Hanuman, the son of Vayu, the lord of the winds, is also known as the monkey king. He has the head of a monkey and a muscular human body, with the special ability to expand to the size of a mountain or shrink down to the size of a fly. he is often depicted flying in the air while carrying a mountain single handedly which is a reference to his role in helping his friend Rama during his great battle with Lord Ravana. When Ravana injured Rama's younger brother Lakshmana on the battlefield, Hanuman flew to the mountains to find an herb to heal him. Unsure which herb to pick, he returned with the whole mountain. Later, during the same battle, Hanuman helped to build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka where Rama's true love Sita was being captive. The pose, Hanumasana symbolizes the bridge to freedom.
With all that loveliness being said, whenever I walk into a yoga class and the teacher asks us to grab two blocks, i sigh a little bit because I know well be working our way into Hanumanasa. Its not that I dont like Hanumanasa, its just Im not sure I understand it anymore. When I was a little kid I could split till the cows came home, but somewhere along the way, fear crept into my hips and I find myself dreading it. In case your not familiar with this pose, I supplied a visual.
Right? In an attempt to love this pose a little more I asked my friend and yoga genius in training a little about the pose. Namely questions like, why do I tense up so much in it? What am I really supposed to be doing with these blocks and the quesiton I know is on everyones mind. How in hell do I get out of this pose?
Well lately Ive been realizing how much "stuff" is in my hips. When Im attempting to loosen up one part I roll over and find that another part has been secretly super tight and not telling me. Hip opening exercises have been my ah hah for days now and Cassie says that poses that open your hips help you "walk through the world with more openness and compassion" that sounds nice. Problems with this pose can stem from not being completely open. When you open up your hips(and your heart) you can fully experience the pose. I have a nasty anterior pelvic tilt which causes the tightness in my hip flexors and distresses my low back and hips. This tilt also pulls on my hamstrings making them tight almost always. Hanumanasa is good for all these distresses and more. It helps sciatica, tight hamstrings, cramps and digestive problems. Another good thing Cassie said is that if you work on this pose everyday "inch by inch, you will open up" But like most things in life and especially a yoga lifestyle, this pose takes dedication and commitment to achieve and there arent any real shortcuts into it. Poses that can prep you into it by opening the hips include Janu Sirsanana or Head to Knee Pose and a variety of other psoes like Uttanasa(standing forward bend) and Prasarita Padottadasana(wide legged forward bend) which I could stay in for hours. Once loosened up you can begin to open up into the pose. Make sure to keep your hips square. A wonderful tip Cass said was to put a blanket under your front leg and let it slide with you across the floor as you split a little deeper. The blocks are there to help keep you erect, as you move into the split put them under your hands at your side to keep you erect with an open chest and heart. I seemed to always get frustrated wondering which way to rotate my legs as the split started to happen. Cassie says as long as you keep your hips square, your legs will be okay. As a beginner, keep your hands on the blocks. As you feel more comfortable with the pose you can even just use one block under your pelvis to support your hips and lift your arms into the air, opening up everything. Eventually, you might even open up to the full split.
She also says beware of rolling over onto one hip and clunking out of the pose like I like to do. Getting out of the pose is just as important and delicate as moving into it. Start by placing your hands on the floor and send your energy into the front heel. Bring that front leg back and move out of the pose. Im trying to find the reasons for poses Im not so happy with and breaking them down seems to be a way for me to appreciate them more. So maybe next time my teacher calls for two blocks, Ill be excited. Thanks Cass. Open your hips, open your heart!!