Virabhadrasana - The Warrior
from the Enhancing Your Yoga Practice series by Suzanne Manafort
For anyone who’s ever sweated and worked through Virabhadrasana I, 2 or 3, it may come as no surprise that the asanas (postures) were inspired by cosmic chaos and destruction. Many yogis, especially beginners, feel genuinely embattled by their complexity: the persistent tug-of-war between pouring down into the earth and reaching up and out, twist and backbend, and strength and flexibility.
The yoga poses that comprise Virabhadrasana are not at all at odds with the peaceful ahimsa of yoga practice. Ahimsa is one of the yamas (moral and ethical practices) and means “non-violence”. For in this pose we are not celebrating a warrior who caused a scene of destruction and carnage. Instead, in this posture, we acknowledge our own spiritual warriors who every day does battle with our own egos and avidya (self-ignorance), which is the ultimate source of all our suffering.
We learn to use discernment in our lives or to use Viveka, the faculty of discretion or discernment, which enables us to distinguish between true and false, reality and illusion.
The pose, in other words, is about the resilience of spirit, the true spirit of yoga.
According to the ancient texts, Virabhadra thrust his way up from deep underground with his sword held over his head in both hands, an essence reproduced in the posture Virabhadrasana I.
Next, Virabhadra made his presence known by standing with his sword poised and ready to strike. Essentially, the posture Virabhadrasana II embodies this quality.
Finally, Virabhadra lifts his sword into the air and strikes. You may think of this as the sword of discernment or Viveka.
Strength and Clarity
We learn from these postures to use the power of Viveka to differentiate right from wrong and useful from useless, important aspects of the yogic path. The next time that you work your way through these postures, think of the spirit of their creation as you work toward strength and clarity in your body and mind.