Among the most powerful of asanas are the Warrior Poses: Virabhadrasana I, Virabhadrasana II, and Virabhadrasana III. When we practice the Warrior Sequence, we contemplate the question, “What does it mean to be a Spiritual Warrior?”
I asked a few retreat participants from the Iceland Yoga Retreat how they would define what it is to be a Spiritual Warrior. “To be a Spiritual Warrior,” one person said, “is to have the fortitude to overcome any challenge with inner peace, grace, and physical calmness. Sometimes certain situations incite us to be strong and forceful, but the Spiritual Warrior possesses an inner sense of calm and peace that exudes and touches everyone around them. The greatest challenge is to maintain this inner calm. As Spiritual Warriors, this is what we do.”
Another Iceland Retreat participant said, “Warriors take on many forms. I am a pacifist. I believe we can solve problems with compromise and consensus. Inner peace is a requirement to achieve these problem-solving strategies. I am not religious, but I believe in the Golden Rule, which is to coexist. Living peacefully with your neighbors is critical. As a scientist, I am always looking for explanations. For me, spirituality is attained and understanding achieved by going into the mountains where I can open myself up to a space that allows for contemplation.”
A third retreat participant I spoke to said, “Being a Spiritual Warrior is about being happy instead of having to be right and realizing that not everything is worth arguing over. Endurance and strength become interrelated, and these qualities win over fighting. Being a Spiritual Warrior is about connecting to breath. I work in an aggressive environment, so giving a problem more time and curbing reactions come from connecting to breath. Focusing on breath and breathing allows time to react in a different way. As a Spiritual Warrior, I find myself becoming observant by simply looking out the window and connecting to breathing and the present moment.”
Another person said that being a Spiritual Warrior means “being an advocate and standing your ground and applying higher moral principles to the material world and to one’s internal world. Which path am I trying to find? Certainly not a ferocious or warlike one. As a Spiritual Warrior, one must be strong and courageous. The real work is in returning back to oneself to re-ground in a new way.”
The last person I spoke to on the subject of being a Spiritual Warrior said, “My preferential option is to help those in need, the poor of our society. A Spiritual Warrior manifests light and good will and creates peace and joy in the world. The work of a Spiritual Warrior is to look out for our family, friends, and associates, not only in times of need, but at all times. We must look at the bigger picture and care for the greater good throughout the universe.”
Two images come to mind when I think of a “warrior.” One image is that of a person engaged in warfare. The other image is that of a person who is powerful from the inside. A Spiritual Warrior refers to one with self-confidence and a strong sense of accomplishment. A Spiritual Warrior has integrity and lives by a code of honor. A Spiritual Warrior is a protector and a defender of ideas that help further the good of humanity.
To be a Spiritual Warrior is to embrace noble pursuits, to overcome weakness of character, and to overcome moral conflicts. A Spiritual Warrior embraces a journey of self-discovery, in which one begins to understand his or her principles and lives a life in which those principles are not compromised.
A Spiritual Warrior cultivates strength of character, embraces courage, and is compassionate. He or she strives to become an enlightened human being. A Spiritual Warrior practices internal and external discipline, which comes from mental focus. In yoga, we speak of avidya, self-ignorance, as something we must endeavor to overcome, for example, racism.
Living a life of contemplation and reflection is the greatest path to emancipating ourselves from espousing weak ways of being. The yoga practice encourages us to look within, to study ourselves and our environment, our actions, and the way we interact with ourselves, with the external world, and with the divine, whether it be a powerful benevolent spirit or vast and mysterious Mother Nature.