This yoga exercise trains your sense of balance and boosts your ability to concentrate

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Any sport requires a good sense of balance. Golf and baseball require you to shift your body weight while generating a lot of power. Skating and ice hockey also require this skill, with the added factor of speed. In “stop and go” sports like soccer, volleyball, or basketball, you need to have a good sense of balance in order not to fall down in a head-to-head race. In other words, a sense of balance is crucial for athletes of all kinds. It allows you to move with precision, gives you greater stability, and can prevent injuries.

Read more: 7 stability-boosting exercises that every athlete should know.

If you prefer weight training or CrossFit, basic exercises like squats, dead lifts, pull-ups and snatches are bound to be an integral part of your workout routine. Good balance and stability are also the key to success and help you execute all of the required movements cleanly. Do you want to improve your sense of balance and your performance? Then you should practice yoga more often. Lots of yoga exercises put your sense of balance to the test and target your core and deep muscles.

There’s been a lot of research on the benefits of this millennia-old discipline, which was originally intended as preparation for meditation. A 2016 study examined the effect of yoga on balance in male college athletes. The subjects were divided into two groups. The first group practiced yoga every other week for 10 weeks, while the second group continued with their usual workout routine. The researchers concluded that regular yoga practice improved the balance and flexibility of male college athletes from the first group. Based on this, they then concluded that athletes can also use yoga to improve their performance in other disciplines that require balance and flexibility.

But before we show you how to train your sense of balance with yoga, let’s first look at how it works in the first place.

How to keep your balance

There are three components to your sense of balance: visual, vestibular and proprioceptive perception. Visual perception means you can use your eyes to orient yourself in space. In yoga, a fixed point that you look at to help you maintain balance is called a “drishti”. For yoga exercises that challenge balance, the instructor will often mention focusing on your drishti.

Vestibular perception refers to the organ of balance in the inner ear. When you move your head, the hair cells in your inner ear perceive this movement. Those hair cells are connected to nerves that tell your brain in which direction your head is currently moving. If you’ve ever experienced dizziness from an inner ear infection, it’s because your vestibular perception has been disrupted. You’ve probably heard of proprioception in the context of sports – the way athletes always seem to be aware of where they are and how their body is moving, even when running at top speed or performing a complex action. This is the perception of one’s own body in space. Receptors in the individual regions of the body transmit information to your brain about which muscles, tendons, and joints are currently active as well as their position. For instance, when you lift one leg off the ground and balance on the other, the touch receptors in your feet send signals to your brain.

Why we recommend the Warrior 3 yoga exercise

Lots of yoga exercises will train your sense of balance. Warrior 3 is a challenging exercise that you will come across regularly in your yoga practice. It hones your strength, balance and focus. The great thing about this yoga pose is that it promotes both rootedness (your standing leg remains firmly on the ground) and expansion within the space (your raised leg and upper body are elongated).

Here’s how to do Warrior 3:

Take a big step forward with your right leg and get into a lunge. Your front leg remains firmly planted on the floor, with the back of the heel raised. Lean forward and stretch your standing leg. At the same time, lift your left leg away from the ground so that the tip of your foot is pointing toward the ground. Stretch your arms forward with your palms facing each other. Your arms should be in line with the level of your head, and you should keep your hips straight with your body parallel to the ground. Direct your gaze downwards. Maintain the tension and keep breathing calmly. Now switch to your other leg and perform Warrior 3 again.

This exercise strengthens the following muscles: thighs, glutes, back extensors, core, and shoulders.

It stretches the following muscles: latissimus dorsi, hip flexors (lifted leg), hamstrings.

How it affects your mind: promotes focus, gives you a sense of freedom and rootedness at the same time, helps you to see the bigger picture.

Tips for making Warrior 3 easier

Warrior 3 is not an exercise for beginners. It requires good balance and strength. A good way to figure out how far you should go into the pose is to watch your breathing. If you find that you can no longer breathe properly, relax and take it easy. If you haven’t been practicing yoga for long or can’t hold the pose yet, that’s no reason to eliminate it from your practice altogether. Here are a few variations to make Warrior 3 easier for you.

#1 On all fours

Start on all fours. Your knees should be under your hips and your palms beneath your shoulders. Tighten your core muscles and lift your right arm and left leg from the floor. Keep them parallel to the floor.

#2 Use a wall

Stand facing a wall. Take a few steps away from the wall and get into the Warrior 3 pose. Your arms should be outstretched, with your palms and fingers touching the wall.

For another version, turn your back to the wall and lunge forward. Get into the Warrior 3 pose and press your back foot against the wall.

#3 Use a yoga block

Hold a yoga block in both hands. Get into the Warrior 3 pose and stretch out both arms in front of you, holding the block.

For the second version, you need two blocks. Place them side by side in front of you on the floor, on the highest step. Bend forward, place both palms on the blocks and get into the Warrior 3 pose.

#4 Change your arm position

Extend your arms behind you, keeping them close to your body. Optionally, bend your arms and hold your hands in the prayer position, pressing your palms together in front of your chest. This will give you greater stability.

Tip: The version on all fours is best for pregnant women, as it is the most stable and should prevent you from falling. If you have knee or ankle problems or an acute herniated disc, do not practice Warrior 3 and seek medical advice.

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