In the posts in my head, this one has been a long time coming. In the posts that come out through my fingertips, there were apparently things I didn’t know I needed to get out.
But we are back to talking about strengthening the erector spinae some more, this time with warrior 3. It’s not the first pose in the warrior series, but it is the one that works my erector spinae most directly.
I will not lie: Physically, this pose kicks my butt and is a continued reason why I am on close personal terms with the floor. But I like it for exactly that reason. Well, no, I like it for a related reason, which is that this warrior helps me build courage. I mean, if there’s a good chance I’ll fall out of the pose and look silly doing it, but I go ahead and do it anyway — there’s something a little bit noble and warrior-like in that.
Despite being somewhat physically demanding, most of my work in warrior 3 is mental. As with most balancing poses, this one requires me to be completely aware of how the various parts of my body are reacting and moving in space. When things go “right” — more toward staying in the pose and less toward falling on my face — I am constantly making small adjustments to recenter my body. Alignment is not a static thing.
Because of its changing nature, it is more difficult for me to find sukha or ease here. Some points of focus I’ve found that help me:
- Before I raise my back leg off the ground, I double check to make sure that my hips are both pointed forward. I have some nerve issues, so it’s sometimes hard for me to feel the alignment inside my hips. To double-check from the outside, I like to put my hands on my hips, with my thumbs on the back of my hip points. Then I can rotate my hips with my hands, checking to feel that my hip bones are parallel under my thumbs. I also like to keep my hands on my hips as I move into the pose to keep my raised-leg-hip from winging out to the side. (My body has a lot of muscle memory for ardha chandrasana, which is not bad in itself but which does mean that warrior 3 requires more attention on my part.)
- Like the video illustrates, I try to keep in mind that warrior 3 is not about how high I can lift my leg. Rather, the physical focus of the asana is about lifting my body in that extended and forward-facing alignment. This requires some different muscle work than do other balancing poses I’m used to. But if my intent is to move into warrior 3, it’s more “honest” for me to do so with the alignment of the pose and accept where I have bone or muscle limitations — even if that means there are days when my back foot is only 6 inches off the ground.
- I also draw in through the front of my core to offer muscle support from underneath. This helps out my erector spinae, which in turn keeps my back from overarching, which helps me prevent low back pain from hyperextending in my spine. Because my spine is more stable when it’s supported both on top (erector spinae) and underneath (abdominals), balancing is easier. Not easy, but easier.
There are also good videos on preparing for warrior 3 here and here. Even though warrior 3 isn’t a new pose for me, I still like experimenting with different props and arm positions, as they’re all alignment tools. It’s fun to experiment with how moving one piece of the puzzle changes it all. And it’s good knowing I’m not afraid to fall.