“If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” Henry Miller
The journey we take into a pose impacts our ability to stay in the pose. In my personal practice, I almost always approach Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III, 5* on the difficulty scale), from Uttihita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose – check back on Friday for more on this one). The standing balance of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana helps me strengthen my right standing leg and stabilize my hips before transitioning into Warrior III. Or so I thought.
Iyengar describes Virabhadrasana III as “an intensified continuation of Virabhadrasana I,” and therefore advises the practitioner to approach Virabhadrasana III from Virabhadrasana I. From Warrior I, he says, “Exhale, bend the trunk forward and rest the chest on the right thigh. Keep the arms straight and the palms together.” After resting in this position for a few breaths, he then asks you to make your right standing leg “as stiff as a poker” while simultaneously lifting your back leg parallel to the ground, in a long, continuous line with your torso and arms.
I’ve tried coming into Virabhadrasana III from a High Lunge, but I’ve never thought to approach the pose from Virabhadrasana I. And yet, trying this transition for the first time today, it proved to be the simplest, most fluid, and, frankly, easiest way to guide myself into the long lines of Warrior III. By starting with my torso on my right thigh, my torso is almost parallel to the floor, so I don’t need to do as much work to draw my torso into the proper alignment. I can use the strength of my standing leg and my abdominal muscles to lift into the pose rather than engaging my lumbar spine in a sweeping forward fold from Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana to Warrior III.
Every day of this project, I find myself rediscovering poses I’ve explored on my mat for years. The vasanas of my asanas (the ingrained habits of my asana practice) are slowly chipped away by a deeper attention to each word of Iyengar’s instruction. Ultimately, the destination of this effort is not the mastery of new poses. It is the wide-eyed, thirsty wonder at what’s been there all along.