This is the first of our series from Wanderlusters in Australia and New Zealand. Check back weekly for more Dispatches from Down Under!
I’m a warrior. “Warrior Jase,” to be exact.
Given the current trend of adopting a nom de plume that is both aspirational and inspirational for social media, I chose “Warrior Jase” for both of those reasons. It’s certainly not who I think I am, per-se, but in my personal yoga journey, I’m learning to refine my warrior-like qualities.
But what does that mean? What is a warrior? It’s certainly described differently depending on the culture, race, and creed of the person you’re asking. And what does it have to do with yoga?
Defining a Warrior
In ancient Māori context, a warrior was revered for his fierce fighting prowess on the battlefield, whether between tribes or against the colonialists, aka ‘pākeha. There was immense mana (loosely translated in English as authority, control, prestige, or power) attached to battles won, and the stories of great warriors were passed down from one generation to the next through an oral tradition. Still today, stories of mighty warriors, such as Te Rauparaha and Maui, are retold as part of our Kiwi heritage. In more modern times, the 28th Māori Batallion were remembered as the fiercest fighters arguably of any culture, to fight in WWII.
Similarly, Ancient Indian philosophies share myths of brave warriors much like the Māori of old. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the Archer Arjuna, known for his pin-point accuracy with his bow and arrow. Virabhadrasana, meaning ‘Heroes friend,’ was famous for battling Shakti’s father Daksha when Shiva heard of his love’s death. Virabhadrasana was created from a lock of Shiva’s hair. The creation of an Ancient Yogic Warrior and the beginning of other warriors to come!
No matter what tradition you subscribe to or with which figurehead you resonate, the basic qualities of a warrior always include being strong of body but calm of mind—a person who is fierce and peaceful at the same time. A warrior is someone who has the strength and courage to lead an army, but the vulnerability to face demons that result from the pillages of war.
Finding the Inner Warrior
As such, to me, a warrior is the perfect embodiment of sthira and sukkha: Strength and softness.
My yogic practice of meditation and pranayama has allowed me to find the softness that comes from stilling the mind and moving beyond my identity of self. When we turn our outlook in, we are able to move past ‘what’ we think we are (our physical self) and start the journey towards ‘who’ we actually are. Warrior One Asana is the perfect example of bodily effort and ease of breath, drishti, and attitude. That is, strength and softness in balance.
So why “Warrior Jase”?
It took me 41 years, but I’ve realized that I’m more than my physical strength. My practice teaches me that there is more to yoga than just physical endeavor. The peace and calmness of mind that it takes to stay, breathe and be—rather than to do—is a life-long journey that calls on warrior-like qualities: A journey that I humbly accept. Warrior by name, and hopefully, eventually, warrior by nature as well.
Jason Te Patu is the Senior Facilitator and Performance Coach at Power Living. He came to yoga after sustaining an injury in South Africa during his career as an international dancer, most recently with Disney’s The Lion King. As a professional performer he has choreographed, danced, and sung with many of New Zealand’s top entertainers. His skills also reach into the medium of television and radio where he has won various awards for shows he has presented and/or worked on.