Virabhadrasana (Sanskrit: वीरभद्रासन; IAST: Vīrabhadrāsana) or Warrior Pose is a group of related lunging standing asanas in modern yoga as exercise commemorating the exploits of a mythical warrior, Virabhadra.
Etymology and origins
The name is from the Sanskrit वीरभद्रासन Virabhadrāsana, the asana of the mythical warrior Virabhadra. The warrior's name is in turn from the Sanskrit वीर Vira "hero" and भद्र Bhadra "friend". The poses are not attested in the hatha yoga tradition until the 20th century with the practices of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his student Pattabhi Jois, who was photographed in Warrior I in about 1939. Poses close to Virabhadrasana were described in Niels Bukh's 1924 Danish text Grundgymnastik eller primitiv gymnastik (known in English as Primary Gymnastics). Bukh's poses were derived from a 19th century Scandinavian tradition of gymnastics dating back to Pehr Ling, and "found their way to India" by the early 20th century. Mark Singleton suggests that these standing poses were most likely influenced by the tradition of physical culture including gymnastics of the early 20th century.
The myth is that the powerful priest Daksha made a great yagna (ritual sacrifice) but did not invite his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, the supreme ruler of the universe. Sati found out and decided to go alone to the yagna. When she arrived, Sati entered into an argument with her father. Unable to withstand his insults, she spoke a vow to her father, "Since it was you who gave me this body, I no longer wish to be associated with it." She walked to the fire and threw herself in. When Shiva heard of Sati's death, he was devastated. He yanked out a lock of his hair and beat it into the ground, where up rose a powerful Warrior. Shiva named this warrior Virabhadra and ordered him to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all his guests.
- Virabhadra's first aspect, Vīrabhadrāsana I, is his arrival, with swords in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from below.
- In his second aspect, Vīrabhadrāsana II, he sights his opponent, Daksha.
- And in his third aspect, Vīrabhadrāsana III, moving swiftly and precisely, he decapitates Daksha with his sword.
Shiva then arrives at the yagna and sees the rout that Virabhadra had wrought. Shiva absorbs Virabhadra back into his own form and then transforms into Hara, the ravisher. Filled with sorrow and compassion, Shiva finds Daksha's body and gives it the head of a goat, which brings him back to life. In the end Sati is also reborn.
The poses can be entered from a standing position, Tāḍāsana, jumping or stepping the feet wide apart. For Virabhadrāsana I, the hips are turned to face the front foot, which is turned fully outwards; the back foot is turned halfway inwards. The body sinks down until the front knee is bent to a right angle, the back leg remaining straight, and the back foot working to keep the whole of the sole of the foot on the floor. The arms are stretched straight upwards, the back is slightly arched, and the gaze is directed upwards.
For Virabhadrāsana II, starting from Tāḍāsana, the feet are spread wide, the front foot is turned fully out, and the back foot is turned in very slightly. The body remains facing forwards, so the hips remain in line with the feet, the body sinks down into a lunge until the front knee is bent at a right angle, and the arms are extended fully with the palms down, at shoulder level. The gaze is directed straight forward over the front hand.
For Virabhadrāsana III, a more difficult pose requiring strength and balance, again starting from Tāḍāsana, the feet are arranged as for Virabhadrāsana I. The trunk is turned fully to face the front foot, with the arms extended straight forwards, the gaze straight forwards, the trunk horizontal and one leg stretched back and also horizontal.
Virabhadrāsana has been called "easily one of the most iconic and recognizable postures".
- YJ Editors (12 April 2017). "Warrior I Pose". Yoga Journal.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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