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A Journey to Hanumanasana

A Brief Introduction to Hanuman

In Hindu Mythology, Hanuman is an incredibly talented, but very cheeky wee monkey.

Having been blessed by the Gods in his younger years, he was virtually invincible and could perform many cool tricks. These included; incredible strength, the ability to move as fast as the wind, and the power to transport himself to any place without being stopped.

However, due to the fact he was a young boy when he was bestowed these gifts, he didn't quite possess the wisdom or discernment to use them always for good. Instead, his childish ego uses his gifts to have some fun and he becomes known as a bit of a prankster!

One day, he pranked the wrong guy, a meditating sage, who placed a curse on young Hanuman. He made it so that Hanuman forgot that he ever had these immense powers.

Fast forward many years and, deprived of the knowledge of his superiority, Hanuman is a little more humble than he used to be. When his brothers wife, Sita, is kidnapped, Hanuman joined the search party to bring her home. When they realise she has been taken across the ocean to Sri Lanka, the search party is stumped. They have no means to cross the ocean. It's at this point, the curse is lifted and Hanuman remembers his divine powers and takes one giant stride all the way from South India to Sri Lanka in order to rescue Sita.

This is why the asana (yogic version of front splits) is called Hanumanasana - after his heroic leap.

This is a greatly abridged version of the tale, but I take 2 main morals from this particular story:

  1. It's always best to check your ego at the door, in yoga and in life!

  2. It's important to nurture your unique gifts! For the right reasons, of course.

My personal journey to Hanumanasana

I was pretty averse to this asana until fairly recently and I found gaining understanding of the mythology behind it greatly helpful.

You see, when I started practicing yoga, everyone told me how good I was at it. I'm hypermobile (AKA a little too flexible) and it was the first physical activity in my life people had complimented me on. It boosted my ego! So I started playing up to that - stretching as much as I could to gain the awe inspired gasps of my teachers and fellow students.

And my body cursed me for it.

I ended up with injuries, and generally feeling more weak and wobbly as a result. After years of practicing with experienced teachers and coming to better understand my body and hypermobility, my practice has changed drastically.

I went through a long phase of being resistant to any of the 'extreme' stretches, not even trying them at all. After realising the detrimental effects of over-stretching, I put them in the 'bad' bucket and developed a bit of fear around pushing myself too far physically in my yoga practice.

So from then on I worked on building strength instead. But I realise that building strength in isolation also wasn't beneficial from my body.

One of the great lessons in yoga is coming to understand your personal edge. Learning how to safely straddle (see what I did there?) that line between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and staying within your bodies limit of safety. It's a constant journey to finding that sweet spot of balance - and the trick is it always changes!

As you develop one aspect of yourself, you inevitably let go of something else.

In terms of physical movement, mobility is key. Many people have a misconception that flexibility is the aim of yoga but this is not true, particularly for me. The more flexible you are, the less stable you become. The more strong you are, the less flexible you are. We are always trying to find that perfect line in between.

These days, I feel I am in a position where I am able to attempt these postures in a conscious and integrated way. I have enough wisdom to ensure I don't go in to these poses out of ego. I ensure I challenge myself to stay present and move slowly, listening closely to my body to ensure I find the edge and don't fall over it.

In this posture I do that by ensuring I keep the muscles engaged, pulling everything in to the midline and focus on keeping the hips squared rather than dropping in to them. I make sure that my intention is on keeping my body integrated in the posture, rather than achieving what I may consider to be the 'full expression' e.g. Instagram worthy photo op / having my thighs flat to the floor.

It's been so empowering for me to gain this understanding of my body. I have relative security that I can explore my edge and find new strengths without the risk of injury.

I've never taught Hanumanasan in class but perhaps it's something I'll explore in the future.

In my classes, my main goal is always to help my students understand their own body, their own strengths and limitations. That means we may not go in to any wild postures, but we take our time to breath and look inward.

You'll be surprised of the strengths you may find in there!

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