Monday, September 15, 2008

Warrior Arms

We had a nice group at the store yesterday. A few regulars, a few new people. And the eats were great; I got my fave, the half-and-half (grilled cheese and soup), and tried the Black Angus stew.

I decided to teach the various Warrior poses: Virabhasdrasana I, II, and III. They are good for creating a little heat, and getting the blood moving. As I explained how they flow together (II into I into III), I made a joke about how the numbering system was off. This later got me to thinking: why are these poses tied together, anyway?

When you look at them, they don't really have all that much in common. The feet are in different positions, the hips and shoulders line up differently, the work of the legs is completely different, and one is a tricky balance pose, while the other two used firmly-planted feet. Not at all like Trikonasana-Parsvakonasana-Ardha Chandrasana (Triangle-Lateral Angle-Half Moon).

I think it's the arms. Altho they don't look exactly alike, they are all at shoulder-height or higher (thus raising the heart rate) and require shoulder flexibility to stretch the arms out and overhead without hunching. The chest should be open and the shoulder blades slightly drawn together and down. The thighs and belly do all the grunt work of lunging, bending and keeping the side body long, but the arms are what make them Warriors--rather than Lateral Angle or Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) or a standing lunge.

When teaching them, we usually focus on the work of the lower body, but what really makes a Warrior look beautiful and effortless is if the arms and chest are in the correct position. Then they look calm and powerful.

But that's just me...maybe somebody knows what the (not so) ancients were thinking when they named these poses. Any insight?

5 comments:

Total Health Yoga - Kris said...

Interesting points. What you say makes a lot of sense. I wonder if the gaze is tied in as well. In I we look to the heavens while the heart is open and exposed. In II we direct our sight to the side while maintaining a keen awarness of the unseen--the other side. Again the heart has an element of vulnerability. Finally Iyengar describes III as "an intensified continuation of I" (Light on Yoga).
As for the numbering... that is odd. Maybe III was an afterthought :-)

Jen said...

Very intriguing. I've wondered about these 3 before, too...

nadinefawell said...

Hmm, I never really thought about this before, but you are right - even 1 & 11 have different foot positions - at least, in most people's bodies, the back foot moves to keep the hips stable.

And I am SO conditioned into these being warrior poses, I can't even conceive of what else they could be! SHocking!

Jennifer said...

I of course have no insight into why they are tied together at all, but I LOVE all three of them, and for some reason they just make sense to me to go together even though you're doing much different things in all of them. I'm very much into III lately...

KILLER class on Tuesday night, I'm still feeling it and I haven't done tree in forever, it's one of my favorites!! :) You're the best!!

Jackie said...

You might find this article by Sharon Gannon discussing the origin of the Warrior Poses interesting.
http://www.jivamuktiyoga.com/focus/focus.jsp?viewFocusID=27