The Hanumanasana Posture Has Roots in the Hindu Myth of the Monkey God Hanuman
The yoga posture Hanumanasana (known to child gymnasts as “the splits”) is named after Hanuman, the Monkey God, (around 5000 BC) rumoured to have leapt from India to Sri Lanka – thus the grand leap of “the splits.”
In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar recounts the Ramayana myth of Hanuman, “the powerful monkey chief of extraordinary strength and prowess.” An excerpt from this story outlines this scene.
“During the battle [in Sri Lanka], Laksmana had been struck by an arrow and lay unconscious and it was Sid that the only cure was the juice of a herb which grew in the Himalayas. With one prodigious leap Hanuman crossed the sea and reached the Himalayas to bring back with him the mountain top on which the life-giving plant grew and thus saved the life of Laksmana.”
Thus the Hindu god Hanuman is associated with compassion and the Heart Chakra as well as Prana or energy.
The Process of Yoga Requires Both Abhyasa (discipline) & Vairagya (letting go)
While working on these postures, I keep in mind several yoga principles that are sometimes thought of as “two wings of a bird.” The class takes up two complementary notions: Abhyasa and Vairagya.
- focused attention
- diligent focused practice
"Abhyasa use or practice is the effort to fix one's own self in a given attitude. …Both practice (Abhyasa) and non-reaction (Vairagya) are required to still the patterning of consciousness.”
—- Translation of Patanjali’s Sutra 1:13 by Swami Krishnananda (1922-2001)
- letting go
- "nonattachment to sensory objects
“The secret of happiness lies in the mind's release from worldly ties.”
—- The Buddha
My Yoga Class — “Towards Hanumanasana”
Above is a video of my student teacher class I created as part of my Octopus Garden Yoga 300-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training.
The postures are part of my apprenticeship to the Hanumanasana pose – a focus on the journey towards the posture, rather than the posture itself.
I am grateful to my teachers Jennifer Helland, Darcie Ladd, and Pat Harada Linfoot at Octopus Garden who developed sequences and insight into this posture. (My videotaped class has many imperfections that are my own. )
The Postures Towards Hanumanasana
What does our body and our mind need to know/feel/experience/understand to open itself up to this demanding posture? The last time I performed the splits, I was approximately eight years old. Now that I’m almost 72, the posture eludes me but I know the preparatory poses will be of benefit.
There are a number of physical abilities we need to extend and develop in order to perform Hanumanasana. These include work on the hip flexors, the hamstrings, as well as developing the internal rotation of the hips and a sense of balance in the pelvis.
Below are some of the preparatory postures that will open your body towards Hanumanasana.
Variations on Mountain Pose: You might work on hip rotation and stand in Mountain Pose rotating your toes outward and back again while keeping your heels together (ie moving into what in ballet is “second position.”)
High Lunge to Warrior 2: You could stand with your back leg facing forward in an High Lunge position and then turn your back foot out into Warrior 2 position. This movement requires you to rotate from the hip.
Using Props to slowly drop into Hanumanasana: You can use props to develop the pose. Lay a bolster horizontally across the mat directly underneath your pelvis. Add blocks or more bolster support if necessary. Extend one leg in front and another in back. Place hands on either side of the bolster on the floor or on blocks if required. Lift torso up without compressing your lower back.
Or you could follow along with some of the postures in my YouTube Hanumanasana class above. The class is organized as follows:
0:00 Introduction to Hanumanasana Pose and to the Yogic principles of “Abhyasa” & “Vairagya”
4:30 Supta Pandangusthasana A & B (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
15:14 Upavista Konasana (Wide angle seated forward bend)
18:50 Buddha Konasana (Butterfly/Bound Angle Pose)
19:30 Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
20:49 Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation A)
29:18 Chakravakasana (Cat/Cow)
30:38 Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) to Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose)
32:30 Utahan Pristhasana (LIzard Pose)
33:29 Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
38:13 Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) Variations
40:21 Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
42:30 Parsvottanasana (Pyramid)
46:51 Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
47:59 Trikonasana (Triangle) & Privrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)
51:50 Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge)
57:75 Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
57:20 Supine Twists including Thread the Needle
59:58 Savasana (Corpse Pose)
These videos are my student/teacher videos. They are works in progress. Constructive criticism is appreciated. Thank you.