virasana: the unsensational hero

a dharma talk by Braeden Lentz

Our focus for the month of February at The Shala is Virasana. The two Sanskrit components are “vira,” often translated as hero, and “asana,” which yogis know well to mean seat, shape, pose, or the way we arrange our body building up from the ground. The names of poses evoke imagery to consider as we make our shape.

The first things that come to mind when I consider the term “hero” are superhuman qualities. I think of someone who engages in unusually daring but necessary actions. A hero might be a charismatic, especially self sacrificing, or visionary person. There might only be a few in my lifetime.

In contrast to those images, virasana is a relatively unremarkable pose. Easily overlooked or skipped. Virasana does not require great strength, balance, or flexibility. It requires stable, organized grounding through the lower body, from which a long spine rises with the shoulders holding the heart, available but not overexposed. The pose itself is quite attainable for many practitioners, especially with the support of props. Sitting in a chair you may embody the qualities of the shape. Virasana lends itself well to closing the eyes and meditation.

The reframe, that so many people can humbly embody the shape of a hero, evokes a different kind of image of what a hero is. This unremarkable virasana reminds me of a line from Fred Rogers towards the end of the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I was born in the late 80s into a household without cable and I watched a lot of PBS. Mr. Rogers teachings absorbed into my childhood consciousness. This line from a 2002 commencement address delivered to a sunny field of mostly adults, refers to the song “It’s You I Like”.

And what that ultimately means, of course, is that you don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you. When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you, that allows you to stand for those things, without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate. Peace that rises triumphant over war. And justice that proves more powerful than greed.

So, in all that you do in all of your life, I wish you the strength and the grace to make those choices which will allow you and your neighbor to become the best of whoever you are.

You have within you already what it takes to be part of growing love, peace and justice in the world. And you don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.