Sometimes more breathes are in order though, much more. This time for me is almost always the start of my day. Thoughts are already crowded in my mind vying for attention. Most times I even have a horrible pop song stuck in my head from work. They are almost always toxic to me. I have no idea how it got there, but my recollection of it is often the biggest culprit in gaining clarity and groundedness in the new day. It is times like these that I benefit from taking even more time to simply breathe over and over again in meditation while mentally speaking and visualizing Love and some of its qualities like acceptance, confidence, and abundance in a personal mantra. I get into a seated position on a chair or yoga mat, and I close my eyes as I breathe and imagine my mantra. If the storm is raging in your mind take a few more moments and meditate with me in order to “Smile strong, Smile kind, Weather the storm of the mind!” :-)
Why Do We Want to be a Peaceful Warrior?
Not only are there difficult choices to make everyday, there is also the matter of dealing with our own pride or ego. Our ego always has the “looking out for number one” mindset. Depak Chopra calls the ego “Edging God Out.” Jesus tells us that “...unless one is born again he or she cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6).” This means that we have to let go of the world of the flesh that the ego loves and Love what is in spirit or what God Loves in order to see His kingdom. The kingdom of God seeks to unite all peoples including ourselves within our hearts. This is why the wisdom needed to deal with the most difficult choices can not be found in the answers our ego gives to us. Our ego only seeks to separate us from others and our true selves.
Because we are in the world of the flesh, and will be till death, we will never be without ego. Our ego is just part of our lives. We can not get rid of it, but we can learn to recognize it when it is high jacking our thoughts and feelings. When we see that pride is present, we can simply let it speak, then let it go, remaining still until it has passed by. Then our spirit can take control of how we act and react to the world. The warrior part comes with our dealing with our ego's demands, but not acting on them. The peaceful part comes with our actions being based in spirit or God's wisdom of Love.
When are we called to be a Peaceful Warrior?
If we want to live in this world, and make it a better place, we have to learn to weather the storms of our minds. I really like this quote from Confucius. “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” That and the yoga asana or posture, Shanti Virabhadrasana or peaceful warrior, were the inspirations for this weeks illustration.
I am a big fan of this quote from the Yoga Sutras, “Ignorance creates all other obstacles.” If we don't know what the problem is we keep breaking to be blown away by the storm. If we refuse to investigate and learn a better way to stay grounded and rooted that problem or upheaval will appear again and again in different forms until we learn another better way to address it. It could be as simple as how long to grill a cheese sandwich without burning it or it could be more meaningful like finding the right people who will value you to spend your time with.
Many tough life experiences of having that suborn knot of ignorance and self importance in my gut and holding onto it inspired this article as well as that old wisdom that helps me know there is a better way. If I had let go of ignorance and pride, many friendships, financial ventures, and personal projects would have brought much more Love and happiness into my life. The best thing about yoga postures for me is that they are a physical metaphor for a positive character trait that I would like to develop. My ability to hold them in an alignment that makes sense to me and who I am indicates where I am in my journey to accept those traits into my life. I can actually feel what a peaceful warrior embodies if I open my mind and heart to what my body, mind, and heart is feeling while I am in the posture.
Drschiffman's Blog post Humility in the Midst of Argument gives a real life account of learning to accept another person despite differing opinions. It brings to light how disagreements that divide us may just be a misunderstanding due to cultural, social, or personal customs or points of view. https://drschiffman.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/humility-in-the-midst-of-argument/
Lawrence W. Wilson's article How to be Bumble-7 Disciplines You Can Practice Almost Every Day describes finding a lack of humility in a personal experience, the importance of developing it as a habit, and how we can do so. Very good food for thought and deed! :-)
Yoga and Western Psychology: A Comparison offers us a look into two view's on self development. I focused in on the parts that have to do with obstacles to our progress along the path of enlightenment. This would be Chapter X The Five Obstacles.
Yoga And Western Psychology: A Comparison
How Shanti Virabhadrasana can Help Us Weather the Storm
Get a more in depth exploration of the history and character benefits of the Virabhadrasanas in Julie Peters' article, Unpacking the Warrior Pose.
The second part is a graceful back bend. Back bends are great for opening up our hearts both in a physical and metaphysical way. “These are poses (back bends) that open the heart chakra, build courage and stamina, and give us the sort of energy that propels us to reach out toward others (from the third paragraph of The Compassionate Backbend by Kate Tremblay, a yoga instructor and message therapist). ” With the back bend added to the Virabhadrasana we are disciplining our own judgments based in fear and reaching out to others with courage and perseverance. This is the perfect pose to get us ready to weather the storm of an intimidating problem or person in our lives in the spirit of Love and “turning the other cheek.” Let's practice Shanti Virabhadra, and bring the qualities of a peaceful warrior more fully into our lives for personal and mutual happiness and success! :-)
Learn more about the advantages and precautions in practicing backbends in Kate Tremblay's article, The Compassionate Backbend.
Louise Eckels Williamson, an educator and a personal life coach recalls her own story of how she has learned to be a peaceful warrior in her own life to weather her own storms and find peace. I was really inspired by it! I hope you are too! :-)
Physical and Therapeutic Benefits that Impact the Way We Live
- Regular practice of Shanti Virabhadrasana (also known as Viparita Virabhadrasana or reverse warrior) will help us strengthen our legs and lower body, and as our legs become stronger, the easier it is for us to move through our day with a strong and confident stride as well as remaining still when situations get tense and stormy around us.
- Our flexibility will improve in our spine, ankles, and inner thighs, also lower back pain is relieved, so that we are not broken in the violent winds of the storm in our lives like a rigid tree but bend like a supple reed.
- We will stretch our groin, hips, and thighs, further opening ourselves up to new challenging life experiences.
- The circulation throughout the body will increase, fatigue is reduced, and the mind is calmed, so that we are awake, ready to act and think quickly with a clear head.
Yoga wiz is a great source for learning about techniques, benefits, precautions, tips, variations, and preparatory postures. Here is their article on Viparita Virabhadrasana.
PRECAUTIONS BEFORE PRACTICING
Do not practice this pose if you have chronic or recent injury to your shoulders, back, or hips.
Do not practice this pose if you are suffering from high blood pressure or diarrhea.
If you have neck injury, do not tilt the head back, but look forward instead.
Remember to listen to how you body feels. Pain is your body's way of warning you.
If you have any medical concerns consult a doctor before practicing.
Tips for Alignment
It is very important to get good alignment if we want to get the full benefits of a yoga pose and prevent injury.
- For Shanti Virabhadrasana the first thing we consider is the way our front leg is positioned. The ankle, shin, and knee should all be in a vertical line reaching straight up, making a 90 degree angle with the ground. Check to see if your big toe is visible. This will give you a good idea if your front leg is in alignment.
- Your pelvis should be in a neutral position. Not back or forward.
- Make sure that your back bend does not cause a pinching pain in the lower back. You can inhale, lifting the upper back, and then bend to increase the bend of your back, but do not risk injury of the lower back.
- Also in any standing pose keep the shoulders down and away from the ears as much as possible.
Let's play Shanti Virabhadrasana
- Stand in tadasana. Learn how to from the yoga pose of the week on the page from the link below.
- Jump, spreading you feat about four feet apart, and raising your arms straight to each side, fingers pointed forward, palms facing down.
- Turn you right foot 90 degrees so that it faces the wall to your right, turn the left food slightly to the right.
- Bend your right knee so that it is 90 degrees from the floor. Check alignment point one if you are unfamiliar or unsure of this alignment. Make sure the left leg remains straight with knee raised.
- Facing the wall that your right foot is facing, make sure that your pelvis is in a neutral position. Check alignment point two if you are unfamiliar.
- Turn your right palm facing up.
- In hail, lengthen your chest and upper back while raising your right arm up and over your head, guiding your upper body to arch back, sliding your left hand down your thigh. Make sure that there is no stinging pains in your lower back. If so shorten the arch.
- Hold this pose for 10-20 breathes or as many as is comfortable for you.
- Recommended feel good practice: As you are holding your pose remember to smile. Besides being fun, smiling relaxes the tension in your muscles, helping you to melt into the pose, rather than fighting with it, even if it is a difficult pose for you to hold. Smiling will aid in injury prevention and easing strain. I like to repeat my personal mantra for the pose in order to count my breathes. 1 “Love,” 2 “Acceptance,” 3 “Confidence,” 4 “In Abundance,” 5 “Peaceful Warrior.” This helps me visualize myself as a peaceful warrior in my life and the qualities that Shanti Virabhadrasana holds for me. What qualities could bring out the peaceful warrior in you? A mantra could help you realize it even more in your life. :-)
- Repeat the above steps on the opposite side.
- Recommended feel good practice: Once I am done I bring my hands to prayer position at my heart. I thank myself for practicing. I thank my body for carrying me through the practice. I thank the ground for supporting me. And I thank God for making it all possible. You might make your own thanks giving prayer that makes the most sense to you. I have heard many times that, “it is not happy people that are thankful, but thankful people that are happy.”
If there is a topic you are passionate about or question that you would like answered about how to Love ourselves better, I would love to here it. Please write a comment about it here or on Face Book in the "For the Love of Self" discussion area.
Thank you so much for taking time to reflect on being a “peaceful warrior” today! It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to write this article and offer something, which can help us both in our journeys. Wayne Dyer says “you can never resolve a problem by condemning it.” I have yet to find that untrue. At some point things, relationships, etc. just seem to break with that way of approaching life. I hope that we can both bring more “peaceful warrior” into how we respond to the circumstances we face in life. Smiles, courage, and Love to you my friend! Let's be warriors of peace today!! Love and blessing, Aaron Szczurek :-)