Sunday, February 26, 2012

Virabhadrasana I, II & III - The Warrior Poses

After a little hiatus, the yoga challenge blog is back. This week's post is from Deirdre and I lovvvvveeee it! Hope y'all do, too. Thanks, D! Here's to the (peaceful) Warrior in all of us...

The Tale of Virabhadra
Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend)

Whether we go to our mat daily, weekly or whenever the mood takes us there, I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to the dance of Virabhadrasana I, II and III and the hundreds of times we’ve practiced these poses.    Think about it, especially if you’re a lover of Vinyassa.   How many times do you glide in and out of Virabhadrasana I, II and III?.   They are almost second nature to us.  We move seamlessly through these postures, our limbs becoming an extension of our breath and our mind already lost in the dance.  “    Inhale, Virabhadrasana I, exhale Vira II, inhale - reach forward, exhale and reverse, inhale back to Vira II and exhale into Utthita Parsvakonasana.”      Vira I, II and III can become the poses that link our sequences.   We can transition through these poses in a trance like state.   

Perfect…yoga doing it’s thing right?  
So, when Amy asked me to blog (something I’ve never done before in my life), I was excited to share the below tale.   As part of my yoga teacher training, one of my teaching scripts was on Vira II.  On researching more about the pose I came across various articles telling the history of the warrior poses.    Perhaps after reading this (rather shortened version of the tale) the next time you ease yourself into Vira I, II or III, it could feel completely different.      
The origin of the warrior poses, Virabhadrasana I, II and III is derived from an ancient story of Lord Shiva. The warrior poses illustrate an incident that occurred in the celestial realms.   The story gives life to the poses.  It’s a story of love, attachment, pride, shame, vengeance, violence and sadness.  All emotions can be found in this tale of pride and transformation.

In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge yagna (ritual sacrifice) and invited everyone-except his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe).  Sati got word of this and suggested to Shiva that they go anyway.  Shiva, not wanting to incite her father’s anger anymore than he has already done, asked, “Why go, where we are not invited?”  Sati was hurt by her father’s refusal to acknowledge her marriage and her husband; she decided 
to go alone to the yagna.

When she arrived, Sati and her father got into an argument, which entertained the guests.  Sati was saddened and humiliated by this public argument with her father. When her father tried to taunt her again she remained silent, letting go of all desire to continue to argue with her father in hopes of defending her husband. She trembled with disgust and indignation at having been so cruelly let down by the one man upon whom she, as a daughter, should always be able to rely. Instead she made an internal resolve to relinquish all family ties. She summoned up her strength and spoke this vow to her father, “Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it.” She walked past her father and sat in a meditative seat on the ground. Closing her eyes, envisioning her true Lord, Sati fell into a mystic trance. Going deep within herself she began to increase her own inner fire through yogic exercises until her body burst into flames.

When Shiva got word of Sati’s death, he was devastated.  He yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground and up popped his fiercest Warrior.  Shiva named this warrior, Virabhadra.  Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend).  He ordered Virabhadra to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all guests assembled.

The warrior Virabhadra was created and from here the pose take life.  

Virabhadrasana I - Virabhadra arrives at the party and with his sword in both hands as he thrusts his way 
through the earth from deep underground.

Virabhadrasana II - After establishing his arrival for all to see, he takes then sites his opponent, Daksha and takes his stance. 

Virabhadrasana III - He is then ready to commit his act.   

Moving swiftly and precisely, with his sword in both hands and cuts off Daksha’s head.
Although this tale sounds pretty violent (hardly in keeping with the philosophy of yoga) it also evokes power, passion and strength.     

What’s my favorite?  Virabhadrasana II. 
I think of strength and determination – think of the imaginary.   Announcing your presence and power, opening your body to its full extent, directing your strength and passion at the challenge before you as you remain grounded and rooted to the earth beneath you.    When teaching this asana I like to say – inhale confidence for the challenges that lie in your path and exhale any fears and doubts you might have.

Perhaps the next time you’re on your mat and working your way into your first Warrior pose of the day, you might imagine yourself as a warrior.   Strong, focused on task, poised and ready for battle – see what happens….

We practice Virabhadrasana, not to honor the practice of violence against others, but to fight our own ignorance and ego. "What's really being commemorated in this pose's name and held up as an ideal for all practitioners, is the spiritual warrior, who bravely does battle with the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of all our suffering." (taken from Warrior I pose – Yoga Journal 

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