This first day of winter I am caught by the softness of the tangled branches of trees as they are edged in the pale slanting winter sun light. They reach out to the emptiness of sky, muscular and solid in their trunks and yet openly fragile in their end buds, patiently awaiting spring warmth. Their roots, invisible, extend beyond the frozen surface of earth and rest among the suspended lives of all that hibernates below us, perhaps gently absorbing moisture from the rushing ground waters buried even deeper than that. Just now they embody the asana of Warrior (Virabhadrasana) to me.
So often in yoga we pass through the warrior poses, Virabhadrasana I, II or III. Sometimes it is part of a sun salutation, sometimes it is where all the warming up leads and the pinnacle of the practice before we slow it down with backbends, twists and inversions. To me, today, the warrior is the exquisite expression of being, living on earth.
I rise to Virabhadrasana I - warrior, having opened hips, having warmed shoulders, having explored Tadasana feet and the ability to allow release where I do not need effort. The warrior puts me on my feet, yet they are spread wide, and my hips are loosely holding legs that fiercely stretch to the front and back of me. Balancing on mountain feet, acknowledging their full press and expansiveness, I find the outer edges of my back foot and the heel and ball of the front foot. In the midst of this, literally, my torso is supported effortlessly by its natural spinal bouyancy. I extend my arms above me, releasing my shoulders and extending my core through my wrists (Virab. I) or parallel to my legs (Virab II) which opens my heart, gently twists my spine and spirals open my hips too. Perhaps taking flight from here to lean on the bouyant air itself, deepening the trust and resolve of one leg into the earth, I stretch up, squaring my hips over the standing leg, extending horizontally from heel to top of my skull for Virabhadrasana III.
Staying in warrior for several breaths changes everything about being. Allowing the body to find support between earth's balance and breath's undulation, letting the core energy rise quietly into extended arms and legs that rest mid-air, turning my gaze towards whatever may be inside or outside of me, in front or behind me, visible or invisible, I can open my heart, release my weight to the earth, and rise energetically to meet the moment.
In any moment of life there's not more or less than this, this is it. Finding and removing the blindfolds and blockages I use to separate myself into bits and from the moment transforms my experience. Warrior by its very nature unifies me and in that stance, even a fleeting warrior pose moving to and from another asana, reminds me to draw the earth and sky into the core of my being.
Balancing strength and resolve with the releasing of will, I can surrender defenses and excuses, and allow myself the freedom of being fully present, integrated. In that condition I can take the coldest wind, the most confusing or devastating personal dynamic, and even the dangerously divisive nature of our current national politics. Warm yourself up and explore finding your warrior in you.