There is a set of three famous yoga poses which go by the names Warrior I, Warrior II and Warrior III. The Sanskrit name for these poses is Virabhadrasana, which is a combination of the words vira meaning “hero”, bhadra meaning “friend”, and asana meaning “seat or posture”. These poses are inspired by a legend from Hindu mythology. According to one version of the story, there once was a great priest named Daksha, who was going to perform a large sacrificial fire offering ceremony. His daughter Sati was married to the god Shiva, but as Shiva was an ascetic living in the wilderness, he didn’t approve of their marriage and didn’t invite them to the fire ceremony. Sati was hurt by her father’s rejection, so she went to the ceremony anyways. At the sacrifice, she got into a heated argument with her father, and finally, declaring that she no longer wanted the body that her father had given her, she threw herself onto the sacrificial fire.
When Shiva found out about his wife’s death, he was so distraught that he tore out one of his dreadlocks and beat it on the ground, whereupon it transformed into the warrior Virabhadra. The magical hero Virabhadra attacked Daksha at the fire ceremony by bursting up out of the ground and slaying him with his sword. Shiva appeared at the ceremony site later and had a change of heart when he saw the destruction that was done. He then restored Daksha to life by giving him the head of a goat. And his wife Sita was also later revived.
- Virabhadrasana I, or Warrior I represents the action of Virabhadra bursting up from the earth.
- Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior II represents the hero Virabhadra lining up his sword as he sees his enemy Daksha.
- Virabhadrasana III, or Warrior III represents Virabhadra striking forward with his sword to slay Daksha.
Warrior I is shown in the picture above. The front leg is bent at a 90 degree angle. The back leg is extended with the rear foot flat on the ground. The torso is held facing towards the front foot. Both arms are raised upward. When done well, there is a beautiful crescent moon shape formed by the extension from the heel of the back foot, up through the leg, continuing the length of the spine, passing through the shoulders and arms, and finally reaching the fingertips. The benefits of Warrior I pose are:
- Stretching the back, shoulders, hip and calf
- Strengthening the legs
- Opening the chest and lungs
In Warrior II, the legs are held as before. The front leg is bent in a 90 degree angle, and the rear leg is extended straight. The hips and torso are turned to the side. The arms are extended outward, parallel to the ground and lined up directly above the legs. The neck is turned so that the head is facing the same direction as the front leg. The benefits of Warrior II pose are:
- Toning the leg muscles
- Stretching and opening up the hips
- Toning the abdomen
- Strengthening and stretching the shoulders and back
- Increasing stamina
Warrior III is the most advanced and most difficult of the 3 warrior poses. The body is balanced on one leg, which is held straight with the foot flat on the ground. The other leg is extended backwards and held parallel to the ground. The torso is balanced forward, also held parallel to the ground. Both arms are extended forward as well, making a straight line from the fingers through the arms, back, and leg. The benefits of Warrior III pose are:
- Strengthening the abdomen
- Improving posture
- Increasing stamina and balance
- Toning the muscles of the legs
When practicing any of the 3 warrior poses, consider the qualities of a spiritual warrior. We use the poses to increase our strength, endurance, and patience. The spiritual warrior fights ignorance and egotism. These standing poses can be done standing directly on the floor, off of your yoga mat, in order to have a more firm grip with your bare feet. The best yoga clothing to wear when practicing the warrior poses is anything that fits comfortably and doesn’t need to be readjusted as you move. Organic bamboo yoga clothing is ideal because the fabric breathes well and absorbs sweat away from your skin. You will find that you burn a lot of energy and build up stamina by practicing the 3 warrior poses. That will get you sweating, so make sure to drink plenty of water afterwards.