106
THE ASANAS
Standing
Warrior III is a strong, standing balancing pose that
increases your focus and coordination. Your balance is
particularly challenged as you bring your head parallel
to the ground, aecting structures inside your inner ear
that monitor your position and help to keep you upright.
THE BIG PICTURE
The muscles of your thighs,
lower legs, and ankles
strengthen as you try to
maintain your balance on
one leg. Muscles around
your hips, core, and
shoulders work hard to
hold the rest of your
body horizontal.
WARRIOR III
Virabhadrasana III
ALIGNMENT
Your hip points are facing
downward. If this causes
pain in your back, keep
your hands at your hips
and dont lift your back
leg so high.
Lifting your arms forward
increases the load and eort
on your lower back and core
Spine is stabilized
into neutral
Hip points
down
Soft knee,
not locked
Press heel
back
Spread toes
without gripping
VARIATION
Sunbird challenges your balance but
from a more stable base. Start on all
fours, then lift an arm at shoulder height
and the opposite leg at hip height.
Tensor fasciae latae
Lifted leg
Your hip extensors engage
while your hip exors stretch.
Your quadriceps engage to
extend your knee, while your
hamstrings engage and
lengthen. Push your heel back
and feel your ankle dorsiexors
activate as though you are
stepping rmly on a wall behind
you. This helps your overall
balance and stability.
Pelvis neutral with
hip points down
Shoulders
parallel
Spine
neutral
Hand
under
shoulder
and pressed
into floor
Knee under
hip, lower leg
pressed into floor
Gluteus maximus
Rectus femoris
Biceps femoris
Vastus lateralis
Adductor magnus
Gastrocnemius
Tibialis anterior
Extensor hallucis longus
Soleus
Ankle
Knee
Straight
line
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107
Torso
Your spinal extensors
engage to resist gravity’s
pull, maintaining a neutral
spine. Your abdominals engage
strongly to stabilize your spine
and compress your abdominal
organs. Your middle and lower
trapezius engage to stabilize
your scapulae.
Neck
Your upper trapezius
and deep cervical
extensors engage to
stabilize your neck,
resisting gravitys pull to
drop the head forward.
Arms
Your shoulder exors engage
while your latissimus dorsi
stretches. Your anterior
deltoids also contribute to
shoulder exion while your
posterior deltoids are in a
lengthening position, yet
engaging slightly to stabilize and
externally rotate your shoulders.
Your triceps extend your elbows.
Standing leg
Your hip exors are strongly
engaging, while your extensors
stretch. Your quadriceps engage
to extend your knee, while your
hamstrings engage and lengthen.
Your ankle dorsiexors help your
ankle move into deeper dorsiexion
as you transition into the pose. Your
bularis muscles help to stabilize
against swaying. Press your big
toe down for balance and feel your
exor hallucis longus engage.
External oblique
Trapezius
Upper trapezius
Splenius muscles
Gracilis
Adductor magnus
Semimembranosus
Semitendinosus
Rectus femoris
Vastus medialis
Gastrocnemius
Knee
Tibialis anterior
Flexor digitorum longus
Soleus
Flexor hallucis longus
Extensor digitorum longus
Ankle
Brachioradialis
Biceps brachii
Triceps brachii
Deltoids
Latissimus dorsi
Serratus anterior
Elbow
Shoulder
KEY
Joints
Muscles
Engaging
Engaging while
stretching
Stretching
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108
WARRIOR III
Virabhadrasana III
CLOSER LOOK
There are three mechanisms of balance:
inner ear, visual, and proprioceptive
input. Warrior III challenges each of
these systems, improving your dynamic
balance as you enter the pose and
static balance while you hold it.
Inner ear input
Your inner ear has a bony labyrinth of tunnels
lled with uid to regulate your equilibrium or
balance. When your head changes orientation,
the uid pushes on sensitive hair cells. Attached
nerves tell your brain which direction your head
is moving, to adjust for balance.
Quadriceps
engage strongly
Hip extensors
engage and
lengthen
Torso comes as
close toward
parallel to the
ground as
comfortable
Kneecap faces
forward
Tibialis anterior
engages to
maintain balance
Vestibulocochlear
nerve
Macula
Otoliths (crystals)
move
Otolithic membrane
contains gelatinous
fluid
Toes spread out
and relaxed
ANTERIOR VIEW
Visual input
“Drishti” is the yoga term for a
focal point, which can help with
both balance and concentration.
Softly focus on a single stationary
point ahead of you. You can also
experiment with closing your
eyes for a few moments—you
will quickly realize how much
your visual input contributes
to your balance.
Optic nerve carries
information to
back of brain
Visual cortex
processes sensory
information
Eye
INNER EAR
Force of gravity
Hair cell
attached to
nerve
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109
THE ASANAS
Standing
Deltoids
dynamically
engage to
stabilize your
shoulder
POSTERIOR
LATERAL VIEW
Deep to
your trapezius,
your spinal
extensors engage
Hip is extended
Middle and lower
trapezius stabilize your
shoulder blades
Gluteus maximus
stabilizes your hip
while lengthening
Proprioceptive input
Balancing poses develop your
proprioception, or body
awareness as you move through
space, especially in your ankle
joints and feet. Transitioning
in and out of Warrior III is an
opportunity to practice being
graceful through transitions
in life. Acknowledging the
wobbliness in your ankles can
help prepare you for those times
in life when you feel unstable.
Knee is soft,
not locked
Calf muscles
engage to stabilize
while lengthening
Foot is flexed
(dorsiflexion)
Weight even from
side to side
Weight fairly even
between front and
back of foot
Touch receptors
in your feet
send signals
to your brain
Hamstrings
engage
Sartorius
stretches
Pressure point
Try to keep your weight spread evenly on
your standing foot. Notice if you tend to
curl your toes, and if you do, relax them.
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