Yoga Diary /

Category: Vinyasa

Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or just starting out on your yoga journey there’s no doubt you’ve cut the shape of a “Warrior” every time you’ve stepped onto your mat.  The warrior poses a.k.a. Virabhadrasana I, II and III are the cornerstone asanas in many a practice across all styles of yoga.  But what do they mean?  Why do we have fighting associated postures in our peaceful practice?  Who is Virabhadra and why does he show up all the time?

If you are into fantastical tales of magic and mayhem you must read the story of Shiva turning one of his dreadlocks into a fierce warrior (Virabhadra) with flaming eyes and wrath like no tomorrow.  There’s romance, plot twists, murders and revenge.  There’s sorrow, forgiveness and something for everyone whether you like “Days of our Lives” or “Game of Thrones” Hindu Mythology caters for all.  Read the story here….

As with all mythology, questions and answers of morality are at the heart.  We know that yoga is a multilayered practice of which the physical is just one small aspect.  Yet, with the physical we can express many of the deeper layers and tap into the psyche of yoga and the myths that build the practice.  We can become Warriors both on and off the mat when we find our personal representation of Virabhadra who is really the slayer of ego, and all the “stuff” we seek to cut free from.

The biggest physical challenge with the warrior poses is often alignment.  You’ll hear so many cues, directions and miniscule adjustments to make in each pose.  This can make the practice frustrating, destabilising and sometimes annoying.  But here lies the magic.  When you notice what comes up for you in each challenge, particularly in these fierce and strong standing postures you are getting information about what stands in your way.  Your duty then is to be courageous.  Like a Warrior standing ready to strike his opponent.  There may be fear but there is focus.  The ego must drop away.  The stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t do must disappear and we must be grounded in our truth.

Whether you read the full story or not the following 3 points will give you insight into these postures so that you may experience them in a new way, separate from any emotional issue that may arise during the practice.  Virabhadrasana I – Here (complete with vintage image of the late and great Iyengar) the Warrior rises up through the ground.  Building from the base, feet, legs, hips, torso: ACTIVE. Chest pushing forward, shoulders back, arms raised. There is nothing loose, or slack. This form spells “R-E-A-D-Y”.  You are ready and you are strong enough.

Virabhadrasana II – The Warrior, opens out, drawing a sword.  The base is as grounded and strong as before, no wavering, no retreating.  The gaze over the front hand marks its target. And in the back hand is the metaphorical weapon. (Be aware that it is not dropping down towards the ground but holding horizontal, in place.)  Look your “opponent”: your ego, your drama, your story, your fear, dead on.  Here our inner warrior stands for tensity of “F-O-C-U-S” .

Virabhadrasana III – As the Warrior steps up to balance on the front leg he slices the “sword” forward through the air to strike his target.  Cutting through our darkness, the stuff we do and say that keeps us playing small requires balance, skill and strength of character.  We cannot cut through the crap if we don’t acknowledge it exists.  So the most challenging of the 3 postures is also the most rewarding.  Despite the terminology, it doesn’t have to represent violence or anger, striking out or cutting through are courageous acts. As we balance out there on one leg, unwavering we can experience gratitude that our readiness, our aim and our focus have enabled us to “S-T-R-I-K-E” down what holds us back.

Can you see now how the terminology can affect our interpretation and experience?  Warrior I, II and III with all their variations produce a base for meaningful sequences.  All of yoga is entwined with all of life and this is how the light you find in your practice will follow you throughout your journey.

Namaste. Rhy xx

 

Further reading:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4046/Warrior-Pose-Understanding-the-Spiritual-Warrior.html

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/ways-of-the-warrior/

http://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/why-we-practice-the-warrior-poses

Air Jordan

Each year the last class of the year I term the 'Gratitude Class'. This year the class will be held on Saturday the 21st December at 7.30am, with all the profits being passed on to a very special cause. 

This year's class has quite a special driving force, a client with whom I have worked intensely with over the past year. Holly has stage 4 breast cancer and together we explore yoga and all it can be for her in this indescribably challenging time.

My time with Holly has taught me so much and acted as a catalyst also for many changes that have now be actioned in my life. Read on below as I sit down with Holly and ask her to share a little more about life, cancer, pain and yoga.

 

A convo with the unicorn herself, Holly. 

Rhy: Give me the most frustrating thing for you about your cancer. AND the most positive thing you have gained from it?

Holly: By far the most frustrating thing about my cancer has been the limitations it has placed on my body to be as active as I would be if I did not have cancer. Movement and exercise have always been a massive part of my adult life, and it has been a struggle mentally to adjust to the limitations of my body – particularly when the cancer spread to my lungs. However, from this I have learned so many different methods to incorporate my love of movement and exercise into my life in ways that I would never have otherwise considered. 

Without hesitation, the most positive thing I have gained is an equal tie between a beautiful sense of perspective, together with a heightened ability to be present and enjoy each day as if it were my last. I no longer sweat the small things in life, as for me, nothing can compare to my Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. My favourite mantra at the moment is “what will be, will be”. My diagnosis has also given me the ability to REALLY and TRULY appreciate every single moment in each day knowing that you never know what tomorrow holds – so its best to really enjoy and make the most of today. 

 

Rhy: Most important things people have taught you / told you / shared with you in your life?

Holly: Last year, not long after I was very first diagnosed, during a private Yoga session with Rhy, she told me a beautiful story, which had the ultimate message of “this too shall pass”. The story she told me and in particular this mantra has always stuck with me. No matter how bad the pain of any given moment is – its fleeting. Nothing in this world is a permanent state. This has really helped me process a lot of not only physical but mostly emotional pain with cancer. I know that if I am having a bad day, it's going to pass. It will always pass. 

My mum and dad have always installed the idea that I can be and do whatever I set my mind to. I know this is a corny one, but quite often we are comparing ourselves to everyone else – we are never enough. They taught me that I am running my own race and as long as I am achieving and working as hard as I can be in any given moment toward my goal – that was enough. They also gave me a beautiful sense of belief that anything is possible – you might have to go about a different road to what you originally planned, but any goal is possible. When I was disappointed I didn’t get straight into Law School, my parents encouraged me to study Legal Studies, work to get straight Distinctions and try to transfer over. That’s exactly what I did. My degree took a couple of extra years, but I become the lawyer I always wanted to be. This flexibility in approaching your goals and regular reflection has allowed me to flow from being a full-time lawyer, while working as an Xtend Barre instructor, to recently retiring from all of my jobs due to medical treatment. I know my retirement isn’t what I had planned, but its what my body needs at this point in time. Now I have the opportunity to find a new goal to work toward, one less straining on the body and mind! 

 

Rhy: Pain, physical + emotional; how do you deal with it?

Holly: This is a hard one to answer. If I'm 100% honest, my ability to deal with pain has been a rollercoaster and an ever-evolving element of my inner self. Yoga and meditation is at the forefront of my coping strategies. Its what I turn to each time. If I can't physically move, I will always have the ability to meditate or even just breath. Some days if I cant focus well or I am particularly frustrated, I just say a mantra over in my head and that’s it. I am still working on the ability to be able to block out and really zone into a full meditation practice when I am either in a lot of physical or emotional pain. Other days when I am feeling strong I will do a few rounds of sun salutes, which always make me feel grounded and grateful. 

I try to exercise regularly and eat as healthy as possible. So much of our serotonin is made in our bellies so I try really hard to ensure I am healing myself from within. 

I also journal my feelings and thoughts quite regularly, which allows me to get the thoughts out of my head so they aren’t just going around and around sending me insane. I find a sense of relief getting any negative thoughts or feelings onto a page and ‘out of my head’. 

 

Rhy: Favourite yoga pose & why?

Holly: Easy – Warrior 2. This position gives me a massive sense of being centered. It's not about what’s happened in the past (where the back arm is reaching), or about what is going to happen in the future (where the front arm is reaching), but about being right in the present moment, centred and grateful for what we have.  Standing in warrior 2 also makes me feel courageous like I am ready to fight a battle. Its often a pose I will just stand-in, and breath through on a morning of treatment. 

 

Rhy: Favourite songs to get you moving or relaxing?

Holly: My favourite song to start my yoga practice with is and will always be Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd. My favourite song to do a more high impact movement is anything upbeat and fun – at the moment it is a good remix of Drop Like This by J-Trick. 

 

Rhy:: Meditation, what does that look like for you? How important is it to you right now?

Holly: As mentioned, meditation has been an ongoing evolving practice. It is so important for me to stay in a regular practice. I find if I don’t, my ability to emotionally handle what life throws me takes a little beating. It gives me a sense of power and control over how I process what is happening to my body. Lately, it’s been a bit of a struggle to meditate without guidance because of physical pain distracting me. So I will often find guided meditations on Google to keep me on track. If I am not in any pain, and feeling focused, I will meditate and use mantras/set an intention for the day. I will always incorporate some gratitude meditation into my practice, because I firmly believe that no matter what the day throws, there is always something to be grateful for and we need to remind ourselves of this. 

 

Rhy: One person / One place / One food / One drink / One action / One animal / One word / one flower / One book / One feeling.

Pick them!

Holly:

One person – My partner Paul. 

One place – Home. 

One food – Kale chips! 

One drink – a nice glass of Prosecco. 

One action – ANY movement. 

One animal – Dogs (I have two puppies – Romeo and River). 

One word – Love

One flower – Peony 

One book – The art of Happiness 

One feeling – Contentment 

 

Rhy: What’s the reason behind the choice to support the Breast Cancer Research Centre WA with profits from this special 2019 gratitude class?

Holly: Prof Arlene Chan has been such an incredible person for me on this journey. She is doing amazing things with the research centre and I really want to support them to keep doing those things!

--

Join the Gratitude Class 2019 - https://www.rhyannavl.com/events/class-of-gratitude-2019 Or simply donate - https://www.rhyannavl.com/events/Gratitude-Donate-2019