Saturday, May 28, 2016

Exploring the Poses: The Warrior Archetype and Yoga

(all quotes are from the Four Fold Way unless noted with the author’s name)
Believing you can be perfect is the fatal imperfection,
Believing you’re invulnerable is the ultimate vulnerability.
Being a Warrior doesn’t mean winning or even succeeding.
It means risking and failing and risking again, as long as you live …
- Richard Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit.

During a modern vinyasa yoga class we are taken through a series of poses known by the names of warrior.  These poses include Warrior 1, 2, 3, humble warrior, exalted warrior, reverse warrior and so on.. A colleague at work once expressed to me his lack of understanding of why yoga would have poses called “warriors” when it was supposed to be a peaceful system of movement.  My teacher, Joseph Le Page, renamed all the warrior poses Hero in his book, The Yoga Toolbox.  For me, I never had a problem with the poses being called warrior.  I thought of the disciple and duty of the samurai and the idea of exploration, journey and quest. I remember Shiva Rea in a workshop asking us to pull back our bows and stand strong in Warrior 2.  I felt like the Goddess Artemis/Diana getting reading for the hunt.  I understood warrior as a way to tap into my personal power. I have just read the book

“The Four-Fold Way: Walking the paths of Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary” and the book his helped me further my thoughts about the Warrior poses and why I love them more and really enjoy their names.

Warrior Poses are strong poses that demand complete attention. As we hold longer and deeper we must chose to be present.  Sometimes my teacher will challenge us further by asking the class to close their eyes.
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
- Lewis Carroll
When we hold these Warrior poses over time and get stronger we realize that many things we thought were not possible can begin to become possible.  We realize that we have personal power.  “The principle that guides the Warrior is showing up and choosing to be present.” First there is presence. Then comes the lifting the arms, followed by planting the feet.  We continue by making sure the position is balanced.  And we test our stamina by holding the pose as we strive for our personal healthy alignment. “The developed Warrior shows honor and respect for all things, employs judicious communication, sets limits and boundaries, is responsible and disciplined, demonstrates right use of power . . .”

Different Warrior Poses and Variations: Warrior 1

This is a pose of discipline. We plant the back leg down with the foot at an angle, the front knee is over ankle, and the arms are up to the sky. “The word ‘disciple’ actually means ‘being a disciple unto oneself,” When we are disciples unto ourselves, we honor our own rhythm, our step-by-step nature…Discipline and responsibility are the Warrior’s tools for honoring structure and function.”
Sometimes we enter Warrior 1 from standing in Tadasana or Mountain Pose. Tadasana is a standing meditation. The pose expresses the concept I am here and I am ready. “. . . it is not uncommon in these (Shamanistic) societies for individuals to pray for long periods of time in a standing postures during vision quests…. (standing meditation) is used in martial arts, spiritual practices and the military as a way of reinforcing and coalescing the three universal powers of presence, communication, and position, which allows us to connect with the greater being who we are.””
 “The Warrior demonstrates the willingness to take a stand. This is the capacity to let others know where we stand, where we don’t stand for, and how we stand up for ourselves. Think of Surya Namaskara B when you step the leg forward from downward facing dog into a low lunge and then raise your arms and chest into  Warrior 1.  This is a big dramatic stand.  You need the flexibility to steep your leg through the strength to rise the torso up, and the commitment to lift the arms over head. My favorite variation of Warrior 1 is when we put our hands in prayer overhead thanking the divine for her help in our lives.

Warrior 2

 “. . . outwardly, he stands in physical readiness for any call to service, and inwardly, he strives to fulfill the Way . . . Within his heart he keeps to the ways of peace, but without he keeps his weapons ready for use.”
Warrior 2 is a pose about respect.  Respect comes from the Latin respicere to be willing to take a second look.  In Warrior 2, the body is facing one way but the head looks over the shoulder.  We are not stuck or limited to one particular point of view which would have the head facing in the same direction as the chest. We are multi-dimensional beings willing to face one way and look the other. “If we want to access the Warrior archetype and become effective leaders, we must be willing to look at our many real abilities rather than focus on just one or two parts of who we think we are.”
This pose is also about understanding what we want. “When we say “yes” when we mean “no” we lose personal power and become victims or martyrs.”  In Warrior 2 we align our feet, legs, arms and become stable and lastly we set our gaze.  We take responsibility for our body making it stable and secure. “Responsibility is not only the ability to respond to what comes toward us, it is also the capacity to stand behind our actions and to be responsible for all that we do or don’t do. … Our ability to respond impeccably and with integrity to the events we create brings is into the Warrior’s arena.”

Exalted Warrior/Reverse Warrior

Similar to the Bodhisattva Vow in Buddhism in which we don’t choose our personal enlightenment but instead stay on earth to help others achieve enlightenment“. . . the Warrior’s task to become visible, and through example and intention to empower and inspire others.”  The Warrior is not just working alone and taking all the credit for his/her successes.  In Exalted Warrior pose we exalt ourselves to god and bask in her presence.  But in this pose the bow is an upward bow instead of one in which we lower ourselves.  This is a bow up to heaven.  The hope is that our reverence and beauty in the pose will inspire the reverence and beauty in others.

Humble Warrior

In contrast to Exalted Warrior, in Humble Warrior we bow down low. We show ourselves as flexible and strong, with a willingness to humble ourselves.  We do not lose our strength or power through this act of humility, it is part of what gives us strength and power. We also interlace our fingers and bring our arms over head showing we are without physical weapons instead we are here to be the instrument of service.

Warrior 3

In Warrior 3 we begin to fly.  Balancing on one leg on the ground and one in the air we begin our launch. In this pose we know that impossible things can happen.  In Warrior 3 we learn to transcend the body and transcend any fear about the necessity to be grounded.  We let go over our attachment and soar towards higher and loftier goals.


“The archetype of the Warrior requires us to use power in an enlightened way that incorporates integrity, alignment of speech and action, honor and respect, and serves humanity fairly and justly.”

As we practice these poses, we can explore the boundaries of our body, mind and heart. We don’t have to consider the warrior as an aggressor but think of the warrior as an explorer of our internal universe.  In Warrior we plant are feet on earth as we reach for the sky.  We strive to be secure in the foundation of who we are as we invite personal growth and transformation. We reach, exalt, humble ourselves, inspire and honor. We keep our intention and sense of self as we journey through life open to all possibilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. It is much appreciated.