the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger’s skin
Here’s the story Behind
In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge yagna (ritual sacrifice) and invited everyone-except his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe). Sati got word of this and suggested to Shiva that they go anyway. Shiva, not wanting to incite her father’s anger anymore than he has already done, ask, “Why go, where we are not invited?” Sati was hurt by her father’s refusal to acknowledge her marriage and her husband; she decided to go alone to the yagna.
When she arrived, Sati and her father got into an argument, which entertained the guests. Sati was saddened and humiliated by this public argument with her father. When her father tried to taunt her again she remained silent, letting go of all desire to continue to argue with her father in hopes of defending her husband. She trembled with disgust and indignation at having been so cruelly let down by the one man upon whom she, as a daughter, should always be able to rely. Instead she made an internal resolve to relinquish all family ties. She summoned up her strength and spoke this vow to her father, “Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it.” She walked past her father and sat in a meditative seat on the ground. Closing her eyes, envisioning her true Lord, Sati fell into a mystic trance. Going deep within herself she began to increase her own inner fire through yogic exercises until her body burst into flames.
When Shiva got word of Sati’s death, he was devastated. He yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a his fiercest Warrior. Shiva named this warrior, Virabhadra. Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend). He ordered Virabhadra to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all guests assembled.
Virabhadra arrives at the party, with swords in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from deep underground; this is the first aspect (Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I). Establishing his arrival for all to see he then sites his opponent, Daksha, (Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II). Moving swiftly and precisely, he takes his sword and cuts off Daksha’s head, (Virabhadrasana III/Warrior III).
Practice of Virabhadrasana
- Start in Tadasana, mountain pose with toes wide. Step or lightly jump so that your feet are four to five feet apart.
- Your feet are positioned about one foot further than a “leg length” apart. In the beginning it is often necessary to adjust the distance between your feet.
- You can measure the correct distance on your own body as follows. In the final pose, the left leg is straight and the right leg is bent to a right angle. The upper right leg is parallel with the floor and the lower right leg is perpendicular with the floor.
- If your legs are too wide a distance apart the right leg will form an obtuse angle that is greater than 90°. If your legs are too short a distance apart the right leg will form an acute angle that is less than 90°. Adjust the distance between your feet so that when the top right leg becomes parallel with the floor the lower right leg will be perpendicular with the floor.
- Pivot your right foot out to a 90° angle and your left foot in to a 45° angle. Align your feet so that a line through the middle of the front foot would extend back to the center of the arch of the rear foot.
- Before starting to descend into the pose, adjust your rear left leg and foot. The rear foot arch should remain firm throughout the pose and your weight on the foot should be rolling towards the outside of the foot. The rear should be active with its kneecap kept raised using the quadriceps muscle. These adjustments should be maintained throughout the pose.
- Turn your gaze to the right and start to descend the pelvis.
- After turning your feet and throughout your descent into the pose there is a tendency for to lose the line of your spine. Keep the torso perpendicular with the floor throughout the pose. Avoid leaning the torso to the right over the right leg.
- Avoid the tendency to swing the front right knee forward and the right sit-bone backwards. When your top leg loses alignment you introduce potentially damaging strain into your knee. This correction is particularly important for those with knee injuries.
- In the final pose your front knee should be directly over the ankle and heel of your front leg. The rear leg remains active and straight with its kneecap lifted. Keep weight on the outside of the rear leg foot and the inside of the front leg foot throughout.
- Once you have descended the pelvis so that the front leg is bent to 90° (or as close as your current extension allows) open the front leg’s groin by rolling your outer rear left leg down and inner rear left leg up. Keep your rear kneecap actively pulled up throughout. As you make this adjustment, be careful not to lose the alignment of the upper front leg over a line extending through the middle of the front foot going back through the center of the arch of your rear leg’s foot.
- Lift up your spine vertically and open your sternum. This movement is key for Warrior II. Your shoulders should be aligned over your hips. The rear leg hip will be slightly forwards from the front leg hip but should be made as square as possible without losing the alignment of the forward top leg.
- Expand the chest, lift the sternum, and broaden your collar bones. As you lift through the centre of the body with your core strength, you can open the front of the chest.
- Drop your tailbone down and bring it forwards toward the pubic bone as you lift your ribcage up from the pelvis. These movements extend the lower back and protect you from an unhealthy collapse in the lumbar spine.
- Extend the arms to the fingertips at the level of your shoulders with the palms facing the floor. The arm extension helps open the chest. The arms should stay parallel to the floor. Engage the triceps muscles in the arms firming and extending them.
- Tip: Keep your shoulders away your ears. Focus on drawing your shoulder blades down your back.
- Turn your head to look out over your front arm. Keep scanning your body to feel where you are losing awareness and balance. Turning the head to the right (or bent leg side) is almost the last thing in the pose. Next, focus your gaze to the middle finger of your left hand which may help with balance. Hold the pose for at least one minute working on opening the inner right groin throughout.
- To come out of the pose, bring the feet back to being parallel and straighten the bent leg. Jump back to Tadasana with feet together. Repeat the pose on the other side.
- Grounding, coordination, balance strength, stamina.
- Stretching and strengthening of legs, ankles, arms, knees joints, and spine.
- Enjoy a natural traction of the spine which makes space between vertebrae.
- This pose may help osteoporosis and relieve sciatic pain.
- Your groins, chest, lungs, hip joint, arch of the foot and shoulders are opened and strengthened.
- Arthritis of the spine may be helped.
- Circulation in the lower limbs is helped by the pose.
- The longer you hold the pose, the more circulation and respiration are assisted in the body.
- Tone up the nerves and nervous system.
- Helps digestion and may help relieve constipation.
- Helps muscles relating to the lungs and thus helps respiration.
- Opens the heart with chest opening and can affect mood positively.
- Improves concentration.
- If you have knee problems, either don’t do the pose without guidance from a teacher or don’t bend the knee as far as 90 degrees. Keep the top of the bent leg aligned with the forward foot as you descend the pelvis.
- Don’t do the pose if you have diarrhea, high blood pressure or a sprained or injured ankle. If you neck has issues, look straight ahead and do not turn your head to the side. Don’t strain. Don’t do the Warrior II Pose if you have recent or chronic injury to the hips or shoulders.
- If you have lower back problems, be cautious and tuck the tailbone under and forward and raise the ribcage up from the pelvis to avoid compression in the lumbar spine.
- Listen carefully to your body as you practice yoga. Consult your health provider and/or your yoga teacher for advice. A trained yoga teacher can help you do poses properly.
- See our studio directory to find a teacher near you.