This week’s focus pose is the Warrior Pose. We use this posture to cultivate strength in the legs and our base chakra. Psycho-emotionally, we aim for excellent security and stability in our base. On a physical level, we aim for a strong musculoskeletal and nervous system with Warrior pose. Our latest blog explains the emotional anatomy of this pose, and some tips for yogis of all levels of experience.
Emotional Anatomy of Warrior 1
An experienced yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner can tell a huge amount a person the moment they walk into the room. They can read the body very well. In fact, people who practise meditation and yoga are considered some of the best face readers in the World! Their accurate knowledge of their own meditative human experience assists them in reading the tiniest micro-expressions of the face. Most surprisingly, according to sociologist Paul Ekman, meditators do better at reading faces than policemen, high court judges, lawyers and the like.
The body can be read in the same way and is no exception to the rule. It tells a deep story of our lives and who we are. Warrior pose is one posture that can have us standing tall in the face of any fluctuations or adversity despite the odds.
Are you aware why warrior pose is so very important for your posture?
Well, the reason we get hand picked for a job or position in life is actually not about what is written on our resume, but how we stand when we walk into the room. True! Our posture conveys a lot and studies have been done to prove it. Warrior pose is one of those amazing postures that conveys strength and a sense of power. In fact, whatever we do with our body and face affects our mind and this TED Talk just proves we can really fake it till we make it.
AMY CUDDY: Your body Language Shapes Who You Are
In Warrior pose we work into the legs to develop a sense of security and stability. Essentially the legs are governed by the base chakra of the body. On a psycho-emotional level, the base chakra looks after our security and survival. If there are “issues in the tissues” of the base chakra – this may give rise to monetary issues, food issues, housing and so on. When someone has extreme tightness in the legs, or extreme flaccidity, sciatica or shakiness of the legs (and the list goes on), we know the base chakra issues may be at play.
Warrior 1 is an excellent pose for grounding as it has two legs placed firmly on the earth, both strengthening and stretching, working the energy of the legs. It also provides the subtle element of balance which assist us in improving balance in life and also our fine motor skills (proprioreception) of the body. More advanced yogi’s may find that lifting the front shin bone up will elevate the spine, and that the correct alignment of the patella (or front of the knee) over the front of the ankle is important for long term practice and health of the knee joint. Lifting from the side waist, from the hips to the armpits, will create more length and a gentle stretch of the intercostal muscles between the ribs, which also help us to breath.
Can I meditate in Warrior 1 to improve its scientific benefits?
Recently, I attended a yoga class with my good friend (director of ZAMA yoga and cofounder of YIMI yoga), Nicole Loxley. She explained the lower down extremities as a focal point in Warrior so well… “The nerve fibres and all the lower down structures like muscles and bones have more weight to them, and are obviously bigger and therefore more able to cope with nervous energy more easily. They are parasympathetic nerves that induce the relaxation response. We can use a “top down” visualisation and mindful sensation based practice to ground ourselves in this posture”. This is great for those of us who are more anxiety and stess prone – or have more vata in our constitution.
Alternatively, for those of us who feel more lethargic and are prone to depression or too much kapha accumulation in the mind and body – a “bottom up” mindfulness based sweeping practice can be beneficial depending on our state of mind. We reach upwards and towards the sky – uplifting the body and mind!
Furtherstill, the way we hold our eyes in this posture will have a great effect on the mind. Eyes lowered to the ground will quieten the mind and is not good for depression. Eyes held upward to the sky will activate the mind and is not always good for anxiety. Eyes to the horizon will pacify the mind and neutralize the emotional state. (Listen to interesting ABC radio link here on eye positions and “embodied cognition” on Bodysphere to learn more) Furthermore, the eyes and the way we hold them will affect the heart rate through what is coined the ocular-vagal reflex (more on this another time!)
In a similar vein, the way we hold our neck – either down or up will also affect heart rate through the baroreceptors of the neck. Chin down (cervical flexion reflex) will lower heart rate and relax us. Holding the chin up (cervical extension) will raise the heart rate and activate and inspire.
What is the history of the Warrior postures?
Historically, Warrior 1 is named after the story of a great auspicious warrior – Virabhadra. Yet, you would be well informed to know that the standing warrior postures were introduced into yoga asana practice less than 100 years ago! They were taught by T. Krishnamacharya in the 1930s, to build up the strength, stamina, and flexibility of his students. His students, Iyengar and Patabhi Jois continued to develop the standing warrior postures we now practice today. They definitely bring about focussed attention, steadiness and ease. The way you practice effects who you are today and tomorrow. As little as 10 minutes in one posture can change the physical patterning of the body. Use this knowledge to your advantage – and stand tall in every posture or gesture you make. Remember it is not what is on your resume, but what is in your posture and in your heart.
Heart to the sky,
The Sanskrit name for Warrior pose is broken down into the following:
“Vira” means “Hero”
“Bhadra” means “Auspicious”
Virabhadra= the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet; wielding a thousand clubs and wearing a tiger’s skin.