In the Indian, Indonesian, Malay, Javanese and Thai cultures there is an epic tale of the God Hanuman (the Monkey God) who was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, form the Ramayana. Hanuman is the God of forest-dwellers, and an incarnation of Sri Rama in his struggle against a demonic King, Ravana who kidnaps Rama?s wife, Sita. Ravana is often depicted with ten heads and many arms to represent his possession of a very complete knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads. In this epic struggle between two powerful forces, Hanuman takes Rama?s ring so that he can give it to Sita so she will know she is being rescued. Hanuman made an epic leap over the ocean, escaping evil demons and monsters of the sea to land on Sri Lanka, where Sita was hidden. Hanuman also appears in the Mahabharata, where he disguises himself as an old, decrepit monkey and appears before Bhima in order to lessen his arrogance. There are many more stories of Hanuman?s bravery and protection, and he is worshipped all throughout the former mentioned countries. You can see many paintings depicting his Heroic leap in these places. His leap to save Lord Rama?s wife; however, and not his other courageous acts is the tale that names the asana for him ? Hanumanasana or seated splits.
Benefits of Hanumanasana
Hanumanasana is a posture of intense flexibility in the legs, hips, groin, and even spine. It also helps to stimulate digestion. It is meant for more advanced practitioners, however, the pose can be modified to accommodate many people, and worked into gently over time. It is advisable to warm the muscles with other, less challenging asana prior to beginning this pose. Cold muscles will struggle when trying to practice a pose of this intensity.
How to Perform Hanumanasana
To begin come to the hands and knees or from Adho Muhka Svasana (Downward Facing Dog), step one leg through the arms so that you arrive in a low lunge on the mat. If you are beginning from all fours, then sit the hips back slightly to thread one leg through the hands to arrive in the same position. If you are more advanced, you can then begin to slide the front leg forward, unbending the leg, only as you are able, and at the same time, walk the back foot further back, until both legs are as far apart from one another as possible, resembling the huge leap Hanuman made to save Sita. You should concentrate on keeping the hips facing forward, without rolling into the front leg hip in the case of tight hamstrings. Allow the pelvic bones to sink toward the floor and breath. From here, you can either take your hands to blocks on either sides of the torso, in as straight a line as possible under the shoulders.
Ideally, the scapula (shoulder blades) will release toward the floor, the front deltoids ) front portion of the shoulders) should roll back and down and the chin stays parallel with the floor. In more advanced versions of the asana a backbend is added, with the arms reaching up to the heaves, and lifting the heart, releasing backward. As this asana is so intense, it is very important not to do too much too fast so that you do not injure the body, and make further yoga practice impossible. Once the tailbone is resting in the floor, and you don?t need to use the arms any longer to support the stretch of the legs or lower back, you can release the arms form the floor and take them to Namaste (Prayer Position). While practicing on each side, be sure to breath deeply to allow the muscle to more fully relax, and hold for five to seven breaths. If you are more flexible, you can practice for longer, but the full benefits of the asana for the energy body are received in just the five to seven breaths.
When releasing this asana, move slowly and mindfully out of the pose by bending the front leg and sliding it through back to Balasana (Child?s Pose). Allow the hips and leg muscles to relax here for several deep breaths before setting yourself up to practice the asana on the other side. Also be mindful of difference in one side as compared to the other, and do not assume that because the tailbone was ready to make it to the floor on one side that it will be ready to do so on the other. Allow we are always working to build opening and balance in both sides of the body, we are not always starting with balance to begin with ? many students are quite surprised by the difference sometimes. So be mindful of this disparity and honor it when practicing. Again, this will help you to avoid injury.
Modifications for Hanumanasana
Beginner?s will have a difficult time placing the hands underneath the shoulders, as this calls for openness in the hips, groin, hip flexors, quadricepts, hamstring, and lumbar spine simultaneously. Until the hands can line up beneath you for support, or until your tailbone is touching the floor in a full split, then use the blocks to help keep you elevated form the floor but always working toward lining up the hands and shoulders.
Another modification for students with tight hips, quadricepts and hamstrings is to place a thick bolster or blanket underneath the pelvis and sink into that soft place with the added elevation. Still concentrate on lining up the spine and sending the front leg forward and the back leg back.
Contraindications for Hanumanasana
Hanumasana is contraindicated for those with either groin or hamstring injuries, or very tight muscles in these areas in which case modifications and props like yoga blocks and bolsters or blankets should be used.
Pictures of Hanumanasana
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Videos of Hanumanasana