When I first started yoga I loathed Warrior poses. So much that they were sort of my yoga nemesis. I couldn’t understand it. Other standing poses did not cause me so much strife. Nor did any other pose with my arms raised tire me out so much. It wasn’t until my yoga teacher training that it all started to make sense.
During one of our yoga teacher training classes Laura Phelps mentioned a brief tidbit about the symbolism of Warrior I with arms raised, fingers interlaced and forefingers making a steeple. She said that the arms were like the sword of the warrior cutting through all fear. Then during Exalted Warrior I learned that the hand raised facing outward was the “Fear Not” mudra. Slowly I began to embrace this symbolism as I practiced Warrior asanas.
For many years I lived in fear; almost crippling fear. I had extremely low self-esteem, and at times still do. But one thing that has set me free from being enslaved by my fears is embracing the power of the Warrior asanas and reminding myself to fear not; to cut through my fear and step forward towards my dreams confidently. Warrior I helps me to physically embody the act of conquering my fear head on. I often reflect on what I am afraid of while in Warrior I and summons the courage to face it. Taking a moment to allow the courage to sink in I stand in Warrior II and envision myself overcoming my fear. When I’m stuck in a rut I add Warrior III to my yoga practice as a reminder to continually move forward no matter what life brings.
Since my yoga teacher training my intrigue of the Warrior asanas grew. I discovered there is a whole story on how the Warrior poses came into existence. It began with Sati and her husband Shiva. Sati’s father Daksha did not like Shiva. One night Daksha hosted a ritual sacrifice known as a yagna; inviting everyone except Sati and Shiva. Sati decided they should go anyway. Shiva wanting to make his wife happy agreed. Upon arriving at the yagna Daksha and Shiva got into an argument. Humiliated by the event Sati decided to let go of all family ties. She vowed to her father, “Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it.” She then sat down, closed her eyes and fell into a deep trance. Sati began to ignite her inner fire so intensely that her body burst into flames.
Shiva was devastated by the death of his wife. In his rage he pulled out his hair and began beating the ground until a warrior popped up from the earth. Naming the warrior Virabhadra; Vira meaning hero and Bhadra meaning friend, Shiva unleashed the warrior on Daksha at the yagna.
Virabhadra came from underground thrusting his sword up as in Warrior I. Making his presence known Virabhadra stood to survey the yagna in search of Daksha (Warrior II). Quickly and precisely Virabhadra cut off Daksha’s head (Warrior III).
After surveying the damage caused by Shiva’s vengeful act he summons Virabhadra back into himself. Filled with sorrow Shiva found Daksha’s head; placed it on a goat and brought Daksha back to life. Touched by the Shiva’s gesture Daksha gives Shiva the name Shankar meaning kind and benevolent one.
As you practice Virabhadra, Hero Friend, remember this story of how Shiva cut through what stood in the way of not just his own happiness but his wife’s happiness as well and find courage to conquer whatever it is that stands in the way of your happiness.
By Amanda Aiken
Amanda is a graduate of the Feel Good Yoga Teacher Training program. She is currently teaching yoga at various locations around Victoria.