January Pose: Hanumanasana (Splits)
First a little story on how this pose got its name.
"Hanuman was the name of a powerful monkey chief of extraordinary strength and prowess. The son of Vayu, the god of Wind, and Anjana, he was the friend and devoted servant of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Visnu. When Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Laksmana were in exile as hermits in the Dandaka forest, Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (Ceylon), came to their hermitage in the guise of an ascetic and seizing Sita carried her off to Lanka while Rama and Laksmana were hunting game. The brothers searched far and wide for Sita, and enlisted the help of Sugriva, the king go the monkeys, and his general Hanuman. Hanuman went in search of Sita, crossed the sea by leaping over the straits, found her in Ravana's palace, and brought the news to Rama. With the aid of a great army of monkeys and bears Rama built a causeway of stones across the sea to Lanka and after a fierce battle, Laksmana had been struck by an arrow and lay unconscious and it was said 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. This asana is dedicated to Hanuman and commemorates his fabulous leaps. " Excerpt from Light on Yoga by: B.K.S. Iyengar
A few poses to help you prep... Because this is such an intense asana that you should be sitting in forever (30 seconds is plenty enough), you MUST warm up the muscles. The main muscles focused on in this pose are hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and psoas. I will also be showing more poses to help you prep as the weeks go on.
1. Supta Padangustasana with a strap: while lying on your back and spine is long, bring one leg up into the strap placing it at the ball of your foot. Extended up into the strap pressing through the ball of the foot. The leg on the ground should be long and foot active (flexed as if you were standing on it). Repeat on both sides.
2. Pasvotonasana with blocks: stand with feet hip width distance and take a step back. While maintaining a straight spine extended up and over your hip bowl and draw the navel into the spine. Go as far as you can while keeping an elongated spine. Place hands on blocks at any height or on the floor, if you can, underneath the shoulders. Make sure your legs are firm and straight and grounding through both feet. Repeat on both sides.
3. High Lunge: You can come into this pose from down dog or plank. Bringing one foot forward and placing it directly underneath the knee (90 degree angle). Place the hands on either side and underneath the shoulders, you may use blocks if it is difficult to reach. The back leg should be firm and extended as if you were pushing the back heel into the wall. Draw the navel up into the spine. This is focusing on elongating the muscles on the front of the thigh (quads, hip flexors and psoas). Repeat on both sides.
In my opinion the most relaxed and comfiest prop for hanumanasana is a bolster and many blankets. You would place this prop under the middle of the hamstring of the extended leg and rest comfortably with both legs extended.
For me, I'm using the block underneath my hamstring and I have it at it's lowest. You are more than welcome to use any combination of blocks, blankets, bolsters, Oh my! What feels right to your body and at any height. We all start somewhere.
Make sure in this pose you are extending through the heel of the front foot and there is no pressure on the knee of the back leg. If you do feel pressure, please ease up or place a blanket under the knee. Also sit up as tall as you can while drawing in the navel. The hands will come to the floor, blocks or bolster.
Tune in next week to see what progress I've made! I will also discuss the effects of this pose and what exactly are the muscles doing?
Happy New Year everyone!!