My friend had invited me along with a group I did not know to a place I had never been. I immediately said yes, as she was my coach and friend. I knew this was a naturally curated group of women who would behold great wisdom and love and I was in for a treat of new friends.
As we arrived on a Friday afternoon, it was a beautiful day in upstate New York, and I was delighted to see the Retreat Center was on the edge of the Hudson River. I had not paid much attention to the fact that it was an Anglican Community of Benedictine Men. Hmmm. I trusted my friend.
I got settled in my room and then walked down to the river and could feel myself slowing down and connecting to this place. There was another group there who was having a silent retreat, and though our group was not, we all quickly, and gladly, fell into the silence. The few times I have been on silent retreats I have found great comfort in releasing the effort of verbal communication and been in awe about how much we each communicate with each other with our energy and essence.
The next morning I woke, remembering we were in silence and decided to do some yoga on my own. I had brought a yoga magazine and there was a practice that included only five standing poses. Not so difficult. But the practice was to hold each of these relatively simple postures for 3 minutes. How hard could that be? The one pose I remember doing that morning was Warrior II. It was a pose I knew well but was used to holding six maybe eight breaths. Not 3 minutes.
In Warrior II there are many misunderstandings and delights. When I was a beginner, it seemed the front bent leg was the star of the action. Later I learned it was the anchored back foot and the engaged quad of that back straight leg that created the foundation of the pose. Early on I thought it was about being strong and reaching. Later I learned it was about leaning back and softening down the back body to find the right balance of effort and ease. I thought that yoga built muscle and strength in the movement of the poses.
I finished the practice and it was challenging, but then I went on with my day. The next morning I was a bit tired but as the day wore on my muscles began to scream. Could it be that I was this sore from just standing?
At that time I believed that life, and my success and happiness, was about action and movement and doing. This was admirable, recommended and rewarded behavior in my family and profession as an architect. If you weren’t stretching, working, reaching beyond your limits, a warrior of action, well, you probably weren’t going to achieve, or be, much of anything. Or so I thought.
In Warrior II, and the other poses, I had stood in my power; strong, still, silent. In that stillness, in that holding, my muscles had been taxed, so much that I was sore. The soreness would ease within a few day and my muscles would grow stronger.
This was something completely new. If I have been in the office of a cognitive therapist they would have questioned my beliefs. Was it true that success is only achieved with action, in the doing?
I’d like to say soon after that I realized that the real achievement was in the ability to stand, or sit still, and listen to my own whispers of wisdom to stay true to what mattered to me against the strong tides of busyness. That realization took me a few more years but I did learn that there was value, and a workout, in pausing, in standing still, in silence.
Warrior II is a pose that radiates with strength. Note I say strength, not power. Power is a force, the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Strength is the quality or state of being strong. Practicing Warrior II is to cultivate your physical strength and your conviction of mind, honing your desired state of being, as a guide for your life.
This week I invite you to explore Warrior II for seven days. The two videos here introduce the basics and also offer some engagement tips. So rarely do we just dive into one pose, to pull apart all that it encompasses, to stand and hold it to see what wisdom, and strength it can share. If 3 minutes seems too long, try just one minute and build from there. Enjoy the simple wisdom of Warrior II. I’d love to hear how it goes.