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The Many Dimensions of Yoga

The illustration above is of Virabhadra, a fierce mythical warrior, and his stubborn, pigheaded father-in-law Daksha. I used the Hindu tale of Virabhadra as inspiration for this warrior yoga sequence for home practice and to highlight how yoga, as well as improving health and fitness, has many other dimensions to offer. Yoga is about health and fitness for your whole being, your physical body, your mind and the philosophical realm.

The Mythology Behind the Poses

Yoga uses mythical creatures and ancient tales to explain philosophical concepts. In the story behind the warrior poses we meet Lord Shiva battling his demons. In an act of revenge our hero, Lord Shiva, resolves to kill his pig headed and stubborn father in law Daksha. In anger he invokes Virabhadra, the fierce and powerful warrior and Daksha is slain. Realising the impact of this terrible act Shiva’s perspective shifts. He is filled with regret and remorse and seeks to right his terrible wrong. He directs his inner warrior towards understanding and compassion and brings his father in law back to life.

Symbolically this story depicts our relationship with ourselves and how we deal with aspects of our nature that we may dislike. It teaches us not to use force to change or expel our inadequacies and bad habits but instead to use our energy towards understanding ourselves and granting ourselves compassion. In this way, through yoga, we can recognise our complex natures and live more peacefully.

How to Use the Sequence

If you like the idea of exploring the power of your inner warrior and finding a peaceful place the next time you are on your mat turn your attention inwards. Look inside yourself and embrace your true nature. The nice bits and the not so nice bits. Invoke Virabhadra and find conviction. As you become stronger and more confident on your mat your capacity for self compassion and self appreciation will grow. When you step off your mat you’ll be are empowered, rejuvenated, focused and feeling great.

 

Here’s the sequence. Enjoy!

Warrior Pose 1 - Virabhadrasana 1

Warrior Pose 1

Ground your back foot and lean back over your engaged and strong leg. Soften your upper body, fill your chest with and inhale and open your arms. Shoulders down, back of neck long. Bend your front knee. With each inhale feel open and elevated in your upper body. With each exhale, bend the front knee and feel grounded and strong in your lower body. Turn your attention inwards.

Warrior pose virabhadrasana 3

Warrior Pose 3

Step forward onto a grounded foot and strong leg. Inhale and lengthen through your spine, engage your shoulders and expand your chest. Exhale, hinge forward with your hips parallel to the floor, heel lengthens away, back of thigh working. Use your breath to retain length and strength as you hinge a little further. Build strength and mental focus for your journey of self discovery.

Warrior pose virabhadrasana 2

Warrior Pose 2

Turn your whole body to face the side, arms parallel to the floor. Rotate your front thigh at the hip and point your foot forward. With shoulders supporting arms and neck long gaze over your front middle finger. Inhale, reach back through your fingers over your strong leg and feel your chest open. Exhale, bend your front knee, fix your gaze with intention. Stand firm, find inner conviction.

Half moon pose Ardha Chandrasana block

Half Moon Pose

The sequence completes with ardha chandrasana, a posture of perfect balance and peacefulness. (I’ve used the block to enable more openness in the chest and hips.) With your gaze still fixed from warrior 3, bend the front knee a little, take your hand to your hips and begin to turn your chest away from your supporting leg. Your gaze stays fixed. Work with your breath to move a little, regain balance and move a little more. Feel a strong open body, even breath, focused and peaceful. Accept the wobble, acceptance even when it’s difficult.

If time allows try repeating the sequence upto 3 times on each side. That will really help with familiarity and creates the opportunity to notice some of the finer detail. When you finished, spend a minute or two in either child pose or savasana.

Summary

I hope you find this sequence an interesting addition to your yoga journey, it will help you to find many forms of strength. You might like to try using it with the 10 minute yoga sequence on the main blog page.

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Bibliography: The British Museum. The Mythology of Viparita Virabhadrasana: Who Was Virabhadra? – Kathryn Ashworth, Himalayan Institute, August 2016.

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Claire Plastow

Claire Plastow teaches hatha yoga in Wandsworth and South London. She holds a 500 hour, British Wheel of Yoga Diploma in teaching yoga and has over fifteen years of personal yoga practice experience

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