Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Warrior Poses, and why they are cool.

This article was originally posted on TheKnow on Nov 1, 2013, in an edited format.

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Hey there pretty hero-friends! The asana of the week is virabhadrasana, otherwise known as the warrior poses (last week was chaturanga, and we hit up adho mukha the week prior). We are going to do things a bit differently this week, because the warriors are the actual coolest and I want to tell you the backstory prior to breaking things down.

Okay? Okay.

Quick pause here, because, um. I know. It is now week three, and we are still not on scorpion. Two things: A. slow your roll, toots, we're getting there, and B. this isn't gymnastics - you're not being judged on degree of difficulty, or at all. Yoga is living in the now and the now is the warrior series. So calm down first and then get excited because you are honestly going to love this.

In Sanskrit (respect!): Virabhadrasana I, II & III
Pronunciation: vee-rah-bah-DRAH-sah-nah

Vira, meaning hero
Bhadra, meaning friend (in this context)
Asana, meaning pose, posture, seat

Virabhadrasana actually translates to hero-friend pose, which probably makes very little sense if you don't know the story. We usually call them warrior one, two and three - referring to Virabhadra, actually, which was the name of an extremely bad-ass warrior, hence the translation.

Why these poses?
The warrior poses are foundational postures for any standing sequence, so they come up a lot and it's nice to feel like you've really got them nailed. Because they are plays on balance and involve quite a bit of bodyweight resistance, they are fabulous for building core strength. And, despite being weighted to one side or the other, they are built around around a drawing of everything into your center, which is what it's all about.

The Origin Story
Because you are at yoga and not spin class, you're actually studying an ancient philosophy that's all tied up in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and all the stories that go with. Most of the really important stories find their way into the practice in one way or another and manifest in the poses, and then those poses ended up with Sanskrit names that nod to the stories. Virabhadrasana is one of those poses that gets a cool story. The stories are fun, sure, but they also can help you to channel the energy that was intended to accompany the pose - this being a brilliant example.

The story goes that Lord Shiva the Destroyer and Shakti the creator, the sacred feminine, were being shunned by Shakti's father, who didn't approve of their union. On this particular occasion, Shakti's dad throws a huge celebration for the whole town and bans Shiva and Shakti from attending. They are super pissed/totally shocked and completely infuriated at having been left out. Shakti finds a way past the guards and busts into the party, throws a huge tantrum, and essentially commits suicide by throwing herself into a great fire when her dad refuses to change his mind. Normal.

Shiva is so incredibly devastated when he hears what happens that he starts rending his hair, ripping out dreadlock after dreadlock and from his dreadlocks is born mighty Virabhadra, our hero-friend. Normal. This great warrior and Shiva-incarnate is then sent to the party to avenge Shiva's one true love.

This is where it gets good. Also, relevant.

It is said that Virabhadra arrived at the party not through a door, but by rising up from the ground in a cloud of smoke, two daggers clenched in his raised hands.

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He saw Shakti's father from across the room and set his gaze on his target,

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And struck, cutting off Shakti's dad's head - attacking the ego, so to speak.

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And then Shiva kind of shows up and reabsorbs Virabhadra, Shakti is reborn and everything is cool again. Shakti’s dad gets to live with a goat-head in service of Shiva for eternity. THE END.

In sum, Virabhadra was a super bad-ass warrior who was born out of a dreadlock and killed a guy to avenge the loss of a lover, like some sort of Hindu Romeo superhero. WITH DAGGERS. In his two hands. The very hands that you are emulating when you're doing the warrior poses. Think about that next time you're in your warrior I and then just try to justify having limp warm lettuce fingers and wet noodle arms.

Stay tuned for the breakdown - ! All three warriors, coming up soon. And then yes, for Pete's sake, we'll move on to something more interesting.

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