For the Spirit of Courage

By  Vanessa Webb | 

Once imprisoned, Joan of Arc is said to have felt shattered within herself, that she had backed down on what she knew most deeply.  That she hadn’t carried through on what only she could hear.  After all of her bravery, her courage and her might, in the end, she felt she had betrayed her most sacred knowing.

The Scottish Pipers of the World Wars ran out into vast open fields, unprotected, armed only with their instruments of war, their sole purpose being to lead armed soldiers into battle.  No one was ahead of them to lead…from where did they draw their courage? They had to take it themselves. These men were the front line of battle, because it was from them that the soldiers drew their courage.

Are we capable in today’s world of finding courage within…when so much supports a lazy, uninspired, effortless lifestyle? Is there even a need for courage in our daily lives anymore? Yes! Just as ever before. Can we examine this within our own selves…our behaviours and reactions when courage taps us on the shoulder…because it’s usually a fleeting experience when we are accustomed to denying it.

The yogic asana of Warrior 2 is designed to fuel courage, by sustaining the pose through the discomfort.  Anyone who has ever practiced this pose knows how uncomfortable it can be. 

Alas, the majority of people wriggle their way out of it…or better yet, never rest fully into it.  But can we use this pose instead, as a way of becoming familiar with our response to courage within ourselves? Do we really want to back out in the end, and betray what we know most deeply.

If the men and women of war had the courage to face fear day in and day out, do we have the courage to sustain a yoga practice, or do we slack out of it because it’s so uncomfortable…or even before it becomes uncomfortable?   Imagine, if we could find courage within discomfort for even a few moments longer, what we could develop…the courage to be kind, the courage to love and to find answers, the courage to take ownership of ourselves as individuals, the courage to be gentle.  The courage to make this a better world.

So let’s sustain Warrior 2, through the tremors of that burning courage that often becomes squelched in tension. Instead allowing the ancient rise of prana, of our calling…too often avoided by a simple habitual strangle of tensed neck and shoulder muscles.  Even the jaw begins to clench.  Do we have the courage to settle into that tremoring burn as it rises.  With trust, with breath, with prayer even. This isn’t insurmountable.  Yet sweat begins to blister from our pores, and maybe the veins begin to throb in the temples, but we will make it, we will survive this reactive panic, because we’re not dying…instead, we’re feeling, we’re growing, we’re being human…and we’re meant to feel it, release it, and ease into it.  The settling in to the pose is what actually draws us upward into the confident stance that Warrior 2 is.

Warrior 2 is such a grounding pose for this type of anxious energy. We are meant to rest solid in the support of our legs, establishing our footing with full stability so that we CAN ground.  Without a foothold we float and hover in the pose, making all improper use of it. We would really rather straighten that front leg, we really want to, with everything we have we want to straighten it, scrambling to find relief. Instead, sink down, face the pose head on, hover more deeply, reach in to that central fire in the belly, draw the outer edge of that back foot even more onto the mat…stabilize.  Trust.  Establish the feet…the lengthening of the body will come from that…this is the authentic “relief” from the pose. It’s here that the warrior’s courage can rise, having faced defeat.  Defeat from wanting to rise before it’s time…and using all (wrong) muscles to do so.  

As we sustain, the spine will want to reach upward because that lifeforce has been given freedom again to flow upward.  The prana then, begins to pool at the heart, which gives that softness to the shoulders, the dynamic ease of the outstretched arms, so the heart can beam right through your fingertips. From here, through open palms and spread fingers we find the freedom of courage…to follow through on our own heart’s calling toward a better world.