We could definitely say that this Yoga Asana we are going to talk about is one of the most commonly known. You might not know its name but you surely have seen it somewhere and you know it’s Yoga.
Modern Yoga today that is practiced predominantly by non-Indians is primarily focused on the Asanas or the postures. These postures are meant to stimulate the bodily senses and promote the balance of energy the reason why modern Yogins often accompany their asanas with meditation.
Virabhadrasana I: The Depths of the Warrior Pose Yoga Asana
As far as how the practice of modern yoga is, we would all agree that this kind of exercise is nowhere related to any martial arts or combat sports. And as far as tradition is concerned, fighting and violence are not part of the Yoga context. So we would wonder, why is there a Warrior Pose then?
Since the Yoga that we commonly know and practice only teaches about the physical and mental benefits that it has relative to medical studies, more often than not, we don’t have an idea of the religious meanings of each asana.
Yes, you read it right. Yoga, as it originates from India, has a religious connection with Hinduism, as well as with Buddhism to some extent. Establishing this fact will help us understand more about the different yoga asanas.
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What is Virabhadrasana
Virabhadrasana has several variants that belong to the group of standing asanas on a lunging stance. This posture is prominent especially in gymnastics as it promotes muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.
The earliest noted existence of Virabhadrasana can be found in the Ellora Caves 16 and 29 where the Hindu God Shiva exhibits whilst fighting demons.
However, this asana is not listed in the Hatha Yoga tradition until the 20th century where a photograph of T. Krishnamacharya and his student P. Jois was captured practicing Virabhadrasana 1.
Another study suggests the possibility of the influence of a 19th Century Scandinavian gymnastics that reached India around the early 20th century. This was called Bukh-Style gymnastics, recorded in the Danish text called Grundgymnastik eller primitiv gymnastik (Primary Gymnastics, N. Bukh, 1924).
The History of Virabhadrasana
Whilst Yoga promotes peace of mind and unity with nature, some would ask how a warrior could be related to this kind of exercise. Diving deep into the history of this asana, we will find a beautiful story of affection, love, devastation, and vengeance.
The word Virabhadrasana is a portmanteau of Virabhadra, the mythical warrior, and Asana. Who is Virabhadra then?
The myth tells us that long time ago, a very powerful priest called Daksha initiated a yagna or a ritual sacrifice. However, his youngest daughter Sati and his husband, the God Shiva, were not invited, leading the daughter to confront the father, unbeknownst to Shiva.
The confrontation led to arguments and the insults Daksha hurled to his daughter were unbearable that Sati decided to plunge herself onto the fire after telling his father, “Since it was you who gave me this body, I no longer wish to be associated with it”.
Shiva learning the demise of his beloved wife, went to the deepest and darkest place he could find and tore a lock from his hair summoning the mythical warrior that he called Virabhadra. The word ‘Vira’ means hero and the ‘Bhadra’ means friend giving the name meaning of hero friend.
Shiva commanded the mythical warrior to avenge him by destroying Daksha and all his guests. And so, Virabhadra arrives at the place of gather coming from the depths, holding his sword with both hands being portrayed in Virabhadrasana 1.
Upon seeing Daksha, the mythical hero aims towards his target being exhibited in Virabhadrasana 2, and on beheading Daksha is presented by the Virabhadrasana 3.
Benefits of Virabhadrasana
In modern yoga, Virabhadrasana 1 has nothing to do with vengeance, rather, it has a lot of benefits to anyone who practices it. It targets the shoulders, human back, abdomen, legs, and arms, truly giving a full-body exercise.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Virabhadrasana 1 benefits:
- The lunging posture where the other leg is folded and the other is stretched-pointed backward stimulates the nerves and muscles on the lower extremities. This also helps the body be conditioned to balance and stability.
- Those who have desk jobs, sitting for long hours, will surely benefit from this exercise as this asana promotes the proper back-arching, stretching the spines reversing the effects of subtle slouching over long hours of sitting.
- The back-arching also stimulates the abdominal areas providing relief and correcting indigestion.
- The lifting-stretching of the arms towards the skies helps in increasing muscle power and flexibility to the elbows, arms, shoulder, and has also a significant tear to the thoracic muscles.
Learning and understanding the history of yoga asanas adds to the overall fun and experience. It also adds value to how we practice our yoga. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to try this new asana, hero friend!