I always thought of yoga as something for “zen and peaceful” people so I didn’t really get the concept of “warrior pose” when I started practising. The Sanskrit name is VIRABADHRASANA : Vira means hero and badhra friend. “Warrior Poses” were not linked to yoga until the 20th century. There were not practiced in traditional yoga.
So what’s the story behind Virabhadrasana?
Shiva was married to Sati but Sati’s father, King Daksha, was not a big fan of Shiva and is strongly opposed to their union.
According to the legend, King Daksha organized a big party where all the members of the heavenly universe were invited except for Shiva and Sati. That was a way to show the couple how much he disliked the lovers’ union.
Sati tried to make her father understand how they loved each other but he insisted on demonstrating how Shiva wasn’t right for her. Sati was so upset by her father’s refusal to see the good in Shiva that she went into medidation to detached herself from the physical body her father created. She ended up burning her physical body to protest her father.
When Shiva learned about Sita’s immolation, he was so sad and angry that he cut off a dreadlock of his hair and threw it to the ground. From that dreadlock, Virabhadra came to life.
Virabhadra was actually Shiva’s revenge warrior. He went to the party and destroyed everything around him and beheaded King Daksha in rage.
Shiva realized later what his warrior had done. His anger slowly turned into sadness and regret. He managed to find King Daksha’s body but the head was so damaged that he replaced it with a goat’s head. King Daksha came back alive and recognized Shiva’s strength and remorse and bowed to him.
You can interpret the sequence of this story in the yoga poses :
Virabhadra 1 : rise, hands in the air > with your weapons in your hands you are ready to strike.
Virabhadra 2 : draw your weapons and strike to destroy everything
Virabhadra 3 : You reach out to behead king Daksha with remorse and compassion
A lot of muscles are engaged there and controlling your breath is key to maintain the posture. All three warrior poses are strong and challenging but are also quite satisfying. As they are standing poses, even as a beginner, you get the feeling that you can improve the posture. At least with Virabadhrasana 1 and 2, both your feet are grounded so you do not need to worry too much about your balance and you can focus on adjusting your alignment and feeling your muscles lengthening.
The warrior poses challenge your body but also your mind. You need to be focus on your breath and stay calm in the posture. The poses bring you strength, focus and confidence. The warrior poses symbolize our inner ability to overcome your ego. They can be a good way to your sadhana practice.
“It is not easy being a warrior, especially one who is constantly fighting against a reactive mind…Warrior poses are a reminder that ferocity exists not only to destroy but also to allow us sufficient strength to achieve integrity, compassions, and a loving state of mind.”