WARRIOR III – VIRABHARDASANA III
The Yoga Sutra includes three warrior poses representing an epic scene narrated in the Hindu Mythology:
The name warrior might seem strange in a non-violent discipline such as Yoga, although we should think of a warrior fighting against ignorance, and especially the lack of knowledge of oneself, which is source of sorrow for human beings.
I love warrior asanas for the width and body extension they allow, conveying a sense of strength, power and braveness.
You can enter in Warrior II either from Warrior I or from Tadasana. Let’s pick the latter option.
From Mountain pose, feet parallel to each other hips width apart and toes spread on the mat, inhale and reach your arms up to the sky, parallel to each other with palms of your hands facing each other.
Exhale and imagine that the line going from your left heel to the crown of your head, arms included, shifts from perpendicular to parallel to the floor. In doing this, students tend to lunge their torso forward utterly, with the risk of losing their balance. My advice for you is to focus on the back leg raising: the movement of your trunk will naturally follow. Keep your chest and shoulders open, and engage the core to bring strength and control in the asana.
Once you reach the posture, your hips should both point to the floor. Using the same metaphor I suggested in Virabhardasana I, if you had eyes placed on your iliac crests, they should both look at the ground, avoiding the pelvis to tilt in the back leg direction –to left in this case. In doing this, you will have to press your left hip and glutes towards the floor, while engaging the core. You can choose whether to straighten the supporting leg or to bend it slightly.
If possible, keep your arms parallel to the floor and to each other, palms facing one another; otherwise, you can place them on your sides to alleviate tension from the shoulders. In both cases, look down to the ground, to ensure your neck is long and relaxed.
Holding the balance for at least five complete breathe cycles is quite challenging. Beginners can start their practice using a chair or other support (ideally the same height as their hips) onto which place their hands when they enter the final version of the asana.
To conclude, exhale and bring your left leg back to the floor into a high lunge, arms still straightened up; finally step the left foot forward to reach the right and take your arms down. You can also skip the first passage and exhale going directly to Tadasana.
BENEFITS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING
Warrior III is great to strengthen your legs muscles, as well as glutes, hips, core and shoulders, while reinforcing the supporting ankle. It’s a challenging pose that develops balance and concentration, especially in the mission of maintaining the alignment on one foot for quite a long time – say around 30 seconds.
Balancing is a physical requirement of Warrior III with mental and emotional implications. When we find ourselves in difficult or uncomfortable poses in fact, we tend to want to escape. It is the same in real life: if we do not feel at ease in a place or situation, we normally want to leave.
As escaping is often not possible, Virabhardasana III – and Yoga asanas in general- teaches us that if we stay, there are two alternatives: option 1 is to stay and go on cumulating tension and stiffness, with counterproductive consequences either on our body or on our mind and emotional patterns. Option 2, which I strongly suggest, is changing attitude, breathing deeply throughout all the cells of the body, abandoning bad feelings and letting go of everything we can’t control.
There are things in our life we cannot change, that we have to accept as they are. As the asana teaches us to understand which part of our body is weaker and needs more practice, likewise, starting listening to ourselves and to our sensations in the moment in which they arise is the first step towards the acceptance. Describing or giving a name to the emotions that arise in our Selves is another way to start familiarizing with them. Finally, communicating to other people our feelings can bring great relief and grow our ability to accept and enjoy our present as it is.