Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana I, II and III) are standard poses which are practiced in most yoga classes, but few people know the tale of their genesis. Hindu mythology tells the tale of Virabhadra which means “blessed warrior” and this is how it goes:
The powerful priest Darsha threw a huge party and invited a whole bunch of people to the exception of his young daughter Sati and her husband Shiva. Shiva was the supreme ruler of the universe but Darsha happened to despise him, go figure!
In one version of the story, Sati is so angry with the rejection of her father, she decides to crash the party and throws herself in the fire to teach her maker a lesson and illustrate the degree of love she has for Shiva. In another version, it is said her anger was so big she spontaneously combusted.
Both ways, she was lost to fire and Shiva back home, hears the news and goes into a fury. His most beloved wife is dead and he is devastated. He yanks a lock of hair from his head, throws it on the floor and the impact of the throw gives birth to a fierce warrior with a 1000 heads, feet, eyes and hands.
Virabhadra is now born from Shiva’s fury and is ordered to pay Darsha a visit and slay every single one of the guests including Darsha himself.
Despite the violence, this horrific tale, ends up pretty well as Sita is brought to life and Darsha’s beating teaches him humility and redemption.
The first tenet of the yoga practice, the foundation on which the entire practice rests is Ahimsa, meaning non-harming, non-violence. So why the hell the notion of the destructive warrior when all we advocate and talk about in yoga is kindness and compassion?
The warrior is the representation of the yogi, you and me struggling mightily against the enemy forces of ignorance or avidya, on the battlefield of life. So Virabhadra is a subtle acknowledgment and reminder of our commitment to destroy ignorance and bring awareness as we engage in the “good” fights. We are not warriors dressed in camouflage, ducking behind a bush and waiting all petrified for the enemy to blow us up to smithereens. We’re not fighting out of greed, power, ego or attachment. We are fighting to eliminate avidya. Anytime we overcome our own ignorance and do the right thing in the face of adversity, we are acting with compassion in true ways of warriorship
However, it is crucial we be careful and do it through kindness and compassion not through imposition or force. If we deem that someone’s behavior is being ignorant, typically the mistake we make is take the approach of “you shouldn’t do this” and “you shouldn’t that” just because we know better, and that automatically positions us as superior. The warriorship of love encourages us to inspire and show better ways rather than to dictate and dogmatize our thoughts and ideals.
In other practical words, if someone throws something on the floor, don’t give them a lecture, a finger or a dirty look. Give them a smile; not a fake one, not a sarcastic one, not an annoyed one, a true and genuine smile filled with love. Then make sure to pick up whatever it is they tossed carelessly and throw it in the garbage for them. If they are still watching at this stage of your little lesson, they will probably never ever throw anything without at least remembering your silent yet potent message.
When we inspire each other, the message is a million times louder than “do this” or “do that”
This is called wisdom in action and it is the only way of the true warrior.