Yoga Pose of the Week: Warrior III

Get your Warrior III pose on.

Last week we explored Virabhadrasana II and the importance of building roots to find balance and stability. This week’s posture, Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) is a great continuation of these principles. Virabhadrasana III strengthens and tones the ankles, shins and thighs, while building strength in the back and shoulders as well. It is a difficult shape that takes focus and attention. When properly warmed up and aligned, you will be able to enjoy the freedom and lightness within the challenge of the shape.

To find Virabhadrasana III, let’s first come into Crescent Lunge. This shape will help you to find your roots and alignment so you can take flight safely and intentionally.

  1. Begin at the top of your mat in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
  2. Inhale to lift your arms overhead.
  3. Keep your spine long as you hinge forward to Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).
  4. Place your hands lightly on the floor and use the strength in your belly to send your right foot behind you to the back of your mat.
  5. Extend out through your right heel. Think about lifting the space behind your kneecap.
  6. Root down into your left big toe mound and into your left pinky toe evenly.
  7. Now, keeping your fingertips light on the floor, draw into your low belly and begin to find strength from your center. Once you have your foundation, lift your arms up overhead–maintaining the energy in your legs and in your center.
  8. Let your attention rest in your center. From there, notice your energy lifting up toward the sky. Remember to keep the shoulders soft and relaxed even as the hands reach up. Hold here in Crescent Lunge for five full breaths.

To transition into Virabhadrasana III you will need to harness the energy in your center and keep your front leg strong and connected to the earth. The more focused and present you remain, the more balanced your shape will be.

  1. To take flight, first find your breath.
  2. Reach your arms forward alongside your ears. Your torso should stay strong as it hovers over your front thigh.
  3. Next, soften into your front knee, and begin to bring your weight into your front leg. Be sure to spread the weight evenly so you are not leaning too far forward into your toes­–but instead you are pressing down through your heel and toes evenly.
  4. Keep the torso toned and the arms extended as you lift your back foot from the ground.
  5. As you lengthen your spine and even out your back, think about a long line from your fingertips to your toes–so that energy from your center is moving through the length of your body evenly.
  6. Soften the muscles in your face and be sure to keep the back of the neck soft and long. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.

There are several key principles to consider in Virabhadrasana III.

First, the hips should be level. It is common for the raised leg to draw the hip up (in this case, the right hip), when it should stay even. It helps to think about the inseam of your raised leg (the right leg) turning up toward the sky.

Also, try not to lose the attention in your right toes–the foot should stay flexed with toes pointing straight to the floor and energy extending out through the center of your arch.

As you root down through your toes and energize your standing leg, remember to keep your knee soft so it is not hyper-extended.

To release, you can move out of the shape the same way you came in, or just lower your right foot down to meet your left and soften to Uttanasana. Rest here and when your ready, switch sides. Notice the differences in your body from side to side. And notice the level of awareness and attention it takes to root down and find stable ground.

Emily Buchholtz is a yoga instructor in Portland, OR. She believes everyone can benefit from a little more yoga.