Three poses that to me, form the backbone of my yoga practice are the Warrior poses: Warrior I, II, and III. You might wonder, with yoga being such a introspective, calming, and gentle way of life, from where does this Warrior theme arise? When I am in any of the Warrior poses I have a sense of inner strength and calm that filters through my whole body, my mind, and my spirit. I envision myself as strong warrior, ready to fight for and protect my sense of self, and who I am.
In Sanskrit the name is Virabhadrasana means “hero friend”. Vira is hero, bhadra means friend. Virabhadra is a fearsome warrior formed from the hair of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Shiva pulls hair from his head in anger and despair when he learns of the death of his wife, Sati, caused by Sati’s father. Shiva weaves his hair into a warrior, who he names Virabhdra. Shiva sends Virabhdra to slay Dhaksha, Sati’s father, and others who were accessories to Sati’s death.
In the end Shiva realizes his wrong doing and Virabhdra restores life to Dhaksha and others he had slain. Virabhdra becomes a great warrior, serving and protecting Shiva.
Warrior I, II, and III poses are representations of the image of Virabhadra as he wages his war against Dhaksa!
Warrior I is the image of Virabhadra thrusting his way up through the earth to conquer Dhaksa, his sword held high above his head with both hands.
To come into Virabhadrasana I, start in Tadasana, Mountain Pose (standing tall, arms by your side, shoulders down away from your ears, fingers spread wide, knees and thighs flexed, sacrum tucked), step your right foot back, placing it on a 45 degree angle. Bend your right knee to a 90 degree angle, making sure your knee is stacked over your ankle. Adjust your hips, pressing your right hip back and your left hip forward. On an inhale, lift your arms up over your head, maintaining a tall spine with a slight back bend, fingers spread wide. On your exhale, lower your shoulders away from your ears. Hold for 6 – 8 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Warrior II replicates Virabhadra when he has Dhaksha in his site.
To come into Virabhadrasana II, start in Tadasana, step your right foot back, placing it on a 45 degree angle. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees, again stacking it over your ankle. Turn your body to face sideways, with a tall spine, raise both arms out to shoulder height, and turn your head to look forward, your drishti (your gaze) follows over your right finger tips. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Warrior III embodies Virabhadra as he slays Dhaksha, cutting off his head.
Virabhadrasana III is a balancing pose. Come to Tadasana and focus your drishti in front of you several feet away. Reach your arms out in front of you at shoulder height, then begin to lift the left leg at the same time slowly tipping forward at your hip creases. As your torso lowers and you lift your left leg , allow your ‘drishti’ to slowly drop, as well. When you are in the pose your gaze is down to the ground. To assist you with balance, press through the heel of the lifted foot. Breath. Work to keep your hips parallel to the ground. Don’t worry about how high your lifted leg is, you will be able to lift higher as your balance improves. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths. Repeat on other side.
When we take any of the Virabhadrasana poses, we strive to embody the inner qualities of Virabhadra: those of empowerment, courage, and clarity. Try these Warrior poses and find your Warrior within!
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