I recall a senior Iyengar teacher telling workshop attendees that she had given up teaching Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose) years ago. She said, “It’s too difficult for too many people.” It is indeed a challenging pose. It can pose a formidable obstacle if you need more core and leg strength. Balance is the most challenging aspect.
Because your torso is not vertical but horizontal, the pose can be disorienting. Warrior III places the vestibular device in an unusual position. This apparatus provides information to the brain about motion, head position, and spatial orientation. This poses challenges to your body’s knowledge of its location in space. Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose, is an example of this. Even though the pose requires two points of contact (hand/foot), it is more challenging for practitioners than Vrksasana or Tree Pose. This is partly because the head is not straight.
We often must catch up on alignment to find balance in an unfamiliar orientation. Fear of falling can be a motivator. To make things more challenging, we can also misalign our bodies by placing our standing legs above our sitting portion.
YOGA BLOCKS TO RESCUE IN WARRIOR
Balance-challenged students can practice Ardha Chandrasana with their backs against the wall. They can explore alignment and not worry about losing their balance. You can also place blocks under your hands in Warrior III. This gives you two more points of contact.
Warrior III will make you feel more stable. This will allow you to tune into subtle cues coming from your body. How do you distribute the weight of your standing foot? How are your pelvis and floor positioned? How is your torso set about the bed?
Even if your balance is not an issue, you can use blocks to help with your home practice. Finding your most stable alignment is easier when you don’t worry about falling.
WHY PRACTICE WOMAN III?
This pose can be so challenging, why practice it? Here are some of the benefits:
- It strengthens the muscles protecting your hip joints and the small stabilizing muscles in the feet and ankles.
- Stimulates core, back, and abdominal muscles
- Balance improves. Balance can be challenged. This will help you to enhance your ability to balance.
- You will improve your body awareness by learning to adjust your position in space. Challenging your vestibular system strengthens it.
Yoga is unlike other physical practices requiring your body to remain upright, challenging your vestibular system. Yoga poses such as Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Triangle Pose, Trikonasana, Warrior III and Sirsasana, Headstand, Sarvangasana, and Shoulderstand, place your head in different positions relative to gravity. This improves your proprioception and balancing skills.
HOW TO PRACTICE
- Standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with your feet spread apart, on a yoga pad. Two yoga blocks should be placed at the mat’s highest position, about two feet from your face. Two 5-Inch Large Foam Yoga Blocks may be more appropriate for taller students. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior III Pose) was the first place I learned how to enter Warrior III. It’s easier to begin in Tadasana because your weight is not shifted to your standing leg. Your standing leg is already in the right place.
- Transfer your weight onto the right leg. Now, lift your left foot and allow your torso forward.
- Place your hands on the blocks once your torso is parallel to the ground. Moving the blocks closer or farther away from your standing foot is possible. Your arms should be in a vertical position.
- Start to be more aware of your alignment. These are some things to consider:
- Check your hyoid bone. Keep your head neutral. Your core muscles are disengaged if you tilt your head back. Increase the distance between your shoulders (the base of your skull) and your occiput (the top).
- Check your pelvic position. You don’t need to try and “square” your hips because your standing hip joint is bent and your top leg extended. You can have the hip of one leg higher than the other.
- Do you stand straight over your standing leg? You should pay attention if your standing hip is protruding to the side. Adjust your hips to align them over your foot if this is the case.
- Is your back leg sagging down? Do you feel your back leg is fading?
- You can take 5 to 7 deep, relaxing breaths while you are in the pose. If you feel stable and relaxed, you may need more.
- Return to Tadasana by lifting your torso up to the upright position. Tune in to your body for a minute. Place your feet on the ground. What is the sensation of your legs? What is your breathing rate?
- Repeat the process on the opposite side.