Hanumanasana, Anjaneyasana and Virasana: Shraddha
Monkey Pose, Low Lunge, Hero Pose
These three poses work together anatomically as well as symbolically in the myth of the monkey god, Hanuman. All three poses stretch the psoas muscle which runs from our lower back at T12 to the inner thigh. This deep core muscle plays a major role in the “fight or flight” reflex that has been with us since human time began. Stress, being so prevalent in our society, keeps this reflex for most people at a constant low grade state of activation. Constant stress as well as the way we sit leads most of us to have a psoas that is in a chronically locked position. The psoas in therefore the muscle that stores fear and releasing the muscle itself also allows us to release some of our fears. And, so begins the story of Hanuman, the monkey god.
Anjana was a beautiful woman who desired a child very much. The wind god, vayu heard her prayers and blessed her with a baby boy whom she named Anjaneya (son of Anjana). Anjaneya was half human and half god since his father was Vayu. One day Anjaneya saw a giant mango in the sky and leapt up to take a bite out of it not realizing that it was actually the sun. When the sun god Surya saw Anjaneya leaping up to take a bite out of him, he threw a lightening bolt and killed him. When Vayu heard what had happened, he took so deep a breath that he sucked up all the air from the earth and beings began to suffocate. The gods called a meeting to try to restore order to the universe and reach an agreement between Surya and Vayu. Since Anjaneya was such a potentially dangerous child and they didn’t want him running around without any restraints, they decided to rename him Hanuman which refers to the broken jaw he received from the lightening bolt (hanuh means “jaw” in Sanskrit). They also gave him only a short term memory so that he would never recall that he was a god and therefore couldn’t use any of his god posers to cause any harm. He would also take the body of a monkey and live with the monkey king, Surgriva and his family instead of his mortal mother, Anjana.
Hanuman grew up to be a wonderful warrior. One day while hanging out in the forest, he met King Rama. The two became fast friends. Lord Ram had a beautiful wife named, Sita. Ravanna, the evil demon lusted after the beautiful Sita, and soon kidnapped her and took her to his island of Lanka. Rama sent his trusted friend and warrior monkey, Hanuman to rescue his wife. Hanuman had no idea how to accomplish this task and so kneeled down to pray for grace. He knelt with one leg bent backward and the other knee up – the traditional Virasana. He summoned forth the energy and propelled himself into the air and soared over the ocean to Lanka. As he soared, one leg reached forward, and one leg reached back into the traditional Hanumanasana Pose!
Before stopping here in our story (to be continued in the next lesson), it is important to realize that Hanuman already possessed the strength within himself to accomplish the task at hand – he had just forgotten his Divinity. As the son of Vayu, he could do anything. Forgetting his inherent Divinity, Hanuman turned to his Faith which is called shraddha in Sanskrit. His faith gave him the strength to do what he needed to do. Just like Hanuman, many of us forget that Divine part of ourselves which can accomplish the impossible when confronted with formidable tasks. At that time, we turn in prayer or meditation that gives us a “time out” to re-establish our Faith, and move forward with the confidence of Hanuman leaping over the ocean.