Hailing from a Hindu family back in India, I was born in the tradition of worshipping Lord Hanuman and Lord Ram. These gods held a space in my mind mostly for the school holidays they brought, the celebrations and family prayers. I grew up listening to stories of Hanuman and Ram but the message on yoga embodied in their lives was a revelation to me that arrived 30 odd years later! I am sharing with you what my yoga philosophy teachers revealed to me.
Ramayana is one of the most important texts on yoga. It is about the journey of Ram, a large part of which is to do with a war between good and evil. In some sense yoga then really begins on the battle field – the battle field of the mind – the mind that is so often in conflict- This or That? Here or there? To do or Not to do?
Ram was the prince of Ayodhya and destined to become the future king. His stepmother however contrived to ensure that the king instead would make her son the successor. Ram, in his devotion to his stepmother willingly and happily accepted a fourteen year exile. Accompanied by his younger brother Laxman and his wife Sita, he left the palace. During his stay in the forest , Sita was kidnapped by Ravan, King of Lanka who wanted to marry her.
As Ram set out on his search for his wife, he met Hanuman. Hanuman, the monkey god and the son of the God of Wind (“Pavan Putra”) became the greatest devotee of Rama. In order to help Ram rescue Sita, Hanuman had to cross the ocean that paved with many obstacles. Hanuman’s successful transit across the ocean was referred to as the Giant Leap, the leap of faith! The son of wind God, he used the power of wind to fly to Lanka, skillfully tackling the obstacles on his way.
In that giant leap Hanuman embodied his love for Rama. His intense devotion allowed him to do the impossible, and this was the lesson from Hanuman asana: Victory come from devotion. The asana asks us not merely to stretch our legs but also to bring true devotion in our practice. Hanuman asana expresses the expansiveness possible when devotion is in the heart—the sense that you can overcome any obstacle when your yearning to help is combined with reverence and respect, as well as an intense and fiery devotion. In Hanuman asana you strive to reach much further than seems humanly possible. As also explained in yoga sutras, yoga must be approached with “ishvara pranidhana” – practice can be offered to the spirit/ God however we choose to look at it.
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