On Practice & Teaching
Archtypes & Mythology: Hanuman – Leaping with Devotion
Like Ganesha, Hanuman commands respect and veneration across Indian culture for his strength, humility, selflessness, devotion, determination, fearlessness, and commitment to spiritual discipline. The son of Vayu, the god of wind, and Anjana, a celestial being with the tail of a monkey (a vanara), Hanuman was the friend, confidant, and servant of King Rama. (Hanuman is also called Anjaneya, meaning “arising from Anjana,” for whom the Anjaneyasana, Low-Lunge Pose, is named.)
He accomplishes many feats in the Ramayana War. When Rama’s wife, Sita, is kidnapped, Hanuman searches the world for her, eventually encountering the vast ocean. Everyone in the search party laments Hanuman’s inability to jump across the water, and he too is saddened at the likely failure of his mission. But his commitment to his master is so great that Hanuman feels his powers, enlarges his body, and leaps across the ocean to find her.
The story is one of purity of motive in uniting what has been separated, and the commitment to make whatever effort is needed to rise to the challenges we face in life. Hanuman reminds us that we can take larger steps in our lives if we open our awareness beyond the limitations of our immediate circumstances.
The challenging asana named for Hanuman, Hanumanasana, allows us to embody these traits as we confront the apparent limitations we find in the flexibility of our hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. With patient devotion and openness to the possibility of going beyond what they think are their limits, students can invoke the spirit of Hanuman in exploring not just this difficult asana but other challenges in their lives as well.
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