ASANA BREAKDOWN: VĪRABHADRĀSANA 3
by Richard Rosen
vira = brave person, hero
bhadra = blessed, auspicious, prosperous, happy, etc.
Popularly known as Warrior Pose, 3rd variation (abbreviated below as V3)
Virabhadra’s Pose, often called Warrior (variation 3). This pose is usually entered from Virabhadrasana I. Here we’ll move into the pose from a straight lunge position.
1. Stand in Tadasana, exhale and lower down to Uttanasana, then exhale again and step your left foot back into a lunge position. Your right knee should be more or less at a right angle. Lay your torso down on the top of the right thigh and bring your hands to your right knee, right hand to the outer knee, left hand to the inner. Then squeeze the knee, lift your torso slightly, and with an exhale, turn it slightly to the right. Lay the middle of your torso (from the pubis to the sternum) down on the middle of the right thigh (from the knee to the hip crease).
2. Normally students come up into Virabhadrasana III by lunging the torso forward. This tends to shift the body weight onto the ball of the front foot and unbalance the pose. So don’t let your torso swing forward as you move into pose; instead, as you straighten the front knee, think of pressing the head of the thigh bone back. This centers the femur in the hip joint, grounds the heel into the floor, and stabilizes the pose. At the same time, when you straighten your front knee, resist the calf forward against the shin. These two opposing movements–femur head back, calf/shin forward–prevents the knee from locking and further stabilizes the position.
3. Now from the lunge position, stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing. Exhale and, as described previously, press the head of your right thigh bone back and the heel actively into the floor. Synchronize the straightening of the front leg and the lifting of the back leg. Resist the lift of this leg by firming your tail bone against the pelvis.
4. The arms, torso, and raised leg should be positioned relatively parallel to the floor. For many students the pelvis tends to tilt toward the standing leg side. Release the raised-leg hip toward the floor until the front plane of the pelvis is also parallel to the floor. Reach strongly back though the raised leg, and just as strongly in the opposite direction with the arms. Bring the head up slightly and look forward, but be sure not to compress the back of your neck.
5. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Release back to the lunge on an exhale, bring your hands to the floor on either side of the right foot, and with an exhale, step your left foot forward beside your right back into the forward bend. Stay here for a few breaths, then repeat for the same length of time with the legs reversed.
Strengthens the ankles and legs
Strengthens the shoulders and muscles of the back
Tones the abdomen
Improves balance and posture
-Beginners’ tip: For beginners balance in this pose can be very challenging. Prepare for the pose with a chair positioned in front of you, just a bit in front of your sticky mat (face the back of the chair toward you). When you stretch your arms forward (as described in step 3 above), take hold of the top of the chair back. As you rise up into the full pose, push on and slide the chair away from you and use it to support your arms. Try to hold the chair as lightly as possible.
- Advanced Tip: Advanced students can enter Virabhadrasana III from Virabhadrasana I. Perform the latter pose with the arms stretched upward. Exhale the front torso down onto the top of the forward leg. From here move into Virabhadrasana III as described in step 3 above.
- Partnering: A partner can act as a support for your pose. Have her stand in front of you. When you reach your arms forward just before lifting into the full pose, she should lightly hold your wrists in her hands. She should guide you up into position, and then support your wrists as lightly as possible.