Learn how to do Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) to discover the potent benefits of this balancing pose. This asana strengthens the entire body and boosts stability, balance, focus, and coordination.
Virabhadrasana III is a powerful standing posture in yoga. It is an excellent pose to increase strength in the legs, core, and arms while also improving balance and coordination. It is a complex posture to master, however, with a few preparatory poses to warm up to and practice, you can easily learn to do this pose. There are several tips and modifications to make this yoga pose accessible to everyone, no matter your experience level.
Meaning of the asana
The Sanskrit name “Virabhadrasana” is composed of two root words “Virabhadra”, a mighty and fierce warrior in Hindu mythology, and “asana” meaning seat or position. The name Virabhadra is also a composite of two Sanskrit words – ‘vira’, meaning hero, and ‘bhadra’, meaning friend, auspicious, or fortunate – emphasizing his heroic yet benevolent nature. Virabhadra is said to have been born from Shiva’s intense grief over the death of his wife, Sati. When his perspiration fell upon the earth, Virabhadra was birthed. He became a powerful warrior, and this pose is meant to embody his strength, fierceness, and courage.
1. From Mountain pose, step the right foot a foot lengths forward and shift all of your weight onto this leg.
2. Inhale the arms over your head and interlace the fingers, pointing the index finger up.
3. As you exhale, lift the left leg up and out, hinging at the hips to lower the arms and upper body down towards the floor.
4. Look down at the floor and stare at a point for balance. Reach out through the left toes and the crown and fingers, making one straight line.
5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.
6. To release: inhale the arms up to lower the leg back to the floor and step both feet together back into Mountain pose.
7. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits + Contraindications
Benefits: Physically, this challenging posture helps to build strength in the leg muscles and arms while stretching the torso, spine, and shoulder muscles. It invigorates the whole body, increases stability and balance, and helps to tone the abdominal muscles. Mentally, it helps to focus the mind and improve concentration and memory. Emotionally, it helps to build self-confidence, courage, and groundedness, which can be used to work through fear and anxiety. On an energetic level, this asana adds a feeling of fierceness, energy, and grace as well as builds tapas, an internal fire to burn away negative emotions and thoughts.
Contraindications: Pregnancy, high blood pressure, and recent or chronic injury to the legs, hips, back or shoulders.
Modifications + Variations
Variations: A) Hold on to opposite elbows with the arms over your head. B) Bring the arms out to the sides. C) Place your hands on your hips.
Anatomy of the Asana
- Quadriceps: The quad muscles (vastii, articularis genu, and rectus femoris) are engaged in the standing leg, flexing to lift the knee and working to keep the pelvis level.
- Hamstrings: The hamstrings are activated in the standing leg to keep the leg straight and in the opposite leg to lift it up.
- Hip Abductors: The abductors (gluteus medius and minimus) on the standing leg lengthen to keep the pelvis level. The adductors in the inner thighs of the lifted leg are stretched as the leg is extended away from the body.
- Glutes: The gluteus maximus is engaged in the standing leg to stabilize the body and provide power for lifting the opposite leg.
- Calves: Both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf of the standing leg work to balance and support the body.
- Core: The core muscles (rectus abdominis, external obliques, and transverse abdominis) are activated to help keep balance, as well as to maintain stability in the torso.
- Shoulders: The deltoids and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders are engaged to help keep the arms extended and lifted.
- Ankles: The small muscles of the feet and ankles are worked to maintain balance and stability in the standing leg.
Common mistakes and misalignments
While Virabhadrasana III is a great pose for strengthening your mental focus, balance, and body awareness, it can also be challenging, especially for beginners. Here are some of the most common challenges of this balance pose:
- Wobbly balance. Make sure to press your standing foot down firmly, focus your eyes on a fixed point in front of you, and keep your arms and shoulders engaged. Lock your gaze at one point in front of you and avoid looking around.
- Arching and straining the low back. When performing this Warrior pose, it is important to avoid overarching the low back, as this can lead to pain and discomfort in the lower back. To fix this mistake, focus on extending from the back leg and engaging the core muscles and drawing the tailbone down towards the floor. Use one of the easier arm variations to lessen the work for the core muscles. Draw your belly button in toward your spine and focus on keeping your core engaged.
- Hyper-extending or locking the supporting knee. Make sure to engage the thigh muscles and keep the knee slightly bent. The leg should be straight but not locked. But if your knee is bent too much, the pose will be difficult to hold.
- Falling out. When coming out of the pose, maintain your focus to transition slowly, gracefully, and mindfully. This will help you stay mindful of cultivating an easy and slow transition from Warrior III.
- Not keeping the hips squared. Be sure to keep your hips squared and facing toward the floor to maintain your balance. Turn the lifted toes down and think of lifting the whole leg upwards to be level with the opposite hip.
- Losing Your Back Leg. Another common mistake with Warrior III is losing control of the back leg and not keeping the hips level. To fix this misalignment, practice engaging both legs and focus on improving your balance.
Use one or more of the following postures to build a sequence leading up to this pose: High Lunge, Mountain, Warrior I.
Use one or more of the following postures to build a sequence ending after this pose: Standing Splits, Half Moon, High Lunge, Mountain.