Warrior 3 (Wall Version)), which makes it accessible to almost everyone. This week, we’re featuring the full pose. In the full pose, your back body muscles work more than when you’re at the wall, so the spinal extenders in your back and neck are strengthened even more.
As we said last week, Warrior 3 is unique in that in this pose you keep your torso and one leg parallel with the floor. In this position, gravity challenges you to keep yourself upright instead of folding over your front leg. All the musculature on the back of your body has to work actively to keep you in this position, including your hamstrings and buttocks along with all the spinal muscles up to the base of your neck. This week, we’re introducing three different arm variations for the pose, moving from the easiest to balance in to the most difficult. Each arm position strengthens different upper body muscles.
In Variation 1, with the arms back alongside the torso (a kind of Downward Flying Super Hero pose), the muscles you use to take your arms into extension (behind your back, as in Camel pose) are activated. These include the back part of your deltoids, your triceps muscles, and your lattissimus dorsi, as well as the muscles between your shoulder blades that help bring your shoulder blades close together. This variation provides a rare opportunity to strengthen muscles that don’t get much of a workout in your daily life, and it is also the easiest version to balance in.
In Variation 2, with your arms out to the sides (it’s a plane!), your balance is challenged more than in Version 1, therefore your back body muscles get a more intense work out. With your arms out the your sides, you continue to use the backs of your deltoids, but you also activate the muscles between your shoulder blades even more (middle trapezius, rhomboids, etc.).
In Variation 3, the most challenging version to balance in, the fronts of your deltoid muscles, some of your rotator cuff muscles, and your shoulder blade stablizers are strengthened as keep you keep your arms overhead. Because your arms and upper body are resisting the downward pull of gravity, the trapezius, anterior and posterior deltoid, and serratus anterior muscles that are strengthened in the wall version get a more intense workout in the version away from the wall.
Of course, as a bonus, all three versions of Warrior 3 are also excellent for improving balance and for general strengthening of your standing leg and for strengthening the back leg muscles of your raised leg, including your hamstring muscles, which can become overstretched from certain other yoga poses.
Variation 1: Start by moving Warrior 1 pose on your right side (with your right foot forward). From there, bring your hands to your hips. Now tip your torso forward about 45 degrees over your hip joint and come onto the ball of your back foot. On an exhalation, straighten your right leg as you gently propel yourself forward to balance over it with your torso and back leg parallel with the floor. Try to keep both hips even with the floor. Once you have your balance established, bring your arms along side your body with the palms facing each other.
To come out of the pose, bend your right knee slightly, and bring your raised foot down to floor. Then swing your arms up into Warrior 1 pose, and release from there. Repeat on the left side.
Variation 2: For Variation 2, come into it the same way as version 1, with your hands on your hips. When you have your balance established, bring your arms out the sides, with your palms facing down.
Variation 3: For Variation 3, come into the same way as Variation 1 except you should leave your arms in Warrior 1 position as you come into full Warrior 3. However, if balance is a big issue, you can start with hands on the hips and then bring your arms forward when your balance is established.
Cautions: If you have low back pain, you may have to drop your lifted leg a bit lower or bend your back knee to reduce the weight stress this pose puts on your lower back (even a micro bend to the back leg can be helpful). If you have arthritis of the neck, you may want to avoid lifting your head to face forward. As always, use common sense. It if hurts to do the pose, come out and ask your teacher for some feedback about what you’ve been doing. If balancing is a big problem and you’re just getting frustrated, return the wall version we featured last week (see Warrior 3 (Wall Version)).
If you’re having a lot of trouble and want to work your way gradually into the pose, you can do the pose at an angle instead of parallel. For more tips, see Nina’s post on Taking on a Yoga Challenge.