English name: Warrior II
Vīrabhadra = a warrior from Indian mythology
The story of Vīrabhadra
Before Shiva was domesticated and transformed from a hermit to a householder by goddess Parvati, princess of the mountains, Shiva was married to Sati. Sati had chosen Shiva as her husband much against the wishes of Daksha, her father. A puritanical priest who performed rituals, Daksha felt that Shiva was an unworthy groom for his daughter because he did not perform any rituals or have a vocation or any possessions, and because he wandered the world like a vagabond, in the company of ghosts, goblins and dogs, making him inauspicious. When Sati chose to marry Shiva against his wishes, a furious Daksha organised a yagna and invited all the gods except Shiva to receive the offerings. This angered Sati, and she stormed into her fathers sacrificial hall and offered herself as the sacrifice in the great fire. Daksha, however, was unmoved by his daughter’s death and continued with the ritual unperturbed.
When the news of Sati’s death reached Shiva, he became so enraged that he transformed into Virabhadra, the warrior. Virabhadra marched with an army of ghosts and goblins into Daksha’s ritual hall, broke the pots, burned the tapestries and destroyed the entire ritual. Finally he beheaded Daksha. Thus Virabhadra is always depicted wielding a sword in one hand and carrying the severed head of Daksha in the other.
The gods begged Shiva to calm down, and Shiva who is known to be quick to anger but also easy to pacify, calmed down and restored Daksha to life by giving him a new head – that of a goat, so that he would realise that territorial behaviour and possessiveness are qualities best left to animals.
Basic Instructions to a Beginner
- Stand in Tāḍāsana
- Jump and spread the legs into Utthita Hasta Pādāsana, extend the arms-wrists-fingers to the sides at shoulder level, lift the waistline and armpit chest, keeping the tailbone pulled down and in
- Turn the left foot slightly in and the right groin-thigh-knee-tibia-ankle and foot out, all in synchrony into Pārśva Hasta Pādāsana
- Press the outer edge of the left foot down to the floor – Exhale to sit with the right sitting bone (the bending of the leg being a consequence)
- Make a right angle with the right leg
- Turn the head and look with the left eye beyond the right hand
- To come back: straighten the right leg and come back to Pārśva Hasta Pādāsana. Then to Utthita Hasta Pādāsana.
- Jump the feet back to Tāḍāsana
Corrections – Usual points of unawareness (In order of Importance)
- Pressing the outer edge of the back foot along with the bending of the laterally extended leg. Geetaji says in the Preliminary Course: “Learn to Bend the leg to a square against the stretched leg, without allowing the trunk to lean towards the bent leg. Learn to coordinate these two opposite actions.”
- Neither under shooting, nor overshooting the knee beyond the ankle
- Altering the distance between the feet to stabilise and square the leg
- Not leaning the trunk towards the bent leg. The crown of the head and tail bone should be aligned. Geetaji says in Yoga a Gem for Women: “Anal mouth and the crown of the head remain in line with each other.”
- Do not let the back leg sag
- In the bent leg, extend from the inner groin to the inner knee and contract from the outer knee to the outer hip
- Flesh of the buttocks down (which helps to anchor the tailbone and lengthen the lumbar spine) and lift from the Pubis to the Navel
- In regards to the back leg, the top of the thigh must move back without hyperextending the knee.
Variations to learn Vīrabhadrāsana II (this is not an exhaustive list)
- Back foot to the wall, and back arm fingertips to the wall (including the thumb)
- Facing the wall
- Back to the wall (also with a brick between the bent knee and wall to press the knee against the brick)
- Front leg at a 90 degree angle around the chair seat
- The backrest of the chair to the back or the front, to press down and help lift the spine
- Belt to the back foot, held by the back hand
- Front (bent leg) knee to wall against a brick
- Front foot toe mounds raised up on a brick
- Back foot raised up on a brick against the wall
- Belt between back leg foot and front leg ankle, creating a traction and synergy between the two legs
- While learning the posture it is difficult to attend to the legs as well as the arms at the same time. Therefore, first make the leg movements on each side keeping the hands on the waist – then repeat with the arms spread.
- Those suffering from backache, slipped disc, sciatica, and lumbago should not jump into the standing asanas. This would also apply to women who are pregnant or menstruating. Take the back foot against the wall.
- Knowing yourself is imperative in the practice of yoga. Therefore, if you find it difficult due to your body type, age, or other reasons owing to your current situation (whatever the cause maybe), to get into the poses, use the support of a wall in the following ways:
- Back foot to the wall
- Back facing the wall
- Chest facing the wall. The wall provides stability, confidence and reveals lack of alignment.
Those who feel weak and are exhausted by the standing poses can practice a myriad of other poses that do not include bearing ones’ weight and are restorative in nature.
Even pregnant women can do these poses. However Vīrabhadrāsana II is to be avoided during the 1st Trimester.
Menstruating women are to avoid jumping movements.
If knee pain:
- Start by observing the alignment of the knees and legs. Back up to the point just before the feeling of pain. Observe and ask yourself: which muscle could I relax or extend and which muscle must I contract? Experiment and experience. See if the pain has transformed into a revelation, then move into the pose again. If the pain remains, tell your teacher.
If back pain:
- Start by asking someone to observe the alignment of your back. Is your spine centered? Is your tailbone anchored by the flesh of the buttocks, creating length in the lumbar spine? Maintain the length and spaciousness across the lower back.
- Keep the back-leg heel on the wall for support – this helps to stabilise the pose and maintain alignment.
- Bring in the action of the legs told for knee pain. The legs in the standing poses need to be kept absolutely vibrant and in action. If not, other parts such as the knee and the back take the load.
If shoulder pain:
- While stretching the arms to the sides at the shoulder level, sometimes people complain about the shoulders feeling stiff or even hurting. This calls for an understanding of the functioning of the shoulders. Try extending from clavicles to the thumbs and trapezius to little fingers, one at a time and then simultaneously. Bring the shoulderblades away from the ears. This creates space between the shoulders and the neck.
If pain near the hips
- Start by asking someone to observe the alignment of the hips
- Bring the actions of the legs as mentioned for knee pain.
General Effects of Standing Postures
- Mastery of the standing poses prepares the pupil for the advanced poses in forward bending, which can then be acquired with ease.
- You become aware of your legs, especially their inner and outer edges, as well as the front and back of the legs.
- You feel for the first time the energy of the leg ascending.
- The arms being spread to the side opens the intercostal muscles of the chest that are between each of the ribs.
- You learn to work the spine and the organic body from within. They develop the chest.
- Through the legs you reach the lumbar, sacrum and abdominal regions.
- Relieves back aches, neck-sprains, reduce the fat around the waist, hips and thighs, reduce acidity, release gas, remove heaviness and bloating sensations in the stomach.
- The sluggishness of the vital organs of the body is removed and those organs are stimulated and activated.
- They benefit women by improving the functioning of the reproductive system, preventing malfunctioning of the ovaries and strengthening the uterus.