I was born in the Sign of Cancer, Cancer the Crab. The psychological traits of a Cancer are characterised by the image of a creature with a tough, hardened shell protecting a soft and vulnerable centre. We like to hold on tightly to what we value, as near and dear to us. Although Cancer is not inherently a materialistic sign, the image of a vice-like grip in their great pinching claws refusing to let go of what they see as rightly theirs, it does apply to their material interests as well as their emotional investments. Cancers stubbornly refuse to emotionally let go of people, traditions, ideas and possessions.
There’s nothing wrong with practicing Yoga for only the physical benefits, moving through some asana, getting your Yoga high on, and getting out of the studio. After a while, though, it becomes harder to avoid what Yoga is asking you to do: look at yourself. Through Yoga, we learn to watch our reactions, we process emotions through our bodies, and best (and worst) of all, we get more honest about what we actually feel. It becomes harder to lie to ourselves or to hide in our shells.
Humble Warrior, sometimes known as Devotional Warrior or Baddha Virabhadrasana is not a traditional yoga posture. The name seems to be associated with the act of bowing down, surrendering, as if in reverence. The posture is often classified under the term of “krama”; which in Sanskrit means – in order, one after the other or gradually, a transitional posture. Transitional postures can teach appreciation for the journey, instead of always looking to the destination.
We need to be warriors of our inner selves on this path of life and acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes we react the wrong way and like Shiva, cut off someone else’s head without thinking. Sometimes our rage becomes a fire that transforms us, like it did with Sati.
When we practice Warrior One, Two, and Three, we are the Vira (Shiva’s warrior friend) that kills the ignorance, prejudice, and inflated ego within ourselves. When we practice Humble Warrior, bowing down to the inside of the front leg, head softening to the floor, we are the ignorance, fear, and ego that has been vanquished.
There are many stories like this in Hindu mythology and Yoga philosophy. Yoga is a deep and complex practice of looking at ourselves and most of us are not constructed from rainbows, flowers and unicorns. We are just people. Yoga is often not placid and serene, like us it has dark and difficult places, often hidden under the shells that we create for ourselves. Yoga invites us to walk straight into our inner struggle. Yoga, on occasion, even invites us to cut off our own heads.
• Start in Tadasana
• Exhale, step your right foot back in high lunge; left knee is above your left ankle
• Inhale your arms up to complete your high lunge
• Exhale, interlace your fingers behind your back
• Inhale open your chest, looking up
• Exhale bend and bend forward, bringing your nose towards the toes of your front foot, with your head inside your right thigh. Place your back foot in a 45 degrees angle on the floor.
• Stay in the pose as long as comfortable
• To release the posture, let your arms pull you up first, lift up the head and slowly come up. Re-center the body and repeat on the other side
As you bow down in reverence, you are bowing to and honoring the Divine within you. Go inward. Breathe deeply. Physically, this is an intense stretch for the hips, shoulders and chest. You are strengthening and stretching the muscles of the legs as well.
I like the posture because of the vulnerability and power it allows me to cultivate in myself. My foundation has to be strong in order to surrender to my breath, at the same I must stay vulnerable to allow myself to give over to the posture. I must let go.
Surrender to your radiance, your integrity and your beautiful humanity. Give yourself over to a life of strength and honesty. Bow to the majesty of who you really are. Let go of any doubt or fear about who you are becoming. Let go of your fears, come out of your shell and step off your Yoga mat and into life.
“Keep up and you will be kept up.” ~ Yogi Bhajan
Sherri (Minh) Lowe is a 200 E-RYT teacher and co-founder of Yogatique Bangkok. She is a fifty-one year old Canadian transplant living in Bangkok. When she is not on her yoga mat, she enjoys cycling, trying new vegan recipes, a cold beer, lingering in coffee shops and exploring Bangkok. When not pursing these activities, she is writing about them