Virabhadrasana: The Legend Behind the Warrior Poses

Posted by Paige Oxlaj on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 Under: yoga
Yoga is, on the surface, deceptively simple. One simply breathes, her body into a pose and holds it. But as one delves deeper into the layers of the knowledge and wisdom that make up the poses we hold, breathe through and release, one discovers rich symbolism in every movement.

In almost every yoga class, I teach, we do Virabhadrasana, or the Warrior Pose (I, II, and sometimes III). I have always been drawn to these poses, feeling that they have a unique power to heal and strengthen the spirit. They name of the pose comes from a Hindu myth. 

In the myth, a powerful priest named Daksha made a ritual sacrifice but neglected to invite his youngest daughter Sati or her husband Shiva. Sati discovered that her father had left her out and decided to crash the party. Her dad was not thrilled with the gatecrasher and argued fiercely with his daughter. 

Angered and hurt by her fathers insults, Sati said, “Since it was you who gave me this body, I no longer wish to be associated with it.”  She walked to the fire and threw herself into it.

When Shiva heard of Sati’s death, he was devastated. He yanked out a lock of his hair and beat it into the ground. The lock of beaten hair transformed into a powerful Warrior. Shiva named this warrior Virabhadra. Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend) and ordered him to go to the party and destroy Daksha and all his guests.

Virabhadrasana are the poses that explain the Warriors action.  In Warrior I, the Virabhadra arrives at the sacrifice with two swords in his hands. In Warrior II he sights his target, Daksha. And in Warrior III, he finds his opponent and decapitates him with his sword. 

At the myth goes, after Virabhadra has finished avenging Sati's life, Shiva arrives and see the destruction. Shiva absorbs Virabhadra into his being and then transforms into Hare, the ravisher. Filled with sorrow and compassion, Shiva finds Daksha’s body and gives it the head of a goat, which brings him back to life. In the end Sati is also reborn.

These poses, when done with the myth in mind, allow us to symbolically slay our enemies - whether they are internal demons or external challenges. But the myth also suggests that destroying creates sorrow, pain and unhappiness - and that after the anger dissipates one has to find compassion and kindness and restore what has been broken in anger. Thus this series give us the strength to take action for injustice and unkindness directed toward us and others, but it cautions us that there are consequences to this action, and that we must not act blindly or we will become Hare...

In : yoga 

Tags: yoga  warrior poses  hindu myths  anger 
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Living Life of Adventure, One Breath at a Time

Paige Deiner My life is a wild carpet ride full of unique experiences and one of a kind adventures. I sometimes find myself holding onto the tassels, rather than sitting squarely in the middle of my "magic carpet" - but so far I haven't fallen off and I'm loving the ride. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist and a Yoga Alliance 200 yoga instructor. I have been a Reiki Master for 8 years, and have meditated since childhood. My daughter thinks I'm a hippie, I think I am a very organized dreamer. The truth may be somewhere in the middle. I would probably be a vegetarian but I fear mutiny... But I do try my best to practice what I preach. I yoga everyday and meditate nightly. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic Reiki partner so I receive some universal wisdom each Tuesday. And I am an avid, nerdy reader. I clean to books on tape, and usually read about two non-fiction and one fiction book a week.