- Sanskrit (Original): Vīrabhadrāsana III
- Etymology: Warrior (vīra), friend (bhadra), pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: While Warrior I and Warrior II tend to be yoga poses that beginners can be introduced to, Warrior III is regarded to be for more experienced yogis.
- Asana Type: Balancing, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Standing leg: hamstrings, piriformis, gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus
- Main strength muscle groups: Intertransversarii, interspinales, transversospinalis, erector spinae, psoas minor, abdominal muscles; trapezius, rotator cuff, biceps brachii, pectoralis minor, pectoralis major; standing leg: articularis genu, quadriceps, muscles of the foot, lifted leg: gluteus maximus, hamstrings
- Vinyasa Breath: Inhale and exhale possible
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 A great entrance to Virabhadrasana III is its little sibling Virabhadrasana I.
- 2 Activate the foot muscles of the front foot (Pada Bandha). This is going to be your standing leg.
- 3 Shift your weight towards the heel of the front foot and keep the standing leg slightly bent.
- 4 Pull your navel in and up to create a little backbend. This way, you start to activate your back muscles.
- 5 Focus your gaze (Drishti) on a non-moving point on the ground, about half a meter in front of your standing foot.
- 6 Once you feel safe and well-balanced, inhale and lift the back leg by engaging your back thigh muscles and glutes. Also remember to keep the back foot (yep, the one you’re going to lift) active by spreading the toes.
- 7 Maintain squared hips and tilt your upper body forward, so that your chest is also parallel to the mat. If it is available to you, hold your back leg and your upper body in one line.
- 8 Once in the pose, push the chest forward and the toes backward.
- 9 Your standing leg remains micro-bent and engaged. Create strength in the entire body and you will find more balance. Remember your Drishti.
- 10 The crown of your head pulls away from your shoulders, elongating the neck and spine.
- 11 If it is available to you and you feel in balance, reach your arms towards the front of your mat. Your palms face each other and your fingers are engaged.
- 12 Exhale to release Virabhadrasana III by bending the standing leg more and placing your lifted foot back onto the ground.
- 13 Inhale and engage your core to rise back up into Virabhadrasana I.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Activate your Pada Bandha: Since you only have a very small foundation in Warrior III, namely your standing foot, you should pay special attention to this one. Activating your Pada Bandha by pressing the four corners of your foot into the ground will help you find stability in this pose.
- Keep the lifted foot active: The other foot is just as important as the standing foot. It may not be obvious at first glance, but activating the lifted foot is actually the secret to finding balance in this pose. Push the heel away from you and spread your toes. Play a little with relaxing and activating the foot and you will notice that the engagement of the foot gives you a lot more stability.
- Square your hips: A common observation is that the hip slightly opens towards the side of the lifted leg. To avoid this, inwardly rotate the lifted leg by turning the big toe in. This may make the pose a little bit more shaky when you first try it. But in the long term, this will strengthen your hip and will ultimately stabilize your pose.
- Hug your midline: Create more stability by centering your legs. Press them towards each other, so that the lifted leg presses downwards. All the strength from your legs will be centered in your pelvic floor. This will reduce the lever of the back leg and thus improve your balance.
- Lift and lengthen the torso: Many practitioners tend to forget about their upper body because they are so focused on lifting the back leg (higher). As a result, they let the upper body drop down like a sack of spuds. However, the height of the lifted leg should not be your only priority in Warrior III (maybe not even a priority at all but rather a nice add-on). Instead, focus on keeping the torso long and even in a slight backbend. Lifting your chest is just as important as lifting the leg.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- Stop lifting your leg at the degree that feels comfortable for you. You may even start by keeping the tips of your toes on the ground and leaning forward only slightly so that the torso and back leg remain in line. From practice to practice, you will be able to lean forward more and to lift the back leg further.
- Equally, you can keep the fingertips on the ground or place the hands on blocks. This gives you the opportunity to focus on the activation of your back leg and foot.
- Use a chair to gently hold onto to help you with the balance. Make sure you do not rest the arms entirely on the chair but keep them engaged.
- Place your back foot against a wall. This will help you balance while you actively push your foot away from you into the wall, engaging your core and leg muscles.
- If you notice that straightening your arms above your head causes you to lose balance, either bring your hands together in front of your heart center, reach your arms sideways or backward like the wings of an airplane. The latter option will help you open your chest and ease your shoulders and neck if you struggle with tightness or soreness in that area.
- If balancing in Virabhadrasana III is easy-peasy for you, play with the position of your arms. You can, for example, bring them into Eagle Arms in front of your chest, clasp your hands behind your back, or even bring them into Cow-Face arms.
- Challenge your balance by closing your eyes in this pose. You’ll be surprised how much harder it is to stay stable once your eyes are closed. But this is a great training for your nervous system.
- Let your quadriceps fire up by bending the front leg deeper, just like you would do in a squat.
- Stay playful in this pose by bending the back leg to bring the knee closer to your front knee. Swing the arms sideways for Dragon Squat.
Benefits of Virabhadrasana III
- Virabhadrasana III truly engages the whole body, resulting in several benefits on both a physical and an energetic level.
- More precisely, the pose strengthens the glutes and the hip stabilizers as well as the muscles in legs and feet, especially their deep tissue.
- It also empowers the core and back muscles that need to cooperate to support each other and become the powerhouse of your body. These muscles also help neutralize, align and elongate your spine.
- Since Warrior III involves several muscles and requires a great amount of attention to alignment, the asana supports your full-body coordination, trains your ability to balance as well as your stability.
- The intensity of the pose requires and thereby fosters your ability to focus and concentrate. This will also calm your mind.
Pose VariationsSee all Poses
Pose variations can be anything that makes the original pose easier or more simple but also anything making it more challenging or adding complexity.
Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
For me, the game changer in this pose were the feet, namely the back foot. Keeping it really engaged and active all the way into the toes does wonders to your stability and balance.
Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
The Warrior Poses consist of three different types of archetype poses. Warrior I which is often taught with the back heel lifted but traditionally is taught with the back foot grounded. Here the hips are closed. Warrior II is a great hip opener pose. For Warrior III, as described in the article, the hips are again closed. It’s emphasis is focused more on balancing, since the back leg is lifted up into the air. All Warrior Poses are very foundational poses, because the practitioner is able to develop a lot of leg strength, grounding and stability, which is important to prepare the body for backbending poses.
The Warrior Poses have their names from Virabhadra, a powerful warrior figure in the Hindu mythology. The story of Virabhadra is a story of love. Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Dissolution, created Virabhadra as a reincarnation of himself to avenge the death of his wife Sati (or Shakti). When Sati and Shiva married, Sati’s father did not approve and cut her off from the family. In her grief, Sati eventually killed herself and Shiva created his warrior-friend to take vengeance. As in most mythological stories, there are always different ways and perspectives to tell a story, so there is more than one explanation to this question. If you are curious to read more about it, you can find out more here and here.
Actually, both options are possible. If you can maintain your balance and stability with a straight standing leg – go for it! Just make sure that you are not overextending or locking the knee joint. In general, however, keeping the knee slightly bent forces your body to engage the muscles surrounding the knee, stabilizing and supporting the joint. Most practitioners will also find it easier to balance in Warrior III when the standing leg is slightly bent.
Ideally, your hip is closed and squared, i.e. both hip bones face the floor. Usually, the hip on the standing-leg side tends to drop down so that you are sinking into your standing leg and put a lot of pressure on it. However, you want to keep the entire body engaged and distribute your weight evenly. This is why you should keep the hip squared. To do this, inwardly rotate your back leg by turning the big toe towards your standing leg.