Warrior III is an intermediate balancing pose in yoga. This dynamic standing posture creates stability throughout your entire body by integrating all of the muscles throughout your core, arms, and legs.
This pose, called "Virabhadrasana III" (veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh) in Sanskrit, is named after the mythological Hindu warrior, Virabhadra. A tall, dark, and powerful incarnation of the god Shiva, Virabhadra is depicted with a thousand heads, a thousand arms, and a thousand flaming eyes. He embodies the fierce power required of a warrior. Practicing Virabhadrasana III will enhance your own power by building inner and outer strength, stability, and concentration.
Benefits of Warrior III Pose
Warrior III strengthens the whole back side of the body, including the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, ankles, and back. It also tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles. Warrior III improves balance, posture, and full-body coordination.
The right method of doing asanas [yoga poses] brings lightness and an exhilarating feeling in the body as well as in the mind, and a feeling of oneness of body, mind, and soul.
This pose also enhances your ability to concentrate, keeping your mind calmly focused when faced with difficulty. Learning to hone your attention while staying serene is a key to discovering the connection between your mind, body, and spirit — the true meaning of yoga.
Do not practice this pose if you are experiencing high blood pressure or heart problems. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Breathe smoothly and calmly, bringing your awareness to the present moment.
- Turn to the left and step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees so your toes point to the top of the mat. Pivot your left foot inward at a 45-degree angle. Point your pelvis and torso in the same direction as your right toes are pointing.
- Bend your right knee over your right ankle so your shin is perpendicular to the floor. Raise your arms overhead with your palms facing each other. This is Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I).
- Press your weight into your right foot. Lift your left leg as you lower your torso, bringing your body parallel to the ground. Your arms, still extended, will now reach forward.
- Flex your left foot and reach out through your heel, as if you're pressing a wall behind you.
- Keep the muscles of both legs actively engaged. Straighten your standing leg as you continue to lift the left leg, but do not lock your knees.
- Work toward bringing your arms, torso, hips, and raised leg parallel to the floor. You may need to lower the hip of your raised leg slightly in order to bring your hips parallel to your mat.
- Stretch your body from your fingertips all the way through your lifted heel.
- Gaze at the floor a few feet in front of your body.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds. To release, exhale as you softly lower your left foot back to the floor, coming again into Warrior I. Lower your arms and step forward into Mountain Pose. Repeat the pose for the same amount of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Warrior III will build balance and strength. It might take some time to be able to balance for more than a breath or two! Remember to move at your own pace. Don't be afraid to fall out of the pose. Take it slowly — stability will come with practice. Try these simple changes to find a variation of the pose that works best for you:
- If you are having difficulty balancing, try practicing the pose with a wall or chair at an arm's distance in front of you. Then lightly rest your hands on the wall or chair for support.
- To support your lifted leg as you gain strength and flexibility, rest your raised foot along the top edge of a chair, table, or ballet barre. You can also press your raised foot against a wall.
There are several arm variations for this pose. Some to try include:
- Pressing your palms together in prayer position with your arms extended forward (Anjali Mudra).
- Interlacing all ten fingers with your arms extended forward. Then releasing your index fingers and pointing them directly forward (Kali Mudra).
- Reaching your arms back alongside your torso with your palms facing your body.
- Reaching your arms back alongside your torso, and then turning your palms upward.
- Bringing your hands into reverse prayer position behind your back.
- Stretching your arms out to the sides at shoulder-level. This variation is called "Airplane Pose" (Dekasana).
Warrior III will lengthen and strengthen your whole body when done in correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Do not lock or hyperextend the knee of your standing leg. Resist your standing-leg calf muscle against the shin; this micro-movement will stabilize your lower leg.
- Do not bring your raised leg higher than your hips or your head. Work to keep your arms, trunk, and raised leg in one line.
- Keep your neck relaxed, not stiff or compressed. Reach forward through the crown of your head.
- Keep your spine in one straight line.
- Strongly engage your leg muscles.
- Relax the toes of your standing foot.
- Draw your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. This will help to protect your lower back.
- Focus on the stretch, not on the lift! It doesn't matter how high your leg goes if you don't have correct alignment. Work toward maintaining an equal balance of energy and effort in both legs.
Be a Peaceful Warrior
Practicing Warrior III can be challenging and rewarding on many levels. Learning to concentrate and balance requires inner strength and humility. Do not be afraid to fall! Simply try the pose again. With patience and dedication, you may discover your ability to face all challenges in life with grace and poise.