August 6, 2012 Hanuman says relax
Most yogis have a pose or two that they avoid like the plague. For me, that pose is called “Hanumanasana”, also known as “monkey pose” or the splits.
Even as a child in gymnastics and dance, this was extremely challenging for me, and I never mastered the splits in any way, shape, or form. When I began practicing yoga regularly, I was saddened to see this pose as a part of my practice because it always meant that I would have to hold myself up high on my hands or use bolsters/blocks to even hold the shape remotely.
Often I would become so frustrated that I would resign myself to a half hanuman, sitting on my back thigh. I told myself that my body just doesn’t bend that way. Every body is unique and we all have our own strengths and limitations. Honoring these limitations is beneficial, but creating a mental block can be a trap.
Lord Hanuman has an interesting story, which you can read about here: http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hanuman.asp
Symbolically, Hanuman represents a pure devotion, a complete surrender to a higher power. His ego is completely absent and he demonstrates what is possible when we completely let go of our attachments and expectations.
Hanumanasana embodies Hanuman’s great leap from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka to save Lord Rama’s beloved wife Sita. Hanuman represents the magnificent feats that we are able to master when we let go of the fear and the uncertainty in our “monkey mind” (the lower, turbulent forces that keep our minds from calmness and peace) and surrender ourselves to something higher.
Today in yoga, the teacher guided us into Hanuman, and I was instantly filled with dread. I decided that instead of feeling frustrated, I should just do my best and hope that an ounce of progress might be made. On the first side, things were still pretty shaky, but when I switched to my second side, I was amazed to see my hips sink down further into the pose than I have ever been in my life! It wasn’t perfect, and I still had a few inches from being flat in the ground, but it was a huge milestone for me! It made me rethink the stories that I have built up around my body. The things people have told me about myself, as well as the expectations I have created on my own. Realizing that these are all just stories that rattle around in my mind and that they have very little relevance is incredibly liberating.
We all have stories that we carry with us, and usually for a reason. In my quest to embody a guru mentality, I have been trying to judge myself less. Being able to get deeper into a yoga pose is not an end result. The greater flexibility and space in my body is a direct reflection of the space in my mind that is clearing and making way for new possibilities.