Many asanas take their names from Indian mythological figures who had fantastical lives and superhuman powers. Here are a series of them. Learn their lore to infuse your practice with the extraordinary.
The next time your thighs are turning to Jell-O in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) – or anytime life demands a great deal of you – you might want to invoke the spirit of the great warrior for whom this pose is named.
A son of Lord Shiva (The Destroyer, considered the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon), Virabhadra was born of unbearable suffering. After Shiva’s wife Sati was killed, Shiva tore out his hair in grief; from his locks, Virabhadra and the fierce goddess Kali were born. Shiva then made them commanders of the legions he sent to average Sati’s death. Like Shiva, they destroy to save: Their real enemy is the ego. By cutting off the head of the ego, Virabhadra and Kali help remind us to humble ourselves.
When we practice one of the three versions of Virabhadrasana, we cultivate the mind of the warrior, who must go into the battle unattached to the fruits of his actions – one who has 360-degree vision and can see all things. You look to all sides in the poses, but you try to hold to your center and not to be pulled every which way. Virabhadrasana teaches us to go into the field of life and stay in the center of our being. If you can imagine yourself as a fearless warrior sent on a divine mission, you just might find renewed strength and vigor in the poses as well as the courage and determination to face life’s challenging moments.
As excerpted, written and sketched by Colleen Morton Busch
(Yoga Journal May/June 2004 )