To incorporate Warrior III into your practice, you need to first warm up some specific areas of the body to help you find more grace in your lift. This isn’t about looking good as you take flight, it’s about being mindful and stable to prevent injuries by not throwing yourself into a shape.
That means the slower you go, and the more prep you do for your peak pose, the more accurate your alignment and the stronger your hold will become.
To safely and properly work up to Warrior III, here are some areas that need to be warmed up in your flow: your core, hips, low back, inner thighs, and perhaps your shoulders too, depending on your arm variation. Here a few mini flow ideas you could utilize to safely come in and out of this standing balance posture.
Tip: Post-peak pose, you will want to rest the legs and stretch out, and maybe open the hips with a backbend or Pigeon pose.
“Cat Tail Warrior” (Beginner-Friendly)
In your Cat Pose, bring your knee to your nose 8 times on each side. End with your leg stretched out behind you and your belly pulled all the way in, creating a flat back sensation. Practice keeping your hips level.
I like to tell students to pretend there is a tall glass of water on your low back. If one hip is lifted, the water will spill. This is a core activity as much as an alignment check.
Stretch out in Down Dog for a few breaths, then step into Chair pose at the top of your mat with hands on hips. Use your hands to keep your hips level, lift one knee up to your navel, and practice grounding down through your standing foot.
Hold for 5 breaths before stepping the lifted toes behind you to the middle of your mat. Bend both knees and keeping them both bent, lean your heart forward and bring your heel to your butt 3 times. Finally extend the leg out behind you and flex the toes to point at the floor. Maybe you straighten the standing leg.
Come back through Chair into a Down Dog and find a long Cobra/Up Dog-hold to stretch the hips before trying the otherside.
“Wag The Dog” (For a Little More Fire)
Come to Down Dog, lift your leg with a flexed foot and slide that leg out to the side 5 times on each side. This warms both your hips and your inner thighs. Tap your knee to your elbow 3-5 times to warm up that hip.
Step into Warrior One. Squeeze the thighs in towards each other to ignite the inner thighs and core muscles more. Open to Revolved Warrior 2. Hold for 5 breaths to help pull the hips into alignment (both hips point forward).
Gradually open into Crescent Lunge (aka High Lunge) with hands on hips or at heart center. Transition your weight into your front knee and begin to straighten the back leg.
Step the back foot to the back of your mat for Warrior II to stretch out those hips, and cartwheel the hands to the top of your mat and start again on the other side. At the end of the second set, come to kneeling for Camel Pose to open up those frontal hips.
“Balancing Warrior” (Core-Driven)
Come to Cat pose and press your right hand against your left thigh as you suck your navel all the way in to your spine to warm your hips and ignite your thigh. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Then repeat on the second side.
Use right Knee-to-Nose 5 times in your Down Dog until you feel some fire in that hip, your shoulders and your core. Then step your right foot into a Low Lunge with your hands on blocks or the mat. Fire up your back leg and lift your belly up off your thigh.
Press your heart forward and squeeze your shoulder behind you before sweeping your arms around your ears. Reach fingers to heel.
Drop your left hand to the block or floor for a Revolved Side Angle (pictured above) and work on keeping the two hips aligned by pressing the right hip back. Find your way into Pyramid pose on that same side, keeping a slight bend in your front knee. Again, reach your arms forward around your ears.
Begin to lift your back foot up and extend the leg back, heart forward. Keep your hips level and perhaps reach your arms forward and around your ears. Hold for 3-5 breaths, straightening the standing leg when you are ready.
Descend your upper body down and press your leg high into a standing split. Carry that leg back up to land in a Forward Fold and uncurl up to Mountain. Take a standing back bend before returning to Down Dog for the other side.
After both sides, come to your back and use Bridge, Wheel, and Happy Baby to stretch out the hips, core and low back areas.
Practice Tips for Warrior III
Maintain muscular integrity in your Warrior III by fully extending your heart forward as you press into your lifted toes. Always drop the hip of the lifted leg to make sure your hips stay level, as this keeps your low back safe.
Spin the inner thigh of lifted leg in towards the standing leg and up towards the sky—this drops your hip to level in low back, and it helps you lift from your thigh rather than your foot. Less leverage can mean more stability.
It’s important to remember that all balancing shapes are not actually about staying up. They are about your diligence and discipline in coming back into the shape if you fall out. So get right back in it if you fall out!
Image Credit: Daniel Morgan