Many of our yoga poses stem from Hindu deities. The Hindu goddess Shiva avenged someone by creating the warrior Virabhadra. And so we practice warrior poses (named after the warrior, Virabhadrasana), not to honor acts of violence but to find a way inward, or introspection in our practice.
A yoga practice will normally have many warrior poses sprinkled in. They can be intense longer holds in the range of warrior poses (think lunges, moving and holding your body in opposite directions) or they can be sped through at a pace that requires precision and determination. In any case these warriors requires steadiness, strength, determination, and getting comfortable in your discomfort. They also require a response to that discomfort–they ask you to meet yourself with some grit, but also with some softness.
True warriors on the battlefield are keenly aware of the uncertainty of war. As yoga practitioners holding warrior poses we, too, understand the uncertainty of not just our practice, but also our life. “Life as you know it” can turn on a dime and we are all intimately familiar with the experience of loosing the footing of security and peace. So our mindfulness practice of appreciating the moment, maybe even luxuriating in the goodness or lightness of the moment, is critical not only on the yoga mat but out in the world.
Most of all, the practice of warriors gives us another way inward to understanding ourselves on “mind, body, and spirit” levels. As we move through the practice your mind may be racing and asking if you are doing something just right, your body is reminded of its strengths and limitations, and with any hope, on a spiritual level you are meeting yourself with kindness, acceptance, compassion and the friendliness you would offer any dear friend. It is as much a practice of getting to know yourself both on and off the mat.