- On Bikram
- Ardha Chandrasana with pada hastasana, half the moon.
- Utkatasana: waiting in invisible chairs of the awkward, the Bhakti Diaries
- Bravery of Eagle: Garudasana. Bhakti diary
- Dandayamana Janushirasana – the Ego stands naked
- Lords and Dancing, Natarajasana or Dandayamana Dhanurasana.
- Third Warrior, tuladandasana, viribhadrasana III
The last of the balancing series, Virabhadrasana III (Tuladandasana) takes the strength, balance, and rushing heart cultivated in the earlier poses to climax before letting you put both feet back on the floor. Bikram’s dialogue says you hold the pose for ten seconds; give yourself a mini-heart attack now, and you won’t need to have one later.
Warrior III strengthens the muscles that stabilize the hips, knees, and ankles. It works the muscles that help to propel the body forward, over and through the planted foot while running or walking. While it strengthens, stretches, and conditions the muscles necessary for that movement, it’s also working the structure of the foot, ankle, knee, and hip that allow you to go there. This is a movement of propulsion, of going forth, of great courage. The courage, the strength to move forward like that, comes from the centered gravity, lifted core, blazing concentration.
The centered gravity, the lifted core, and the blaze of concentration: that is how you find your way in this posture. It is hard to stand on one foot. Harder when you start doing the serious weight lifting of supporting your whole torso on a different line of balance. When we stand upright, our weight is spread across the soles of our feet. When we sit, it’s supported on the base of the pelvis; when we kneel we use our knees, shins, and the tops of the feet; and when we lie down we use either the back surface or the front surface of our body. We are entirely unaccustomed to taking the whole of our body weight and tipping it forward and back while maintaining the strength and bearing power of the hip, knee, ankle and foot.
This is a posture of balance and focus. It drives our concentration. When we concentrate, we learn (wobbling, first, then by accident, finally by understanding and design) that balance comes not by thinking about it, but by using our strength and our weight. Make the whole body long, long as you can, while you’re still upright. Tighten the muscles of the arms and legs, find the quads, the intercostals, the shoulders, the neck, all the way to the muscles that stretch the fingers, and stretch them. Tighten them. Flex hard. Make your body as rigid as that stick. What is solid is actually easier to lift, lighter to bear, than what is lax and infirm. Remember the kid’s game, light as a feather, stiff as a board? Do that. Practice by holding an arm out to your side and having a friend push it down while you don’t flex, and then when you do. Using the muscles, binding them, gives us a steady thing to lift up. The lifting becomes, then, easier. The balance becomes more natural.
Balance comes next with our gaze. If the eyes can be steady, the posture can be steady, the breath can follow. Or vice versa, so long as each piece starts to play a part. The point is, where you set your gaze can either help or hurt your balance. In all postures, where your eyes go, your body will follow. If we look too close to our feet in this posture, our balance will tip us forward. If we look too far forward, on the other hand, we’ll wobble and struggle from side to side without being able to find the steady place. The place I put my gaze is somewhere about five feet in front of my standing toes. If I move that gaze, I tip. If I lift my head, I wobble. Five feet allows my gaze to be in that forward moving place, but steady; my neck is aligned with the rest of the spine, not tipped down into the chest or lifted up and backwards.
The centered gravity, the lifted core, the burning gaze: this is a posture of strength and length. It’s a blessing to the spine. The spine is a blessing to the whole body. If the spine works, we work. If the spine is pinched or hampered or bent, so is our breathing, so is our digestion, so is our nervous system and cardiovascular system. I’ve learned to feel the length, to look for it and extend as far as I can, from my toes to my fingertips, and realize this length is a thing that translates into other postures: tadasana has the same length; warriors one and two ease the tailbone down and put space, link at a time, between each vertebrae; tree pose has a string knotted to the top of my spine, and pulls my whole body up through the top of my head.
The length is important because it releases pressure and gives a gentle stretch to the spinal cord. It’s shunting things back into line. At the same time, the posture teaches us the muscles we need to carry and protect the spine, all the time: it strengthens and lengthens the upper back muscles and the lats, works the flexibility and strength of the shoulders, upper arms, abdominal, the low back and into the gluts. Length is what gives us the ability to breath a full yogic breath in this posture, and teaches us the things we need to move to find it in others.
We’re such skeptics and hard-asses: the teachers say it doesn’t matter how far you tip forward or go down, you get 100% of the benefit as soon as you assume the right form, but we insist on looking like top heavy flamingos instead of tall and steady compasses. Back off, begin where it matters. Find the centered gravity, the lifted core, the burning gaze. That’s where the balance and concentration come from. That’s what will make the heart run, the digestion clear, the blood simmer.
Sometimes, I get dizzy simply reaching my arms to the sky.
Viribhadra is the name of a warrior, one of the incarnations of Shiva. He had a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. He wielded a thousand swords. And I don’t even know how many arrows. He wore the skin of a tiger.
This is a posture of length and strength, of fitting yourself into the sword or the arrow, and eventually of releasing the thing forward. Find the tension and angularity of those things, and reach high. No one wants to fight a battle with a willow wand or wet string. Such a thing is pointless. There’s no blood to it. No length. No grace. No raw power. Before you can release the arrow, you have to make the arrow; before you brandish the sword, the sword has to be hammered out. The strength is the prerequisite to the balance and beauty. The posture begins by reaching up.
Physical Benefits of Tuladandasana
- strengthens upper thighs, buttocks, shoulders, abdomen, trapezius, deltoids, ankles
- stretches the hips, shoulders, full length of the spine
- stimulates the pancreas, liver, spleen, kidneys, nervous and cardiovascular systems
- improves balance, increases endurance, focus, concentration
- improves lung capacity
- stimulates the heart and arteries, strengthens and stretches the muscles of the heart,
- Helps to flush blockages from the arteries, preventing cardiovascular problems
- helps prevent and treat vericose veins
- Burns incredible calories (up to 300 calories according to Rajishree Choudhury)
- Slims and tones the waistline, works through fat deposits on the body
- Relieves tension and pressure on the spine
Tuladandasana opens up and rushes the heart chakra with powerful, richly oxygenated blood. It improves memory and concentration, balance and confidence. Theoretically, the action teaches us to release doubt and fear, especially of giving and receiving love. We learn, in this posture of going forth, qualities of bravery, self-assurance, strength and resilance, especially in terms of self expression, self giving, and risk taking.