New Year’s Lessons from the Warrior Pose

I’ve practiced yoga for years on and off.  While I appreciated the benefits of yoga, it was never something that I could sustain on a consistent basis.  I actually used to give major side eye to folks who practiced hot yoga and now I swear by it.  But, in the last three years, I’ve become much more committed to my practice, and the main reason for that is my reunion with the Warrior pose.

Three years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to practice yoga more regularly, and I started the new year by attending a group class taught at my local YMCA.  I was a bit rusty when it came to both the asana (physical) and pranayama (breathing) aspects of the class.  Let’s keep it real–I was a whole lot rusty.  But, when we began a Warrior series, it clicked for me why I needed this practice in my life.  The instructor directed us into the Warrior I pose and talked us through setting up the proper alignment and maintaining balance.  Once positioned, I felt strong and imagined I was in battle.  And, at the time in my life, I was in a kind of battle–a battle for my physical and emotional health and well being.

warrior pose
My sistafriends in the Warrior II pose at our yoga retreat at Kripalu.

Then, she instructed us to move into the Warrior II pose.  In this pose, one arm and hand reaches toward the front and your gaze is toward your hand.  You keep your gaze to the front, toward your future.  The other arm is stretched out toward the back.  The back arm is facing your past.  The back hand faces down, symbolizing letting go of the past.  This was the meditation that the instructor provided as she guided us through the positions.  In that moment, I needed to hear that, and I needed to physically and emotionally let go of some things.  More importantly, I needed to forgive myself of past wrongs and past hurts.

I still go to this same class, same instructor every week.  I look forward to the Warrior series because it is an opportunity for me to release and let go time and time again.  I tell people that yoga is my church (that’s where you’ll find me just about every Sunday morning at 8:30AM), and for me, the Warrior series represents an act of self-forgiveness.

So, as we begin a new year, I offer a few lessons that I’ve learned from the Warrior pose and that I’ll continue to embrace as I look toward the future.

1) You wouldn’t be the Warrior you are today had you not been through that battlefield.  It has been easy for me to look back on my past with shame, resentment, and anger.  Why did I do that?  What was I thinking?  I wish I had known better or taken a different path.  But, then, that wouldn’t be my life, and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.  I am wiser because of all of my bumps and bruises and better equipped to deal with what will come.  So, instead of being angry and resentful, I’ve learned to accept and, dare I say it, appreciate my past because, look, I’m still here.  Through the battle scars, I’m still here.

2) Forgiveness begins with you.  I’ve learned that I have no control over others’ emotions or actions.  For years, my ability to forgive myself was directly tied to whether others forgave me.  I was seeking outward approval and validation.  Yes, when you hurt someone, you should acknowledge it, ask for their forgiveness, and be purposeful in not hurting them again.  But, you have no control over their desire or willingness to forgive you or to let go of the hurt.  That is their choice.  But, you do have control over whether or not you forgive yourself.  Each time I stand in Warrior II, I forgive myself and let it go.  I choose to forgive and love myself, mistakes, flaws, and all.

3) As you look to the future, set your intentions.  It is important to acknowledge the past so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.  I don’t want to let go of stuff just to have it resurface next month.  I’m letting it go, and I’m saying, never again.  Let me be clear–an intention is not just about what you’re not going to do.  It is about what you ARE going to do.  You are affirming new actions, new beginnings.  And, the new year is a time to set intentions for new beginnings and to unleash the inner Warrior.

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