The story of Virabhadra is considered one of the foundational stories of the modern practice of yoga, and acts as a reminder of the moral codes that are essential to a yogic lifestyle. Composed of references to Hindu gods and goddesses, Virabhadra’s narrative encapsulates themes of ego, attachment, vengeance, violence, realization, compassion and renunciation that can serve as an inspiration for any budding yogi.
Understanding Virabhadra’s story and the deeper implications for its relationship to the physical practice of yoga are key elements of a successful practice, and can be applied to the physical poses in a range of ways.
This complete guide will provide an in-depth examination into the history, mythology, and teachings of the Virabhadra story and its relationship to yoga.
The History of the Virabhadra Story
The Virabhadra narrative originates from the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata, and consists of a mythology that is filled with moral lessons. According to the story, the warrior Virabhadra was created when the god Shiva plucked a strand of his own hair and transformed it into an incredibly powerful entity. Shiva created Virabhadra as a response to dishonor that was visited upon him upon the death of his beloved wife Sati, the daughter of King Daksha.
Furious at the King’s lack of respect for his daughter, Shiva had Virabhadra lead an army of powerful warriors to take vengeance against King Daksha and his courtiers.
The moral lesson in the story, and the implications this has for yoga practitioners, will be discussed further later in this guide.
The Significance of the Warrior Poses in Yoga
Virabhadra, who was a powerful warrior, has his story associated with a set of yoga poses known as the Virabhadrasana poses, which are commonly referred to as warrior poses. These poses are designed to project strength and power, and are typically best done in sequence or in combination with other poses in order to create a sense of sustained focus. The poses consist of Warrior I, Warrior II, Reverse Warrior, and humble warrior, and their significance is deeply connected to the story of Virabhadra.
The Meaning behind Virabhadra’s Character as a Warrior
Virabhadra is seen as a symbol of immense strength and courage, which can be applied to a yogi’s practice in a variety of ways.
Firstly, the story of Virabhadra, as Virabhadrasana 1, is a reminder that honour and respect are essential virtues, and that actions that erode these important ideals should not be allowed to go unchecked. The implications for this are that a yogi should be willing to stand up for their chosen principles, even when faced with adversity.
Second, Virabhadra’s story serves as a reminder that we all have an inner strength, despite external obstacles that may be faced. Through the story, we are reminded that we have the power to follow our own path, as Virabhadra did, and to follow our own journey, even if faced with opposition. This can be represented as a transition into Virabhadrasana 2.
Finally, Virabhadra’s character is also a reminder of the importance of discipline, as Virabhadra’s story is ultimately one in which discipline and dedication have been essential to victory. This reminds us of the importance of dedication to our practice and our goals, and that the path to enlightenment is one that will take dedication and patience. This can be seen as Virabhadrasana 3, when the final blow is taken and the war is won.
In a state of reflection, Viparita Virabhadrasana, reverse warrior, is the moment of clarity and contemplation of that has transpired. Shiva realizes that Virabhadra was created due to attachment, ego and vengeance.
Baddha Virabhadrasana, humble warrior, is a reflection of enlightenment that was gained from the experience. It is a humbling one’s self to the power of enlightenment through reflection of action and outcome. Baddha Virabhadrasana represents that enlightenment and personal growth may come from unexpected places such as violence, ego and attachment.
In conclusion, the story of Virabhadra is an important part of the history of yoga, and serves as an inspiring reminder of the values that are essential to a successful practice.
Understanding Virabhadra’s character, and how it applies to a yogic lifestyle, can provide more insight to the way we practice, and can be applied to the physical poses in a range of ways. Becoming familiar with the story of Virabhadra can help to inform a yogi of the moral and physical implications of yoga and can help them to deepen their practice.