October 02, 2020

Embody the Warrior – The Story of Virabhadra

Virabhadrasana describes a series of poses named after a powerful warrior in Hindu mythology, Virabhadra. The name is derived from the Sanskrit words Vira meaning “hero” and Bhadra meaning “friend”. According to ancient Hindu myths, Lord Shiva created Virabhadra to avenge the death of his wife, Sati.

When Sati (an incarnation of Shakti) got married to Shiva, her father, King Daksha did not approve of their union. So, when Daksha organized a great celebration, he invited everyone except Shiva and Sati. When Sati found out, she begged Shiva to go to the festivities with her, but he refused, saying that it was improper to show up uninvited. Despite her husband’s words, Sati decided to visit her father’s celebration.

When she arrived, Daksha humiliated and insulted Sati and her husband in front of all the guests, which led to Sati killing herself. Some traditions say she threw herself into the sacrificial fire, others say she utilized pranayama and other yogic exercises to cultivate her inner fire (Agni) until she burst into flames.

Out of grief and devastation over his wife’s death, Shiva tore out one of his dreadlocks and threw it on the ground. From this hair, he created Virabhadra. Shiva instructed the fierce warrior to seek revenge for Sati’s death.

The warrior postures describe what happened as Virabhadra appeared at the festivities:

  1. Virabhadrasana I: Virabhadra appeared, breaking through the ground and clasping a sword in each hand.
  2. Virabhadrasana II: With his enemy Daksha in plain sight, Virabhadra prepared for battle.
  3. Virabhadrasana III: Virabhadra swiftly approached Daksha, killing every guest in his way, and beheaded the king.

When Shiva arrived shortly after, his rage turned into sadness and regret. He went looking for King Daksha and, unable to find his head, replaced it with a goat’s. Suddenly alive, King Daksha recognized Shiva’s compassion and bowed to him.

According to many interpretations of this legend, the warrior Virabhadra represents the destruction of evil and ignorance. By remembering this intention in your yoga practice, you embody the strength and determination of the warrior.

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Warrior I increases stamina and balance, improves coordination, strengthens the legs and core, and improves flexibility.

  1. From Tadasana, place the back foot at about 45-degrees. The heels are placed in line. For more balance, the alignment could be closer to hip-width apart.
  2. Ground the outer edge of the back foot into the mat, straightening the back leg.
  3. Bend the front knee 90° and square the hips and chest forward.
  4. Reach the arms overhead with the palms facing each other or touching.
  5. Gaze forward or up to your thumbs if it feels comfortable for the neck.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles, as well as the chest and shoulders.

  1. From Virabhadrasana I, open the back foot to 90°. Keep pressing the outer edge of the foot into the ground. The back leg remains straight, the front knee bent.
  2. The hips and chest face the long end of the mat. Keep the sides of your torso equally long and the upper body directly over the pelvis.
  3. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulders relaxed, palms down.
  4. Direct your gaze to the tip of your middle finger.

Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

Warrior III is a challenging balancing posture that improves the strength and stability around the hips and pelvis, as well as the back and core.

  1. Balancing on one leg, reach the other leg back. Point the toes of your back foot down to the mat and engage the leg.
  2. If you feel any discomfort in the standing leg, slightly bend the knee.
  3. Make a mindful effort to square the hips down to the ground as much as you can while keeping balanced and maintaining stability through the posture.
  4. There are many positions for the arms: Reaching the arms forward, out to the side in a T-shape, or holding the hands in prayer position are just a few possibilities.

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