The monkey god, Hanuman, is revered throughout India. As the Ramayana recounts, he demonstrated his devotion to King Rama by searching the world for Rama’s beloved wife Sita, who had been kidnapped. So great was Hanuman’s desire to serve his master that he performed a mighty leap across the ocean to find her.
The pose named for Hanuman – sitting on the floor in a full front-to-back split – is a challenging one. Open hamstrings, quadriceps, and psoas muscles help a student progress in the pose, but it’s the qualities embodied by Hanuman that serve us most – not only in the pose but also beyond it: purity of motive, the conviction to unite what has been made separate, and the zeal to rise to any challenge.
According to Aadil Palkhivala, student of BKS Iyengar since the age of seven and a Yoga Journal editorial adviser, Hanuman stands for the ability to fly – thanks to the intensity of our devotion – whereas before, we could only walk. ‘Hanumanasana reminds us that we can free ourselves of our small stride, our narrowness, our petty circumstances,’ he says.