When I designed the Leadership Yoga workshop, I picked four basic standing poses : Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, Triangle Pose, and Warrior Pose II. I’ve written about Mountain Pose and we’ll learn about Tree Pose later. I chose Triangle Pose, Trikonasana, because it’s an unusual posture as it asks us to move and bend to the side rather than forward and backward. I use it to remind leaders what it is like to ask people to try something new and awkward. This pose can be done by most people, but it’s awkward for almost everyone who tries it at first.
The fourth standing pose we play with is Virabhadrasana II, Warrior Pose II. Like Mountain Pose, Warrior Pose II is deceptively simple. Standing in a wide-legged stance, we turn one foot (now designated the front foot) out ninety degrees and shift the other foot slightly in. With our arms extended from our shoulders, we bring the front knee to ninety degrees (or as close as possible) and turn our heads facing out over the fingers on the front side. Here’s an illustration:
Photo by Katee Lue on Unsplash
Looks simple, doesn’t it?!
This is one of the challenges and benefits of yoga. The basic posture is simple, but to hold it with strength and calmness, while breathing slowly takes practice. Somewhere along the way, I was taught that one hand is reaching toward the past and the other toward the future. What’s interesting about teaching this pose is the number of people who, when bending their knee lead forward over it instead of staying centered over their legs. I’ve come to understand this as one of the teachings of this posture. It’s not the strength of our legs and staying grounded by sending energy down through the front heel and pressing the outside of the back foot down. It’s not just keeping our shoulders strong, steady, and relaxed. Those are useful lessons, but not the most important ones.
I think finding the center in this pose is the challenge. Physically, that means not leaning too far over the bent leg, or back toward the straight leg. It means not bending at the waist or arching the back, but standing straight and centered. Mentally and emotionally, it teaches us about staying centered in our lives. It teaches us to stand in the present no matter how challenging the present may be. Not wishing for the past or yearning for the future, but standing here in the present, facing what is coming toward us, strong and calm.
Warrior strength is internal strength, not the ability to impose one’s will on another. The battle, if we must use such language, is the internal one. The challenge is developing the ability to be both soft and strong and bring our full self to experiencing the present moment as it is not as we wish it to be.