The warrior poses

The warrior poses are some of the most well-known poses in yoga. But what is the story behind them?

Warrior Pose - or Virabhadrasana in Sanskrit - is named after the warrior Virabhadra who was created by Shiva (one of the main Hindu deities) to avenge the death of his wife Sati. In this ancient story Sati's father (Daksha) disapproves of her marriage to Shiva, so Sati succumbs to sadness and takes her own life. Enraged by his wife's death Shiva tears out one of his dreadlocks, throws it on the ground, and from this dreadlock Virabhadra is created. It is said that Virabhadra has a thousand arms, three eyes, and wears a garland of skulls.

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Vira means 'Hero' ; Bhadra means 'Auspicious'.

Virabhadra cuts off Daksha's head and slays several other gods, but Shiva (seen in the statue on the left) immediately feels remorse when he sees what he has created. The slain gods are miraculously healed and Shiva replaces Daksha's head with that of a goat. Daksha and the other gods honor Shiva for this, calling him the 'kind and benevolent one'.  

Although we don't often hear about these ancient stories in modern yoga today, they are a fascinating part of yoga's history. Like many mythological stories, the story of Virabhadra can be interpreted as a metaphor for our lives and our yoga practice. As warriors, we strive to overcome our own physical, mental, and emotional limitations every day. 

If you are interested in learning more about the traditional myths behind the yoga asanas, I highly recommend reading Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition by Alanna Kaivalya. It's available on Book Depository, which has free shipping worldwide.

Each warrior pose is said to represent a different part of this story:

Warrior One - The arms are upward, which represents Virabhadhra rising from the earth.

Warrior Two - The arms are outward, which represents Virabhadhra drawing his sword during battle.

Warrior Three - The body is leaning forward, which represents Virabhadhra placing Daksha's head on a spike.

Warrior One

Warrior Two

Warrior Three

Reversed Warrior

This variation is not in the myth because it is a more modern yoga pose.

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