I promised you a hanumanasana post last week – so I’m sorry for the delay – I got a bit distracted by my article on Mind Body Green. If you haven’t see it yet, please go check it out!
I shared a picture of me (yay, yoga selfies!) in hanumanasana on My Real Yoga Body’s facebook page and on my own page and I thought it might look intimidating, and it can be, but I’d like to show you how you can work on the pose using various props. My feeling is that it doesn’t really matter whether you ever do it unsupported – it’s a good stretch no matter where you end up in relation to the floor.
But before get into the mechanics of the pose, let’s talk about Hanuman. Hanuman is monkey god in the Hindu pantheon who plays a main role in the Ramayana. He helps Ram rescue his wife, Sita, by leaping to the island (Sri Lanka) where she is being held captive. I first encountered this story as a kid when I read Seasons of Splendour by Madhur Jaffrey, a book I adored (foreshadowing my interest in yoga as an adult?) and then subsequently during yoga teacher training.
The shape of those pose is reminiscent of Hanuman’s famous leap, but I also think that this pose requires a little bit of a leap of faith. Faith in your legs, in your props and in your breath to move into the pose intelligently.
One of the best ways to ease yourself into the pose is to bring the floor up to you. You can then adjust the props as you gain more flexibility and perhaps eventually make your way to the floor. This is not an easy pose!! I definitely recommend working with a qualified teacher and structure has a lot to do with how naturally this pose will come to you. For me, it probably doesn’t hurt that I danced for pretty much my entire childhood. I’m telling you this not to discourage you at all, but to emphasize the importance of going slowly and carefully and stopping when your body tells you to stop.
To start working on the pose, I recommend setting up with two blocks on their highest height and a bolster underneath you. From kneeling on both knees, step one foot over and then straighten that leg with your heel resting on the mat in front of you. You can try folding forward here. This is a good stretch on it’s own – it sort of looks like a hurdling position. You want to make sure your hamstrings are comfy here before you move on.
Next, start to move your weight and front heel forward and down a bit so you come to sit on the bolster in the pose. You are still using the blocks to hold yourself up so you lower down with control. If the bolster isn’t tall enough you can add blankets on top of it. Once you’ve settled, work on squaring your hips. If your heel feels stuck on the mat as you move forward, you can place a blanket under it for easy sliding.
If the pose is completely comfortable on the bolster, you can try removing it and working on a block instead. Same idea – you are bringing the floor to you. In the photo below I’m using it to support my front leg – and it’s secure enough that I don’t need my hands to hold me up. It’s also keeping me from hyperextending my knee which is always a plus!
Once you are completely comfortable in the pose with props, you can start to work on bringing the pose all the way down to the floor. Again, you want to work through each of these variations slowly and carefully – no one wants a torn hamstring! Having blocks down underneath your hands can really help you control your descent! Also watch knee hyperextension (I obviously got lazy in the photo below – do as I say and not as I do!)
To add an extra element into your practice you can try a backbend – this is very similar to eka pada rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon) but your front let is straight instead of bent. Eventually, your foot and head meet (though clearly I’ve got a long way to go with that!)
This pose is a great illustration of my teaching philosophy that every pose is completely customizable. Props make it accessible and variations can make it even more challenging! I hope you find the version that works best for you! Happy practicing!!