Hanuman, the powerful monkey-faced God, is known for his extraordinary strength and devotion. Hanuman has the eyes of compassion. When we gaze upon them we gain insight into how to be devotional and what strength really is.
Hanumanasana is a yoga pose that takes strength, devotion and, for some, compassion! Celebrating Hanuman’s heroic leaps, this pose is practiced by bringing your legs into a ‘split’ position, with one leg forward and the other behind you.
In this pose we bring equal awareness to what is behind us as well as what is ahead of us. When they support each other, balance is achieved. When there is tension or tightness in the leg that is behind, or fear and resistance in the leg that is ahead of us, we wobble and eventually fall.
In life, when our past fights with our present, or that which is behind us limits the way we perceive and act on what is ahead of us, we wobble and we fall. Practicing asana is a safe and effective ‘container’ to work with these mental and emotion tendancies.
When approaching a pose that is challenging like hanumanasana, often times ego and judgement arise. If this pose or deep stretches like it have been difficult in the past, the mind will likely tell the body that it can’t do the pose. Reacting accordingly, the body will tighten, the breath will become choppy and the mind will manifest frustration, anger or some other sort of resistance. So rather than practicing yoga, we end up practicing some sort of agitated gymnastics that only leaves us exhausted.
A quote from Pattabhi Jois: “When the mind is quiet, the asana is correct.”
The correct way to do hanumanasana is to find a way for you to work in the pose with effort, but also with ease, so that the mind is quiet and the breath relaxed. The way to do this is to develop mindful awareness of the sensations in your body through your breath.
Come to Downward Facing Dog position. Inhale reach your right leg into the air behind you. Exhale your right foot forward to a lunge. If your palms don’t reach the floor, place blocks under your hands and walk your hands back in line with your hips. Keep the torso lifted. Lower the left knee to the floor. Slowly slide your left knee back, straightening the knee and at the same time lowering the right thigh toward the floor. Stop straightening the back knee just before you get to the maximum reach of your stretch.
Keep your hips squared to the front. The blocks under your hands can help you here. You can also place a block or a folded blanket under your right thigh or sitz bone for support. Try to avoid turning your left hip out. If you turn your hip out you will get lower in the pose, but it not correct alignment and you will not achieve the full benefit of the pose this way.
Once you find the proper support in the pose, keep your torso lifted, your shoulders back, your breath steady and your face relaxed. Let your eyes be focused and yet soft and joyful. Let your gaze, your breath and all the muscles of your face relax completely, like you are drunk with love and devotion!
Advanced students may press the hands together at the heart or raise hands above the head, put the palms together, and balance.
Note : You can do this pose with the back foot flexed and pressing into a wall. You can gain more control in squaring of the hips this way. You can also put a blanket under your front heel to help you slide forward with the foot.
Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
Prepare for the pose by doing backbends that help to open the front of the hips like natarajasana, cresent lunge and seated or reclining virasana.