What does it mean to be a warrior?

In a world where the misapplication/misdirection/abuse of power is so woefully common, it is useful to pause and consider how/where we apply our own resources. The physical practice of yoga, asana, Virabhadrasana (Warrior pose) in particular, is a way of occupying that pause, tuning into our power, with poise, grace and wisdom. It is skill in action, to paraphrase one of the Bhagavad Gita’s messages about the meaning and the purpose of yoga.

In a world where the misapplication/misdirection/abuse of power is so woefully common, it is useful to pause and consider how/where we apply our own resources. The physical practice of yoga, asana, Virabhadrasana (Warrior pose) in particular, is a way of occupying that pause, tuning into our power, with poise, grace and wisdom. It is skill in action, to paraphrase one of the Bhagavad Gita’s messages about the meaning and the purpose of yoga.

Virabhadrasana II, part of the Warrior series, the ultimate power stance. To hold your own in this pose takes some doing, especially if you challenge yourself to stay in it for a minute or more. The challenge lies in remaining calm, composed, present and aligned.

Alignment here applies on a deeper level than physical structure, although this is key to establishing your foundations from which the rest flows: pressing firmly into your feet, ensuring they are leveled from heel to arch, back foot inner arch is lifted, core tight to keep you firm and stable, reaching energetically through your fingertips while not straining or hunching your shoulders, which should remain stacked over your hips.

However, the bigger challenge is aligning your intention, your mind with the matter - the physical matter of your body and the spiritual matter of what this pose enables you to feel, sense and be. To stay poised and keep your limbs from flagging requires your mind to be in the game. To find calm and composure when frustration, agitation, impatience and maybe a bit of rage arises when the pose goes on longer than is comfortable.

This is the real point, the essence of the warrior. To master our own emotions by doing battle with our inner demons (of heart and mind), which requires a constant vigilance. That in turn means exerting just the right amount of effort to remain steady (stihra), so that you can enjoy the pose with relative ease (sukha).

This is where the real power lies, when we martial our inner strength, our mental resolve to remain equanimous in the face of the feelings and sensations that might otherwise pull us back and out before we've reached our potential.

We're not preparing to battle any external force (we're practicing ahimsa, nonviolence, after all), but if that need does arise, whether it's to deal with conflict or speak our truth and assert our values, then we are empowered to respond with unwavering confidence in our convictions (satya, truthfulness).

Another cue, and benefit of Virabhadrasana is that it opens up your chest, your heart space, which allows you to breathe and feel the power (as well as the shakes) as your mind and heart realise that you do have it in you, that in fact it is all within you, to stay alert and stay present.