The Warriors poses in yoga, Virabhadrasana 1, 2 and 3 as named in sanskrit come from a Hindu Myth about Daksha (son of Lord Brahman), his daughter Sati, and his son-in-law Lord Shiva. Feel free to read the story, but I have trouble pulling any meaning from this story to use in my yoga practice. In the story, the poses invoke the warrior going to battle: In Warrior I, the Virabhadra arrives at the sacrificial ceremony of Daksha with two swords in his hands. In Warrior II Virabhadra sights his target, Daksha. And in Warrior III, he finds his opponent and decapitates him with his sword. Yikes! Violent images in this story.
So how do can we celebrate the image of warriors in our yoga practice and also embrace the yama of ahisma or non-violence?
While we typically associate a warrior battling everything in its path, the warriors of yoga (as are all the poses in yoga) are meant to turn you inward. This internal battle is primarily against the Ego in order to bring out the true Self. The Ego is drawn to material things and needs external validation and praise. Many times our Ego is how we present ourselves to the outside world: judgmental, harsh with our words, jealous, attached to our appearance, worried, resentful etc. But this is not the best representation of who we are. This outside portrayal of our Ego is not who God (or the Divine, or the Universe or whatever powerful force you ascribe to) intended us to be. I believe that the Holy Spirit lives within us and is actually our true Self. That is, our unique God-Given qualities and talents to give and receive love.
I believe that these warrior poses are to symbolize the “Fight for True Self”. Each day to live as God intended us to live, from grace and purity. The sword is used to kill untruths about ourselves: the harm that the Ego does with thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
Warrior 1: Look to the Divine for guidance. Once you have established the pose, look up, and progress to a backbend where the 3rd chakra (energetic area for individual will located at the solar plexus) is lifted up so that the Divine will then becomes our own will. “Thy Will be Done” as I say in the Lord’s prayer. Opening in the 3rd chakra builds self-confidence and courage.
Warrior 2: Battle pose. Fight for your Self. Fight off negative emotions and thoughts about yourself. Fight to be heard as your Self and not as your Ego.
Warrior 3: Freedom. Pose of flight. Soaring above with ease. Living in the flow of Self unrestricted by the bad behavior of the Ego.
Many of my students struggle with the challenge of the Warrior poses. So too is the struggle with life.