The Myth Behind the Warrior Pose

The Sanskrit name for Warrior Pose is Virabhadrasana. Virabhadrasana means fierce Warrior Pose, or namely the warrior named Virabhadra and asana meaning pose. There are three variations of Virabhadrasana Warrior Pose; A, B and C. These Warrior Pose variations correspond to a wonderfully colourful ancient Hindu Myth.

Imagine a blue skinned God, known for his yogic practices and reclusive meditation. This God is Shiva. Shiva met the mortal Sati his soul mate. The pair fell in love, eloped and married quickly, much to the displeasure of Sati’s father the renowned powerful King Daksha.

King Daksha was enraged by the pairing being a man of society, rules and order. He had heard many rumours about this Shiva God who sat for long periods of time on the mountain Kailash in meditation. He had heard the reclusive blue faced God who covered himself in ash, had many peculiar practices and refused to take part in ordinary society.

Needless to say the King was annoyed in his anger he sought a revenge on the pair of lovers. He aimed to humiliate them by throwing a huge party and inviting every important person, God and Goddess…..except Shiva and Sati.

When Sati heard rumour of her Fathers nasty revenge, and disrespect for her Husband, she left quickly for the party hoping to confront him and bring an end to the drama. When Sati arrived, she was not able to reconcile the drama. Daksha refused to speak to his daughter and instead ridiculed Sati and her husband in front of his guests laughing hysterically at their expense.

Sati became furious and in order to break her ties with her Father once and for all, using her yogic breathing practices increased the internal heat in her body and combusted in flames.

Image: Daksha Yagna by Unknown author / Public domain / Sati, the first wife of Shiva, stands facing her father Daksha, seated on a throne. They argue after Daksha defiled a statue of the god and refused to invite Shiva to the sacrifice. Sati commits suicide in grief for her beloved.

High up on Mount Kailash, deep in meditation Shiva felt the death of his beloved wife. He became so enraged he ripped out one of his dreadlocks and threw it down on the earth. This dreadlock transformed into the fierce Warrior; Virabhadra. Shiva ordered Virabhadra to reach Daksha’s party and kill everyone there. Then to behead the King himself. According to ancient myth Virabhadra sank into the earth remerging at Daksha’s party.

As his terrifying form rose from the earth, his sword was held pointed aloft above his head as we see in the Warrior Pose A. The hands are together above the head arms straight, gaze is upwards towards the thumbs, front knee is bent 90 degrees back leg straight foot at a 45 degree angle and hips squared to the front.

Virabhadra pointed the sword forwards opening his arms and gazing down the sword tip ready to strike. We see this position in Warrior Pose B where the hips are now squared to the side, arms horizontal, gaze over the front middle finger, front knee still bent at 90 degrees and back foot now parallel to the back of the matt.

Then as ordered by Shiva Virabhadra lunged forward towards King Daksha and quickly, swiftly, severed the head of the King. Warrior Pose 3 depicts this scene. One foot is grounded on the floor while the other leg and torso are in one line parallel to the floor, arms are stretched out in front of the head and hips are square to the floor. Gaze is forward.

After this Macabre scene plays out Shiva arrives at the awful scene, re-absorbs Virabhadra back into himself and looks around him no longer in anger but in sorrow.

In this sorrow Shiva finds a head of a goat and reattaches it to King Daksha before bringing him back to life. The king then bows to the merciful Shiva and apologizes for his foolishness. Shiva in sorrow picks up his wife’s ashes and leaves for the mountains.

Image: Virabharda Daksha by Unknown author / Public domain / Painting on paper depicting Virabhadra The red-hued deity is coiffed exactly like Śiva. At his left stands the ram-headed Daksha.

Warrior pose does not so much represent a violent scene in opposition the yogic code Ahimsa: which means non- violence.

It is a representation of the warrior inside all of us. The warrior who does battle everyday when we make the difficult decisions, handle confrontations and confront our ego which might force us to behave in a way that is less in line with our higher self.

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