POSES OF WAR
It is ironic that
yoga, with all its emphasis on peace and love, should have The Bhagavad Gita as one of its central texts of learning.
The Gita takes place in the setting of a great battle shortly to commence, where over its 18 day duration, thousands
of warriors were killed. In the dialogue between prince Arjuna and his charioteer, Krishna (the
Lord in disguise), are encapsulated all the essential teachings of yoga.
The following postures and exercises,
drawn from the classical postures of yoga, highlight the many aspects of war. In war there are heroes and
cowards, greatness and defeat. There is posturing and the rattling of swords, and there are the accoutrments
of war, the weapons and horses, and wakeful sleep, and death. Nature shows us several examples from the
animal kingdom of all these same attributes.
Although the poses specified may seem to call for strength and power, it
is worth remembering the basis of much eastern martial art teaching - the value of remaining unforced and fluid until the
final moment of action, and even that is accomplished with minimal force to retain energy.
If taken as a series of postures,
allow time at the beginning to warm up, and at the end to cool down. It is assumed that you will be familiar
with most of the postures. The comments are therefore intended only to suggest the mental and symbolic
approach which might be used.
1 Savasana - Here used to centre the warrior,
to rest and prepare for battle. Soldiers under duress learn to grab a rest wherever and whenever they can.
Ujayii (Victorious) breathing - Sit with spine and neck erect breathing fully without strain, gently
pulling in the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, and listening to the sound of the breath in the throat. This
stimulates and strengthens the respiratory system.
(Lion) - Surely the epitomy of regal power and strength. In fact the lion is wise enough to know that bravado,
a wonderful mane, and a threatening roar are often enough to frighten away enemies and demons. In this
pose be aware of your own inner demons, fears and frustrations, and roar them away.
Tadasana - (Mountain pose) - Standing tall and well balanced gives a sense of rootedness and growth. It
is a far cry from the `Stand to attention!` of western soldiers.
(powerful, fierce) asana - Standing on the toes and lowering the body into a squatting position. Develops
balance and concentration, as well as strengthening the legs.
1, 2 and 3 - (Virabhadra was a powerful warrior hero created from the matted locks of Shiva`s hair).
1 - With feet in a wide stride, the front leg bent at the knee, the arms are brought together over the head
2 - The arm of the front leg is brought to shoulder level pointing forwards. The other arm, also
at shoulder level points backwards.
3 - Standing on one straight leg,
the other leg, torso amd arms form a straight line parallel tot he ground.
Dandasana (Staff) - The staff was perhaps all the the common foot soldier could hope for, to go into battle.
Sit with legs extended and straight. The hands at the sides of the body hold the body upright and
8 Maha Mudra (Maha = great, powerful and noble,
a mudra is a symbol, and seal) - Sitting with one leg extended and held by the hands. The
back remains as high and straight as possible while ujayii breath is used. This practice
is said to purify the entire body, and even to change the deadliest poison into nectar.
Skandasana (one of the names of the God of War) - Sitting with legs extended, take one leg and place it behind the
head. Bending forwards hold the extended foot with both hands. If the leg cannot be
placed behind the head, reach under that leg to grasp the opposite foot with the hand of that side. This
posture is part of a cycle of postures which together increase strength, stamina and the capacity to work (or fight).
Akarna Dhanurasana (Dhanu = bow) - Sitting, this posture is called the Archer. Holding the foot,
the other leg extended, the held foot is pulled up and back, just like the arrow. The held extended foot
represents the bow.
11 Kapotasana (Pigeon) - Of all birds the strutting pigeon symbolises
the strutting braggart who, faced with the slightest threat flies away. This posture is shown in various
ways by different yoga schools. One simple version involves kneeling on one heel with the other leg extended
out behind. The body is pushed back by the arms to puff up the chest. The arms may be
lifted and spread open, or reach back to grasp the foot of the back leg as the leg bends at the knee.
Dhanurasana (Bow) - Lying on your front, bend the legs to hold the ankles. Push the feet back and
up to raise the front of the body, and for the knees to lift from the ground. The arms represent the string
of the taught bow represented by the body.
13 Vatayanasana (Horse)
- An excellent pose to stretch and tone the hips and sacroilliac joint. Sit in the half lous pose (Ardha
Padmasana) with the left foot across the top of the right leg. Lift the body from the ground to bring the
left knee to the ground with the right foot nearby. The right thigh remains parallel to the ground.
Try to push the pelvis forwards. The arms can be held in the position used in the eagle pose(Garudasana)
Any twisting pose, such as Ardha Matsyendrasana, Marichyasnana etc. In war the general at the front
likes to know his men are behind him. Conversely the deserter running from the field of action will want
to see if he is being chased.
15 Sit and again focus on your breathing for several minutes.
Savasana (Corpse or Dead man) - In war there are always casualties. In this pose
we become as still as a corpse without the rigour mortice. The pose gives us time to go within ourself
and realise that we are more than just the physical body.
Instructions are given for one side only. In all postures
repeat with the other arm or leg. Beaware that one side or the other may be weaker, tighter or stronger.
The battle here is not between the two sides of the one body. Try to achieve a uniform `front` by
bringing the weaker or less flexible side up to the standard of the other. Always practise both sides,
but maybe hold the weaker side just a few seconds longer.