When Shiva’s consort Shakti was killed by the chief of the gods, Daksha, Shiva tore out his hair in grief and anger, creating the fierce warrior Virabhadra from his locks. With a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and fiery hair, Virabhadra wore a garland of skulls and carried many terrifying weapons. Bowing at Shiva’s feet and asking his will, Virabhadra was directed by Shiva to lead his army against Daksha to avenge Shakti’s death, which he did with immediate success. Like Shiva, Virabhadra’s aim in destruction is not revenge but to destroy the real enemy, which is the ego standing in the way of humility.
Approaching the asanas named for Virabhadra—Virabhadrasana I, II, and III—we can encourage students to cultivate the mind of the spiritual warrior, aware of all sides, unattached to attainment, centered in one’s being. Staying focused in the practice, holding on in the midst of fear and intensity, the spirit of Virabhadra helps students discover the strength and humility to explore challenges in their practice and life with greater courage and determination.