Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fierce Transformation

You've not heard from me in a week. An accidental vacation? Maybe. I think I've been stunned. Was it Wittgenstein who said, "what cannot be spoken of, must be passed over in silence"?

I've not known what to say.

Even with the vivid commentary and images we are given, it's hard to imagine the suffering and destruction experienced by those most directly impacted by hurricane Katrina. Maybe I should say it's hard to identify with the suffering. I've never been close to anything like it.

I was struck especially by the typically calm and detached news anchors who, in response to the needless sufferring of the victims of Katrina, came unglued on the TV screen and vented their frustration and righteous indignation.

Mistakes have been made. Tragically, people have died. We will undoubtedly see change in the near future. Those who were supposed to be responsible will lose their jobs. Heads will roll.

I am certain that in my very first yoga class I was taught a simple standing pose we called "proud warrior."

This is Amanda (or is it Ananda?), the mountain-top warrior. Wouldn't you want her on your side if you were facing trouble? Posted by Picasa

For this pose, the feet are positioned wide apart, then turned to point toward one side. Then you extend your arms out, like you would for better balance. Then you lunge, one leg bent and one leg straight, like a swordsman or fencer.

See the "proud warrior" on the right? It's a beautiful pose. And notice that she's going for disrupting transformation! She's going for her opponent's head! Posted by Picasa

You can see and feel the power of this pose the frist time you do it.

It didn't take me long to realize back then that this pose was just one of three powerful poses dedicated to the mighty warrior Virabhadra.

Virabhadra literally means "auspicious, blessed hero."

the mighty Virabhadra Posted by Picasa

It was confusing to me that the peaceful art of Yoga, which is aimed at bringing the joy that can only be attained in union with the Divine, honors fierce warriors and destroyers by naming not just a few poses after them.

The dissonance of this eventually wore off. It rolled right off my back...until I read the story of Virabhadra for myself.

Virabhadra was created when an angry Shiva yanked a clump of matted hair out of his scalp and threw it down. When the hair hit the ground, up arose the mighty warrior Virabhadra. That's the striking and somewhat amusing part of the story.

From then on, it's nauseating. Fire and smoke. Beheadings. Unimagineable destruction. Well, unimagineable until this past week.

The events of the past week are what recalled the story of Virabhadra to my mind.

A radio reporter said Thursday that the people in the New Orleans convention center were "living like animals." People were starving to death.

Dead bodies were lying out in the open. Packs of frenzied marauders were firing guns at rescue helicopters attempting to deliver food, water, and medical supplies.

Things change quickly during a disaster.

Even the seasons remind us that all of existence is cyclical. There is creation, followed by sustaining, then destruction. Then creation follows destruction, and the cycle repeats.

Transformation, new birth, requires that which is old to pass away. The seed must dry out and die before it is buried. Then comes new life. It's a cycle.

People come to yoga because they want something to change; they want transformation. And if you want something new, the old must be destroyed.

Think about this. If I want the benefits that come from a regular practice of yoga, the old person who never practices, must pass away. Then the the true you emerges.

Maybe that's why warriors are honored. We've always called on our warriors to help us face our harshest circumstances and survive in our most dire straits.

May each of us live bravely and give generously, like a fierce warrior, taking great risks during this time of tremendous change.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s. Daksa lost his head that day when Virabhadra destroyed the sacrafice to avenge the death of Shiva's beloved, Sati. But it was replaced by the head of a goat! Sati was reborn through meditation as Uma.

Some of these details make the story of Virabhadra unforgettable. And unforgettable is what you want when you're trying to learn and remember the Sanskrit name of the yoga poses you practice.

Join me and Sallie Keeney at the next Experience Sanskrit workshop in Columbia, MO on October 15, 12:30 to 4:30 pm at alleyCat yoga. We'll tell the stories behind the yoga pose names, and more. You'll have fun and finish asking for more! More Sanskrit? Yes! More Sanskrit.

Register at for the Columbia, MO Experience Sanskrit workshop.

p.p.s. Sallie and I are coming to Annapolis, MD on Saturday, March 4, 2006 for the Experience Sanskrit workshop. Click on for more details. And we're staying an extra day for a two-hour asana workshop on Sunday afternoon.

I am looking forward to seeing some of my old friends from the Washington, DC area in the new year.


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