Warrior 3 Pose (Virabhadrasana III), (veer-uh-buh-DRAH-suh-nuh)
vira (hero) + bhadra (friend) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Airplane Pose
Tap into your inner balance and lift off into a steady Warrior III for a full body interaction between strength and stability.
Warrior 3 Pose Fundamentals
Connect to the stability of the earth to root and fly in this challenging balance pose. Warrior 3 combines push and pull actions, encouraging you to find a balance between the two to reach steadiness in the pose.
In the pose, you ground one leg into the earth and lift the other, creating a T-shape with your body.
You will need to contract and pull in the standing leg and core, while also finding expansion in the back, lifted leg, and arms. It’s normal to need some time to find an ideal sweet spot between these opposing energies. But once you do, you will feel as if you could hold the pose forever.
Warrior 3 Pose & Theology
Warrior 3 is a part of the Warrior pose sequence, dedicated to Virabhadra, a warrior and a menacing incarnation of Shiva. Often shown being huge, his body expanding all the way to the sky, having the skin of a tiger, three burning eyes, a thousand feet, and holding a thousand clubs in his hands, Virabhadra is fierce and relentless.
The legend states he was birthed from a lock in Shiva’s head and was a manifestation of the god’s anger after he has lost his loved one.
In the story, Sati married Shiva without the consent of her father, king Daksha. As a result, Daksha didn’t invite the couple to a yajna, a sacred ritual he organized. Sita went to the event to confront her father, even after Shiva told her not to. Her father’s demeanor disappointed her, so she threw herself into the fire. Enraged, Lord Shiva manifested his anger into Virabhadra. He sent the warrior to destroy the yajna and behead king Daksha.
The warrior poses tell this legend, and Warrior 3 represents the moment when Virabhadra beheads king Daksha and reaches forward to put the head on a stake.
It may be surprising such a gruesome story inspired a yoga pose. Still, yoga philosophy doesn’t negate evil forces, only teaches the student to come to terms with them. The pose can teach you how you can build your inner strength, to tackle rage which often comes after a big loss, just like it happened in Shiva’s story.
In such a period, feeling powerful within can help us overcome insecurity and gain control over our own thoughts and actions. In Shiva’s case – he resorted to violence, and conflict is sometimes unavoidable. Still, it leads us to do things we later regret, and want to make right.
Building internal power allows us to find a new way of solving difficult situations and controlling our anger to face conflicts in a more mature and compassionate way.
We can use the story and the practice of Warrior 3 as inspiration to stay calm and present when faced with difficulty to find a more sustainable and balanced way of living.
Warrior 3 Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the standing leg and ankle, the shoulders, back, arms, and core.
- Strengthening these muscles is key to a healthy posture, making this pose a great addition to any sequence dedicated to building better postural habits.
- Stimulates and strengthens the internal organs in the stomach, so it may help improve digestion.
- Builds concentration and focus, and helps calm overthinking.
- Improves your sense of balance and builds stability in multiple ways-by challenging the core, activating the stabilizing muscles in the foot, and encouraging us to engage our bandhas.
How To Do Warrior 3 Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Start on Warrior I with your right foot forward. Keep your hands on your chest in the Prayer position.
2. Lean your torso forward and shift your weight to the right foot. Continue moving forward until your left foot lifts off the ground.
3. Simultaneously straighten your right leg and continue moving your torso forward, and lift your left leg. Stop when both your left leg and your torso are parallel to the ground.
4. Gaze at the floor to maintain a neutral alignment in your neck. Reach your chest and the crown of your head forward. Flex your left foot, so the toes are pointing to the ground, and push the heel towards the back of the room.
5. When you find a steady point, extend your arms in front of you, so they are in the same line with your torso. Pres your palms together or for the traditional variation, clasp your hands and point the second fingers forward.
6. Hold for up to 5 breaths, then release to a standing position. Move into Warrior I with your left foot in front, and repeat the same steps on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Lift your leg until your hips are parallel, don’t go beyond that. Keep the lifted leg engaged and push the heel towards the back.
- The standing leg should be extended, but don’t lock the knee.
- Focus on keeping your upper body long and open. Expand through your chest and move your shoulders down and back.
- When coming out of the pose, do it slowly and consciously. The transition between poses should be just as mindful as holding the pose itself.
- Reach through the top of your head, but don’t contract your neck. Keep it relaxed—you shouldn’t feel any straining.
- Draw your abs in to gain more stability, and to protect your lower back.
- Manage your weight on all four corners of the standing foot, don’t put all pressure on the heel.
- Flexing the toes of the lifted leg will help you keep it engaged.
- If you struggle with balance, slightly bend the lifted leg or keep your arms at your chest or on your hips.
Warrior 3 Pose Variations:
Warrior 3 Pose Variation: Warrior 3 With A Block
You can use blocks to help you gain more stability in Warrior 3 pose. Place two blocks on the floor, slightly in front of your shoulders. You can place them at any height. Then, once you’ve entered the pose, you can place your hands on the blocks instead of extending them forward.
Warrior 3 Pose Variation: Warrior 3 Pose With Wall Or Chair Support
Another option if you can’t find balance in the pose is using the help of a chair or a wall. To do so, stand in front of a wall or the back of a chair at arms-length. When you enter the pose, rest your hands on the chair or the wall to gain stability.
Alternatively, you can also face away from a chair or a wall, and use them to support your lifted leg. Finally, you can combine the two options by keeping your hands on a chair and pushing the lifted leg against a wall. All of these variations will help you focus on your alignment and gradually build balance.
Warrior 3 Pose Variation: Warrior 3 Pose With A Strap
If you are comfortable balancing on one leg but want to work more on your alignment, you can use a strap.
Create a loop that’s as long as your leg. Step your feet in the loop, then move one leg a bit forward. The goal is to have the strap looped around your hips and your lifted foot, so you can still extend your arms forward.
You can test the length by lifting the leg—if it’s loose, then tighten it more. Enter Warrior 3 and push the heel into the strap. Using a belt in this manner will help you keep your hips parallel.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Locking the Knee. If you are hyperflexible in the leg, you might hyperextend the knee. To avoid that, keep it soft and slightly bent. Focus on the resistance between the calf and the shin muscle to protect the joint.
Hips Uneven. If you lift the leg too high, that hip will lift as well, and you want to keep your hips stacked. Only lift the leg until a point when it’s in line with your torso.
Injuries and Surgery
All advanced balancing poses should be avoided by those with high blood pressure. Also refrain from the pose if you suffer from back issues, migraines, and spondylitis. Finally, refrain from Warrior 3 if you have an injury in the back, shoulder, knee, ankle, or hips.
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