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Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III) requires concentration and stamina to maintain a thoughtful calibration between push and pull—gathering energy in, and extending it out.
“Virabhadrasana III asks us to stand grounded on one leg, rooted down into the earth, yet at the same time to lift the other leg and stretch horizontally from the tips of our toes to our fingertips, like a radiant star expanding into space,” says Power Yoga creator Beryl Bender Birch. “But if we expand outward too much, we lose our power and balance.”
Focus on contracting, pulling in, and connecting with gravity, says Bender Birch. But don’t contract too much; if you hang on too tightly, you will lose expansion—and likely your balance, too. Alternate between expansion and contraction, and treat both with equal importance.
Warrior III basics
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana III (veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna)
Pose type: Standing posture
Targets: Full body
Why we love it: “Warrior III allows you so many entry points—from Warrior I, from Tree, from a lunge, from Chair. And, oh, the places you can go: Standing splits. Half Moon. The challenge of Warrior III is to keep the hips parallel to the floor, but when you do, you can really feel the strength of your standing leg.” —Yoga Journal senior editor Tamara Jeffries
In addition to strengthening your standing ankle and legs, this balancing pose tones your abdomen and improves your posture. It also strengthens your shoulders and the muscles of your back.
Warrior III Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I) with your right foot forward.
- Root down firmly with your right heel to lift your lower belly, drawing the abdominals in and up and releasing your tailbone down.
- Firm your right outer hip into your midline as you straighten your left leg.
- Energize your arms to draw more length into your side body.
- Turn your left inner thigh toward the ceiling to roll your left outer hip forward, then pivot onto your back toes so your back leg is in a neutral position.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine.
- Exhale and tilt your torso forward, and reach your arms out ahead.
- Shift your weight into your front foot, and move forward as you lift your left leg until it is parallel to the floor.
- Your upper arms frame your ears, and your head, torso, pelvis, and lifted leg to form a straight line.
- Continue to turn your left inner thigh to the ceiling so your leg remains neutral and your pelvis is level.
- Continue to engage your right outer hip to provide stability for your standing leg.
- Push back with your left heel while extending forward with your arms, the crown of your head, and your sternum.
- Tone your lower belly, and direct your tailbone toward your left heel to provide support for your lower back.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths, then carefully bend your right knee and step back with your left foot, returning to Virabhadrasana I.
- Exit, and repeat on the other side.
- If the hip bone of your lifted leg raises during the pose, release that hip toward the floor until both hip points are even and parallel to the floor. Energize your back leg and extend it strongly toward the wall behind you as you reach just as actively forward with your arms.
- When you straighten the front knee, imagine that the front calf is resisting forward against the shin; this will prevent the knee from locking or hyperextending.
Teaching Virabhadrasana III
These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Focus on expansion. Expand through the torso and your raised back leg, moving your shoulders away from your ears. Work to maintain length and openness throughout your upper body.
- Stay mindful of cultivating an easy and slow transition as you come out of the pose. A hallmark of an advanced practice is the ability to transition mindfully between poses.
- Invite softness into the posture. Focus on extending through your raised back leg. Carefully bend your lower knee to invite some softness even as you stand firm.
Variation: Warrior III with blocks
For added stability, bring your hands to blocks at any height rather than the floor.