Saluting the great warrior, Virabhadra

From as long as I started yoga, I have been wondering who this mysterious warrior in the Warrior 1,2 & 3 series was and why he was so revered. I was also curious as to why he felt the need to do poses that made legs cramp and arms quiver – so I was inspired to do some research on him.

The warrior pose or Virabhadrasana in Sanskrit, describes a series of poses named for a powerful warrior in Hindu mythology, Virabhadra. The name is derived from the Sanskrit vira, meaning “hero,” bhadra, meaning “friend,” and asana, meaning “pose.” Ancient cave rock sculptures in the Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, showed a warrior-Shiva figure in a pose somewhat resembling Virabhadrāsana while conquering demons or wooing his consort Parvati. Shiva is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Shiva in particular was known as the ‘destroyer”, known to have untamed passion, which leads him to extremes in behavior. Parvati, wife of Shiva, is the Hindu goddess of fertility, love, beauty, harmony, marriage, children, and devotion; as well as of divine strength and power. She is also the reincarnation of Sati, Shiva’s first wife.

From Wikipedia source, Iyengar, B. K. S. (1979) [1966]. Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika:

The myth is that the powerful priest Daksha made a great yagna (ritual sacrifice) but did not invite his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, the supreme ruler of the universe. Sati found out and decided to go alone to the yagna. When she arrived, Sati entered into an argument with her father. Unable to withstand his insults, she spoke a vow to her father, “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 in. When Shiva heard of Sati’s death, he was devastated. He pulled out a lock of his hair and beat it into the ground, where up rose a powerful Warrior. Shiva named this warrior Virabhadra and ordered him to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all his guests.

The first pose, Virabhadrasana I, is his arrival at the yagna, with swords in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from below. Similarly, when we do the pose, it is important to ground our legs on the mat, channeling his energy by stretching our arms straight upwards, the back is slightly arched, and the gaze is directed upwards to the sky.

In the second pose, Virabhadrasana II, Virabhadra sights his opponent, Daksha from the side of his eye. It is important to sink the body down into a lunge until the front knee is bent at a right angle, and the arms are extended fully with the palms down, at shoulder level. The drishti is directed straight forward over the front index and middle fingers – feel as if you have spotted your target and are ready to tackle the opponent, or just the next tough work assignment. 

Virabhadrasana III features Virabhadra moving swiftly and precisely, decapitating Daksha with his sword. This pose requires strength and balance, with the trunk is turned fully to face the front foot, with the arms extended straight forwards, the gaze straight forwards, the trunk horizontal and one leg stretched back horizontally. Being more of a pacifist, I will liken this more to conquering your tough work assignment. That requires immense concentration so concentrating on one point (the end goal) will help you be more focused and balance all the various tasks at hand.

Now that we know the background behind the poses, we can be inspired to channel his heroic energy into our poses!