The first myth we explored this month was the story of Hanuman, the monkey god. The theme of Hanuman is one of courage, devotion and taking a leap of faith.
Before Hanuman becomes the monkey god, he is born Anjaneya, son of Anjana and Vayu, the god of the wind. Anjaneya is reckless with the power he has as a half god and this gets him into trouble. When his huge ego led him to mistakenly attack an angry god, he was transformed into Hanuman, the monkey god. As a further consequence, Hanuman forgets his abilities as a half god, and who he is. As a monkey, Hanuman becomes humble, a great warrior and a devoted friend to King Ram, who is in love with the goddess Sita.
The evil demon Ravana is jealous of Ram and Sita’s love so he wages war with Ram and abducts Sita, Busy with fighting demons, Ram calls upon Hanuman to rescue Sita. Hanuman, completely devoted to Ram, doesn’t even question him and charges ahead to save her. He gets to the edge of a vast sea where he stops and wonders how he will ever be able to jump over such a large body of water. He pauses here in Virasana (hero’s pose) where he meditates on his love for Ram to give him the courage to jump the water. Because Hanuman forgot who he was, he forgot that he had the power of the winds behind him to help him make his leap. Empowered by his devotion to Ram, Hanuman takes a great leap of faith over the water. He flies across the sea, in the pose we see him often shown in, the splits (Hanumanasana), and he rescues Sita.
We, like Hanuman forget who we are. We forget what we are capable of, but we can be inspired by those we love to be courageous. I am inspired often by my children to keep going even at times when things have been really hard. You know those times when you just want to stay in bed and pull the sheets up over your head? I am now also devoted to my practice. I have begun to have faith that even when it’s hard to come to the mat, it’s exactly what I need, not always sure how, but yoga seems to help me move through the challenges I’m having in a more graceful way. We can also learn to rely on ourselves. Just as Hanuman has Rama’s back we need to learn how to have our own. Practices like yoga can give us the courage we need.
There are three poses inspired by Hanuman; Hanuman asana (splits or ½ splits), Anjaneyasana (low lunge) and Virasana (hero’s pose). All three help to open the psoas muscle, a muscle that runs from the middle of the spine down to the inner thigh. The psoas muscle is affected by our flight or fight response, and even with low grade stress this very important muscle, utilized for all movement, can become chronically tight. The three poses dedicated to Hanuman will help to open this muscle. The psoas also because of it’s relationship to the nervous system is where we hide our fear. As we stretch this muscle we find our courage and begin to let go of fear. As we work towards Hanumanasana we recognize that it isn’t about getting into the full pose but more about embodying Hanuman’s courage by beginning to release our own fears. Off our mats, out in the real world, does it matter if we can get into the splits? Not at all. But what does matter is learning to trust ourselves, the space we create in our bodies, letting go of fear, and opening up to love.
Source: Kerri Neild