Next time you are trying to keep that pose going strong in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)—or when life demands a great deal of you, think about invoking the spirit of the great warrior Virabhadra
A son of Lord Shiva (the Destroyer, considered the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon), Virabhadra was born of unbearable suffering. After Shiva’s wife Sati was killed, Shiva tore out his hair in grief; from his locks, Virabhadra and the fierce goddess Kali were born. Shiva then made them commanders of the legions he sent to avenge Sati’s death. But, according to Rama Jyoti Vernon, president of the American Yoga College (based in Walnut Creek, California), Virabhadra and Kali aren’t simply bloody warriors. Like Shiva, they destroy to save: Their real enemy is the ego. “By cutting off the head of the ego,” Vernon says, “Virabhadra and Kali help remind us to humble ourselves.”
When we practice one of the three versions of Virabhadrasana, Vernon notes, we cultivate the mind of the warrior, who must go into battle unattached to the fruits of his actions—one who has 360-degree vision and can see all things. “You look to all sides in the poses, but you try to hold to your center and not be pulled every which way,” she says. “Virabhadrasana teaches us to go into the field of life and stay in the center of our being.” If you can imagine yourself as a fearless warrior sent on a divine mission, you just might find renewed strength and vigor in the poses as well as the courage and determination to face life’s challenging moments.