Of the Warrior Poses, Vira III can be considered the most advanced, and in its full expression, the pose demands a great deal of the body. One leg lifts to form a single line with the buttocks, hips, torso, shoulders, neck, head, and arms; the other supports the rest of the body by forming a perpendicular line and balance stand. One’s frame thus makes a “T” shape, with almost every muscle working or extending. The beauty of full Virabhadrasana III is in its balance: it pivots between strength and stretch, between movement and stillness, between effort and surrender.
With that said, it’s important to note that very few of us can take Vira III right off the bat. For most of us, achieving the full pose takes years of adaptation and practice. One way to begin is to use a wall as a prop. Place the sole of one foot on the wall and balance on the other leg. Straighten and stretch the legs, back, and arms, any amount, without locking out the elbows or knees. Keep the shoulders pushed into their sockets, with the hands pulling in the other direction. Here, the work is to nudge the body into the final “T” position, knowing that this might take weeks or months for the different muscles to strengthen and stretch.
Another way to practice this pose is to stand with the back to the wall. Straighten the body, bringing the arms overhead. When in alignment, raise one leg as high as possible without bending the knee. The wall will help with balance while you work on developing leg and lower back flexibility and strength.
When you feel ready to try the full pose, begin by balancing with the hands on a block or in front of you but placed on the wall. Note the way the hip curves as it tries to balance - don’t let it. Keep the hips closed and pointing towards the ground, even if the back leg can’t lift as high. When you feel steady, try working the pose with the hands in prayer position at the chest before straightening the arms in line with your ears.
There’s a lot to practice in this pose. The modifications and props enable us to separate out the various demands and work on each separately. You might find your body needing to work on balance, on stretch, or on strength; you might also find that each side of the body has different needs. Celebrate each step on the way to the full pose, and keep in mind that where we are today is as important as where we aspire to be in the future.
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