Life seems to be an endless game of trying to figure it out. If you are walking on the path of soul discovery, then what you are trying to figure out is how to live every day in alignment with your highest purpose (or Dharma). To live in this way is INTEGRITY. Sounds easy enough in theory. Why would you want to live out of alignment with your highest purpose? It would be like trying to fit into clothes that are too small. “Man, that outfit is cute, I must wear it even though I can barely breathe or walk.” The outcome is restricted life process, and to the observer, well let’s be honest, probably a bit of humor at the absurdity of the attempt.
So what does Integrity look like and feel like? The word has connotations of grandeur, like something that is unattainable. But, In + to + gritty = Integrity. When we live in integrity things are rough, gritty, sometimes abrasive. We are so committed to staying true to our highest purpose that we stand in the middle of the sandstorm while the force of friction rubs us raw. We move in ways that might seem strange or slow or circuitous, because we are always trying to engage from a stable foundation, if the ground is shaky, we question the motivation. So, often that which seems easy is disregarded for that which is RIGHT. Refinement (however minutely) is the endeavor until the solid ground of Dharma becomes the foundation, and the stillness becomes wholeness.
People of integrity often question the world around them (trying on lots of outfits and analyzing the finest details), not because they doubt it, but because a solid foundation requires perfect alignment. The questioning uncovers true alignment (in self and others). Integrity is defined as “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished,” in essence unified, the definition of Yoga.
In practicing asana, there are many poses that allow us to explore the experience of Integrity. Virabhadrasana III, Warrior III, is an asana that is at once expansive and fully integrated in a way that allows the feeling of Integrity to be fully embodied. In this pose, you are called to establish a firm foundation and continually refine and readjust until the pose becomes whole. When practicing and teaching Vira III, it is important to pay attention to the ways that we undermine our wholeness. To stand in Integrity means to stand in the fullness and strength of essential Self, undivided, tenacious, solid. The definition of Integrity is the synonymous with the definition of a Warrior. You can’t fake it. You can fake flexibility, you can even grip to create the illusion of strength, but the fullest expression of integrity is one of total openness. Raw, vulnerable, and committed to the path of truth.
When practicing Warrior III, it is best to approach it from a place where the strength of the core and openness in the shoulders, hips and legs are well established. The role of the feet in Virabhadrasana III is also essential to fully arriving with Integrity into the form. The more time that is spent preparing the body, the more Vira III will feel like an experience of completeness rather than disintegration. The journey of the pose begins with the ways you discover your own strength, poses like Navasana and Chaturanga Dandasana are powerful to unfold the path to deep strength without gripping or bracing against the effort. You can establish the foundation through the feet in poses as basic as Tadasana, or you can combine the emphasis of rooting with an opening in the legs in many of the standing asanas (Parsvottonasana is one of my favorites to prepare for Vira III). The intent of your preparatory poses is to coax strength and flexibility out from a deep place within, so that when it’s needed for Warrior III, it’s accessed willingly and with a sense of profound ease.
When the body is responsive and open, then you can move toward accessing the full expression of Virabhadrasana III. When you step into this asana in Integrity, you will feel plugged-in, strong, balanced, unwavering, courageous, expanded, open and free. All at once. Completely.
The experience of Integrity is one of pure recognition. When the individual pieces unite, the feeling of completeness is undeniable, and radiantly beautiful. To be whole is the ultimate alignment of your life with your highest purpose. Even though you may still encounter challenge, you feel equipped and capable of meeting it from a fully unified space and you shine.