the pelvic floor – bathroom muscles/mula bandha & scoop your belly – navel to spine/uddiyana bandha).

Keep your spine long and the core of your body strong using those bandhas.

Hinging from your left hip just play around with what it feels like to start to lift the right leg out behind you (keeping it long) while allowing your torso to balance the weight of the lifted leg by moving forward (with long spine).

Your leg and torso will work like a lever while you pivot at the hip of the standing leg. Keeping the two balanced is really helpful – as the leg lifts higher, your torso moves the equal distance forward.

All the muscles of the standing leg will have to work to get into the pose this way. You might feel it all the way into the glute and hip.

Once you’ve gone as far as is comfortable for your body (remember, everyone is different so if your leg is only barely lifted and torso barely moving forward, it still counts!), begin to reach the arms wide or even long bringing your arms in alignment with your ears as you gaze down as your torso becomes parallel to the floor.

Keep a long spine and check to make sure that pelvic floor is still lifted and navel is moving in toward spine.

If your leg is fully lifted, square your hips (it requires a good deal of core strength to do this).

Keep the knee of the standing leg soft so you don’t lock out that knee and hyper extend it.

Allow your weight to be equal in the whole bottom of the foot that is on the ground (not just the inner or outer foot).

Try not to grip with the toes.

Stay there for 5 long inhales and exhales.

Notice what throws you off balance and what makes you wobble. See if you can hang with whatever that is and STILL keep your balance.

It can be tricky. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. Love yourself right where you are and be proud!

Be sure to work both sides of your body (left leg lifted then right leg lifted) using the cue points listed above. If you normally get into your Warrior III from another pose like high lunge or standing splits (which is how I like to teach it) give yourself the challenge of working the pose from the front of your mat as listed above. You might find you get access to new muscles and can deepen the pose that way.

To modify the pose:

  • Use a block or stack of books behind the leg that is lifting…you can touch your toes to the block for stability. You can also use a wall for this but you’ll need to be far enough away that the wall doesn’t inhibit movement.
  • Grab a partner! Start facing your partner with your hands on their shoulders and their hands on your shoulders. Walk back bending from the hips until your arms and torso create a “table top” then lift your left leg using the cue points listed above. Be sure to do both legs!
  • Use a chair for support. Place palms in the seat of the chair or on the back of the chair as you lift the leg. Just remember if you do this to keep your spine long, pelvic floor lifted and navel moving to spine.

The benefits of this pose in particular are outstanding:

  • Invigorates and energizes
  • Strengthens the legs, ankles, shoulders and back
  • Tones the entire body, but especially your core area (abdomen)
  • Improves memory and concentration
  • Encourages better posture

So…as always, let me know how it goes! What did you love about Warrior III and what part did you find challenging? Leave a comment below!

All well wishes!
Sonya

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