Hanumanasana (हनुमानासन) is named after Lord Hanumana, friend and a devoted servant of Lord Rama in the epic story Ramayana. For those who are not familiar with the story, here is a very brief recap :
At the time when Rama, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshamana were in exile as hermits in the Dandaka forest, Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (Ceylon, now Srilanka), came to their hermitage in the guise of a monk and captured Sita, taking her to Lanka. In their search for Sita, the brothers asked Sugriva, the king of the monkeys, for help. Hanuman, the chief of the army of monkeys, was sent in search of Sita. Hanuman, leaping over the straits, crossed the Indian Ocean between the Southern tip of India and Lanka, and found Sita in Ravana’s palace garden. He brought the news to Rama, who built a causeway of stones across the sea to Lanka and after a gruesome battle killed Ravana and rescued Sita. During the battle, Lakshamana had been struck by an arrow and was almost fatally wounded. It was said that the only cure was to administer the juice of a specific herb which grew in the Himalayas. Hanuman, with his great abilities, was assigned the task of getting the herb. With a grand leap Hanuman crossed the sea and reached the Himalayas to bring back the herb. However, unable to recognize the herb, he decided to uproot the entire mountain which he then carried on his hands while leaping over the ocean to reach Lanka. The herb, called Sanjivani (that which can bring life to a dead being) saved the life of Lakshamana. Hanumanasana is thus named after Hanuman in recognition of his great leap.
Hanumanasana is considered an intermediate to an advanced level pose depending upon how close you can get to the final pose. This is one of the poses where the final goal is a little more obvious than many other poses – that of stretching the feet away from each other and bringing both the hips on the ground, keeping the legs straight. It is probably one of the best poses for loosening up tight hamstring muscles and opening the hip flexors.
Hanuman, according to many, is the greatest yogi that ever was. Due to his intense sadhana (spiritual endeavor), he had attained supernormal powers which he utilized only for the service of his master, Lord Rama. He had the utmost devotion for Rama. While practicing Hanumanasana, we keep these traits of selfless devotion, service, humility and surrender in our mind.
- Start by getting into the Downward Facing Dog position.
- Inhale and bring the right foot forward to a lunge position, with palms on the floor.
- Lower the left knee to the floor. Keeping the palms on the floor, on an exhale, straighten the knee of the right leg so the foot is flexed. The hips may need to be drawn back in order to get the front leg straightened.
- Once the front leg is as straight as possible, breathing freely and evenly, begin to slide the front leg forward. At the same time, allow the back leg to straighten and slide it back. Essentially we are trying to increase the gap between the two feet.
- Keep the hips squared to the front; avoid having the left hip turn out. Try to maintain the final pose for about 6-8 breaths, if comfortable.
- Slowly bring the right leg back.
- Repeat on the other side with left leg coming forward.
In order to emulate Hanuman’s action of carrying the mountain, in the final position try to raise the arms up vertical.
In an effort to deepen the stretch, you may attempt bringing the chest down closer to the thighs, while at the same time stretching the arms out in front.
Both the above options are intermediate to advance level variations and must be tried with caution.
- Stretches the hamstrings, thighs and the groin area
- Stretches and opens the hip flexors
- When practiced with a deep inward focus, it brings in the qualities of surrender, humility and devotion.
Contraindications and Caution
As mentioned above, Hanumanasana is an intense pose for the hamstrings, thighs, and the hips. You must exercise caution in not overstretching any of the muscles that are engaged. As you can see in the picture, I am not able to bring my hips fully to the ground. However, when I practice this pose, I maintain full awareness of the muscles that are stretched. One of the techniques that I use in deepening the stretch and loosening the hamstrings is to back off slightly from the final pose and stay in the pose for a much longer time. I have tried to hold the pose for as long as two minutes on a few occasions. Like any other pose, your flexibility will improve with practice and over a period of time.