Watch Your Patterns in Warrior III

Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) can help us both watch our habitual patterns and work to change them. Sage Rountree explains how.
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Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) can help us both watch our habitual patterns and work to change them. Sage Rountree explains how.

Like a yoga practice itself, Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) can help us both watch our habitual patterns and work to change them. As we take the pose, we test our sense of balance in the lower leg, our hip strength, and our core stability. Holding the pose statically for a few breaths and moving in and out dynamically will help correct any unneeded patterns: wobbling in the lower leg diminishes with practice, and strength builds in the hips and core. Improving the stability of the lower leg, hip, and core helps prevent many of the overuse injuries common in sports.

Tadasana

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Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Stand evenly on your feet, level your pelvis, and broaden your chest. Notice here how your weight is distributed. Does one side of your feet take more? Does one leg work harder?

Diagonal Warrior III

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Holding the long, tall lines of Tadasana, shift the weight on to your left leg as you slide the right leg back a little, toes propped to the ground, diagonal line through the right leg and torso. Notice how easy or difficult it is to balance here. Can you square your hips? Can you hold your back long? Is your lower left leg wavering? If this is a big challenge, hold for a few breaths, then move out.

Warrior III

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If the diagonal Warrior III worked for you, you can continue to hinge from the left hip, lowering the torso and lifting the right leg toward parallel with the ground. (If this is tough on your hamstrings, don’t go so low.) How is your balance here? Can you keep your right hip squared to your left? Does it drop or lift? Stay a few breaths, then move out.

Now repeat on the right leg. Notice the difference between sides. Is one more challenging? Does that challenge come from your lower leg working to stabilize, from the muscles of the outer hip, or from the core?

In your home practice—whether that’s simply a few minutes after a workout or a 90-minute session on the mat—work to bring the two sides into balance. Try a combination of a few dynamic tips into Warrior III, moving in and out with the breath, then holding for a few full breaths. Tip more and hold a little longer on the challenging side, or work that side twice. As you do, you’ll start to correct the patterns of lower-leg, hip, and core engagement that don’t work to help you balance, and to build new habits that do.