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Whether you want to become a yoga teacher or simply have a regular practice, it’s important to know how to do each pose properly. It’s also beneficial to understand the value that an asana offers. This helps you recognize how it can benefit your health. One pose that is popular—and provides many benefits—is the Warrior 3 pose.
Warrior 3 is a standing pose. It involves balancing on one leg with the other leg extended straight out behind you as you bend forward at the waist.
This pose is known by several different names. Some write Warrior 3 with Roman numerals versus numbers (Warrior III pose). In Yin Yang yoga, this yoga pose is referred to as Flying Dragon. In Sanskrit, it is called Virabhadrasana III.
The Sanskrit name comes from the fierce warrior Virabhadra. This yoga warrior was an incarnation of Lord Shiva, who sought revenge against Daksha, his wife’s father and the cause of her demise.
This pose is one of three in the Warrior pose sequence. This sequence represents the poses that Virabhadra was in during his attack on Daksha. Warrior I represents when Virabhadra first arrived and thrust his way through the ground with swords in each hand. Warrior II represents Virabhadra standing ready to engage in his attack. Warrior III represents when he cut off Daksha’s head.
This yoga pose uses a variety of muscles, most to help you keep your balance. This includes muscles in your upper body, lower body, and core. This makes Warrior 3 good for developing strength in your entire body.
The main muscles targeted are in the core. It also strengthens the quads and ankle of the standing foot. In the extended leg, Warrior 3 works the glutes and hamstrings. In fact, research suggests that it’s so good at activating the hamstrings that it should be included in hamstring rehabilitation programs. (1) You’ll also feel your arm muscles kick in when doing this Warrior pose as you strive to keep them extended.
This pose is also good for stretching other muscles. In the standing leg, it stretches the hamstrings and glutes. In the lifted leg, the hip flexor muscles are stretched.
For many, yoga is a spiritual practice. It provides a deeper connection with a higher power. (Although, you can do yoga without spirituality.) Others use yoga to help them relax, lose weight, or improve their health. Including Warrior 3 in a yoga program offers additional benefits.
One is that it helps improve posture. This is thanks in large part to working the core. Good posture can reduce your risk of back and neck pain. It can also prevent other negative effects associated with poor posture. These effects include headaches, breathing troubles, digestive issues, and even incontinence and constipation according to Harvard Health.
Warrior 3 is also known as a balance pose. Not only does it require balance to do, but it also improves your ability to balance. This is helpful for performing everyday activities like leaning forward to tie your shoes. Balance is also critical as we age, enabling us to move around more easily without falling and being injured.
Like with any other yoga pose, it’s important to use proper form when doing Warrior 3. This helps reduce injury risk while ensuring that it targets the correct muscles.
To do Warrior 3:
Stand with your left leg back, the toes on the left foot pointing out slightly. Your right leg is planted in front of you with the right foot pointing forward. Align your hips with the front of the yoga mat. Extend your arms toward the ceiling.
Bend your right knee until the right thigh is parallel to the floor. Press your hips forward while placing the weight of your body on the right big toe and front of the right heel.
Press into the right heel and straighten your right leg while drawing your abdominal muscles in and up. Your pelvis is tilted back and tailbone down.
Exhale and lift the left leg behind you while tilting forward at the waist. Continue the forward tilt until both the arms and raised leg are parallel to the floor.
Hold for several breaths.
To get out of Warrior 3, bend the right knee and return to the starting position.
Do this same yoga pose on the other side to avoid muscle imbalance.
If you’re a yoga teacher, there are certain things to watch for when students are doing Warrior 3. This helps reduce their risk of injury, which can protect you and your yoga studio from any type of lawsuit (making it as critical as liability insurance).
One thing to pay attention to is their hips. During this pose, their hips should be balanced and even. If they’re not, have them reposition their body to get the hips more aligned.
It’s also important to not lock the knee of the standing leg. This can cause the knee to hyperextend, which can lead to issues.
For the upper body, the shoulder and arms should be even as well. If the torso is rolled to one side or the other, have the student correct their form. Their form will also need to be corrected if their back is arching versus remaining straight.
Some people have trouble with Warrior 3 since it requires so much balance. One way to work around this is to perform this pose while facing a wall. When leaning forward, the palms can be placed against the wall to help with balance. A chair can also be used to provide more support.
If lifting the back leg so it is parallel to the floor is a problem, have them lift it as high as they can. If it’s too difficult to hold the arms extended, Warrior 3 can also be modified by bringing the arms in. Have them hold their palms together at the front of the chest instead.
If leaning all the way forward is a problem, have the student only bend half the way. This variation is called Half Warrior III pose.
Warrior 3 may not be recommended for someone with lower back pain. Because it places so much pressure on the knee of the standing leg, it should also be avoided by someone with a knee injury or recovering from surgery. Their physician can tell them when Warrior 3 is safe to do.
People with balance issues may also want to avoid this Warrior pose or, at a minimum, modify it so it is safer. This helps prevent injuries that can occur due to a loss of balance.
If you are a yoga teacher, you may be wondering where to put Warrior 3 in your sequence. Good poses to place before Warrior 3 include:
Crescent Lunge (High Lunge)
Poses that are good to incorporate after Warrior 3 include:
Standing Forward Bend
Interested in a yoga career? Get started with ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher training course. This online course teaches you how to lead a yoga class in both Hatha and Vinyasa styles.
Liu, A.-M., Chu, I.-H., Lin, H.-T., Liang, J.-M., Hsu, H.-T., & Wu, W.-L. (2021). Training benefits and injury risks of standing yoga applied in musculoskeletal problems: Lower limb biomechanical analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(16), 8402. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168402
3 surprising risks of poor posture. Harvard Health. (2023, July 20). https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-surprising-risks-of-poor-posture