All week @ Dragonfly Yoga Barn I’m weaving in Warrior 2 pose to our Flow classes. Today I opened class with a message about how we can learn to find the strength and stamina to reside in our personal power and to consider what it is we “stand up” for, while maintaining a softness that allows us to be at ease and to do our work from a heart-centered place. What is each of us here to do on this planet, anyway? Standing in Warrior 2 (or residing in any pose for that matter) gives us a chance to practice what it means to maintain a sense of ease and to remain steady and grounded even when we are under physical and / or mental stress.
I shared a version (as there are several) of the mythological story of King Daksha, his daughter Sati, and her husband Shiva, the lord with the matted hair and dreadlocks, blue skin, a man deeply connected to Nature and preferring to hunt and meditate than socialize. Daksha had never been impressed with his beautiful Sati for marrying such a distasteful character with his weird skin and crazy hair. Sati stayed true to herself, however, and created a beautiful life with Shiva, despite her father’s dismissal.
On the occasion of this story, the King prepares a huge sacrificial celebration and invites all the deities but chooses not to invite his daughter and horrendous husband. Sati finds out and asks Shiva to accompany her to the party to confront her father, but Shiva stays behind not wanting to anger Daksha with his presence, while Sati stands in her own power and marches confidently into the party to confront her dad about the lack of invitation. He taunts his youngest child, unloading his litany of reasons why Shiva is a horrific beast of a husband, who is more like an animal than a man. While her father and his company of guests laugh and jeer, Sati, in silence and with strength, and fully prepared to separate herself from her family to stand in her truth, walks past her father toward the sacrificial fire, sits down on her own, and in deep concentration and focus, immolates herself by her own internal flame and dies in front of the array of esteemed guests.
When Shiva hears of his dear Sati’s death, he is overwhelmed by grief, confusion, and an anger that becomes a rage. He explodes into unfocused action, ripping dreadlocks from his head and throwing them wildly to the ground at Daksha’s party. Two swords erupt from under the earth where the dreadlocks land and form Virabhadra, an avatar of Shiva that stands with blades drawn overhead in Warrior I stance, ready to slice heads and dominate the guests with his anger and ferocity. When Virabhadra opens his arms wide (Warrior 2), he takes aim, pointing his swords out across the horizon and focusing his intense gaze. Swiftly, he moves to Warrior 3 and slices heads from necks with the whip of his blades, including King Daksha’s own head, which rolls on the ground, leaving Sati’s father in a heap beside her own burned body.
It takes a while, but eventually Shiva reabsorbs Virabhadra into himself and can see the horror his avatar created. He immediately regrets the severity of his uncontrolled anger and power, and he wants to make amends. Have you ever felt like this? When your anger was in the driver’s seat, making it impossible to connect with your heart, your “true North” as they say? In our heart of hearts, there is no room for anger and violence; that place is reserved for love and only love. Standing in Warrior 2 gives me a chance to contemplate this reality. One of my favorite of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is 2:46: “Sthira Sukam Asanam,” or to embody poses with both steadiness (effort) and ease (comfort and openness). For me, the “pose” this sutra refers to is every posture we make, both physical or mental, both on and off the mat. Is there too much physical effort or emotional struggle? Is there too much softness or a lack of will? Can we be strong and joyfully confident and yet empower others through compassion and with empathy? I believe we can.
There is more to the story (of course, there always is), but I’ll close with brevity and say that an available goat becomes Daksha’s new head, and with Shiva’s help Daksha is reborn with humility, as well as respect and admiration for Lord Shiva, gratefully calling him Shankar (shan / sam = happiness + kar / kara = cause), as Shiva restores good fortune to Daksha, whose former hatred severed him from his daughter, just as his head was severed from his shoulders. He had lost connection to his heart–clearly both men had done so. The two clear their bad blood through humility and forgiveness, and as Shiva lifts his dead wife into his arms, he weeps as he wanders back into the wilderness.
But what of Sati, the one who stood up for herself and her husband, and ultimately, what is right and true? Thankfully we don’t have to set ourselves on fire to demonstrate our love and compassion. For me, Sati is the true essence of Vira = Hero + Bhadra = Friend. I remember her when I stand in Virabhadrasana. She is the strong and compassionate warrior I want to be.
Who and what are you willing to show up for on your mat and in your life?
As in many of the Hindu stories, multiple characters come back to life, reincarnated, often with new names, and this is the case for Sati, who reincarnates as Shiva’s second wife Parvathi. But that’s another story 🙂
My point in telling the story is that we humans are often tested in this life. We have opportunities to be strong, to stand up in the face of challenging situations and people, to work hard to move through whatever is our current challenge, learning the lessons we are here to learn and hopefully while maintaining a sense of grace and ease. We breathe. We stay to do the hard work it takes to grow and evolve. While in the “fire” of the posture and in our day to day lives, we are tested and may feel the well of anger or fear or confusion rise up, but we stay despite the inner turmoil. We dig deep, remain rooted and connected to the Source, and by doing so we become polished, transformed, move closer to our true essence, with an opportunity to rebirth ourselves with greater clarity, more compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others, and igniting a deeper sense of purpose for our walk on this planet.
This is my hope this week as we explore the challenges of Warrior 2 and all poses. If you’ve been rolling out your mat, thank you for showing up. Next time the pose could be a little harder–held a little longer. Are you ready? I think you are. All you need to do is show up for yourself and see how your Warrior story unfolds.
With love and many blessings,
© 2022 Dragonfly Yoga Barn
All images in this post belong to / were created by the author.
2 thoughts on “The Warrior in You”
As always, thank you for your empowering wisdom.
Thank you so much Katie, for sharing this incredible story and for inspiring and prompting us to show up, and stand strong, and be joyfully confident…empowering others through compassion and with empathy? Wow…. Imagine if those words were the instructions we were given for life? If everyone on the planet tried to do this? Well, I’m going to give it my best!