How to Do Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman on yoga mat doing warrior III pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Know​n As: Airplane Pose

Targets: Balance, legs, core

Level: Intermediate

Warrior III adds a balance challenge to the standing Warrior sequence of yoga poses. You will balance on one leg with the torso, arms, and other leg held parallel to the ground. It's an energizing pose that can help you build lower body and core strength, but also mental focus. You can use it as part of an invigorating sequence of standing yoga poses for your home practice.

Benefits

Warrior III strengthens the legs, improves balance, and builds core strength. The leg muscles involved on both the supporting and elevated leg include the hamstrings and gluteal muscles at the back of the leg and the muscles in both the front and back of the calf. Your back and ab muscles are also used in support and stabilizing the pose. The shoulder muscles are engaged to keep the arms parallel to the ground. Your balance is strongly challenged as you must find your center of gravity and continuously adjust the support to maintain the pose. The balance and flexibility gained with this pose can help you achieve good posture and respond to any balance challenges in daily life. You will also develop your mental focus and concentration.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin in Warrior I, which is a lunge with your right foot forward, knee bent 90 degrees with knee over the foot, and rear leg extended. Bring your hands to your hips.
  2. Lean forward to bring your weight into your right (forward) foot. Keep your left (rear) knee bent as you float your left foot up away from the floor about a foot.
  3. Straighten your right leg and continue to bring your torso toward a parallel position to the floor. Use your torso going forward to counterbalance your left leg lifting and extending straight back. Eventually, both the torso and the left leg will come parallel to the floor at roughly the same time. Keep the neck relaxed, as if it's the natural extension of the spine. Your gaze stays down towards the floor.
  4. Fully extend the left (upper) leg. Keep both hips level and pointing toward the floor. The left hips tends to want to cock up so keep pointing it toward the floor. Your hands on your hips can help you feel this.
  5. Flex the left (upper) foot and keep the toes pointing down at the floor. Actively engage the muscles of the left leg.
  1. Bring your arms back along your sides when you are ready.
  2. Bend your right leg to step back to Warrior I.
  3. Repeat the pose on the other side.​

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this pose and prevent strain or injury.

Locking or Hyperextending Supporting Knee

Keep your supporting knee slightly soft to protect the joint. Instead, concentrate on the calf muscle resisting the shin muscle to support the body.

Upper Leg Too High

You should aim for your entire body to be parallel to the ground in a straight line. Raising your upper leg too high will stress the lower back or result in your head tipping down.

Neck Position

Your head should be in line with your torso and spine, not nodded down or cranked up, which can put stress on your neck. Keep your gaze down and the top of your head pointed at the opposite wall.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, you can do this pose in different ways to help you build toward the full pose or to deepen the pose as you progress.

Need a Modification?

If you are new to the pose, it is wise to do the pose at the wall. You can either face the wall and bring your arms outstretched in front of you with your hands on the wall or turn around and bring the lifted back foot onto the wall. Either one will give you the stability you need to level your hips. Or, you can hold onto a chair instead of using the wall.

Up for a Challenge?

Once you have perfected this pose, try an arm variation.

  1. Bring the arms outstretched in front of you. Keep the biceps next to your ears so that your arms are in line with your back leg. The hands can stay shoulders' distance apart or you can bring the palms to touch.
  2. Bring the hands to reverse Namaste position behind your back.
  3. Bring your arms out to either side like an airplane. 

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have balance difficulties, high blood pressure, or an injury to the hip, knee, ankle, back, or shoulder. If you are pregnant, be sure that you have a chair or support in case you have balance issues. End this pose if you feel any pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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