3 Tips for a Stable Warrior III: Using a Wall in Your Yoga Practice

By: 
Kathryn Boland, RCYT, R-DMT

“I get by with a little help from my friends. I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends,” goes an iconic song from The Beatles. In yoga, our friends can be props. They include not only blocks, blankets, straps and bolsters, but also one of the most common things we all see everyday—walls!  Walls can particularly help with balance poses. 

Using a wall for balance poses helps us to regain a sense of spinal alignment, placement in space, and core engagement. This is similar to why ballet dancers practice combinations of fundamental movements with a hand lightly on a ballet barre. There’s also a psychological element; support from a stable object reduces the fear that we’ll fall.

Sometimes that’s all we need to breathe fully, refocus the gaze, re-engage the core and then balance more successfully. Let’s look at a few different ways we can use a wall to help with a commonly taught balance pose, Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III).

Tips for Making the Best of the Wall

Make sure that your wall is clear, with nothing on the floor next to it or hanging from it. Choose a span of a clear wall, tall and wide enough for your entire body in the pose, ideally a bit more than the distance from your feet to your hands when you reach your arms up overhead.

Once each wall pose is set up, hold it for 5 to 10 breaths. Then repeat it on the other side.

Warm up with Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) and a Marjarasana (Cat/Cow Pose). You can also practice these wall variations after you’ve warmed up from a home practice, or after an asana class.

Wall Variation #1: Foot to Wall

Squarely face your chosen wall space. Raise one leg as high as your hip, to where the whole sole of your foot can press into the wall.

Step forward or back enough with your standing foot so that you can press your foot into the wall with your leg fully extended, dropping and re-raising the leg in between if necessary. This helps you to know how far away you need to stand for this Warrior III wall-assistance trick.

Drop your leg again and spin around to face away from the wall, staying the same distance away from it. Raise the same leg behind you until the bottom of your foot is again pushing into the wall.

Allow your torso to flex forward as that leg moves higher up the wall, but maintain a tiny lift behind your heart.

Fix your gaze not out, not down, but in between the two. This is usually about a foot in front of your head (or top of the mat, if you’re using one).

In your feet and legs, find Tadasana (Mountain Pose) qualities. Lift up your insteps but push down on your big toe mounds and the outer edges of your feet. Feel a slight “scissoring” (squeezing in) of your inner thighs toward each other, while the flying inner thigh spirals up to the sky. Wrap your outer thighs outward, away from each other.

Keep pushing your flying foot into the wall, lifting slightly behind your heart, and breathe! Know that the wall is offering support. Can you fully receive that support, maybe even feeling gratitude for it?

Wall Variation #2: Side to Wall

Stand with one shoulder touching the wall. Check back with your Mountain Pose qualities: ground down through big toe mounds and outer edges of feet, and lift up through insteps, with the outer thighs spiraling outward and inner thighs hugging slightly in toward each other.

Focus on your breath, perhaps your audible ujjayi breath if you’re practicing it. Notice any tension, and invite it to leave you on your exhalations. Tension won’t help you to balance!

Raise the leg that’s next to the wall up behind you, simultaneously lowering your torso, finding that tiny lift behind your heart as you flex forward. Lift your inner thigh to lift the flying leg.

Keep your arms by your sides to start. Fix your gaze about a foot in front of your head.

Maintaining all of that, don’t actively push sideways into the wall. Instead, let it offer you a sense of your alignment and place in space. For instance, you can sense how square or not your hips are and if you might be falling away from the wall. You can gently self-correct in either case.

If you feel stable here, swing your arms down and forward so that they frame your ears in a number “11” shape. Try your best to keep everything else the same, and maintain your steady breathing rhythm. Again, know that the wall is supporting you. See if you can feel gratitude and assurance from that support.

Wall Variation #3: Step Away—But Not Too Far!

Progress to this variation if you feel relatively stable in the previous two. Step six inches to a foot away from the wall, with your side body facing it. Again, focus on Mountain Pose qualities and your steady breathing rhythm.

Raise one of your legs up behind you, leading with its inner thigh. As you did previously, lift behind your heart as you lower your torso. Your arms can be by your sides for now. Your fingertips or back of the hand closest to the wall can touch it.

Fix your gaze both out and down, so the back of your neck is long and there’s a sense of connection between your tailbone and the top of your head.

With all of these things together, perhaps you feel ready to bring your arms forward to create that number “11” around your head. You can still touch the wall with the back of your hand or fingertips for the physical awareness and sense of support it offers. You can move your arms back to your sides at any point if you start to feel unstable.

Maintain all of these actions and breathe! Know that you’re supported, and have the ability to be steady here. Perhaps the next step is to be fully away from the wallDekasanaOr practice Dekasana (Airplane Pose) (photo right) or a block-supported Warrior III, with a block at its highest level under each hand. Make sure your blocks are shoulder-width apart. 

 

 

Here's another yoga practice tips article from writer Kathryn Boland - Twisting Postures for Grounded Flexibility.

 

Kathryn BolandKathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!