White: A leap of faithWritten by Jennifer S. White | | email@example.com
This year—a leap year—we will fittingly discuss a pose dedicated to a Hindu god’s mythological leap from India to Sri Lanka. Hanumanasana, or monkey god pose, is essentially the full splits. Many people get instantly turned off by this idea of such a huge stretch. Visualizing this pose as the leap it represents helps set up the necessary dynamic energy. It also helps practitioners who are more comfortable utilizing bodily strength rather than relaxing in extreme stretches to give it a go.
To begin, I should say that I could dedicate many columns to preparation poses. You will need to warm up, ideally with sun salutations. Definitely work through postures that stretch your hamstrings and psoas muscles. During these postures, work on lifting your heart and keeping length in your spine to prepare yourself for hanumanasana.
To work into the full posture, you might need two blocks.
Come into a lunge with your right foot in front. With your hands by your hips, flex your foot and work your right leg straight out in front of you. Keep your left toes curled under and work your left leg long behind you. Use the curl of your toes to draw your left knee in toward your midline.
Like many yoga poses, hanumanasana originates from the pelvis. Proper alignment through the hips is key. Tuck your tailbone—creating length in your low back. Feel your frontal hip points with your hands. They should be equidistant from the ground.
To square your hips properly, think of taking your right hip back and your left hip forward. Your hips should be evenly pointing straight ahead.
Now ‘leap.’ Send energy through your legs—out through your flexed feet—as you continue to square your hips. From this dynamic energy in your lower body, lift your heart joyously as you drop your shoulders.
If your hips are high off the ground, consider back-pedaling to one of your prep poses. If you feel ready to continue but need support, you can place a block under each hand. You can also place a block under your right sitz bone if you are almost to the ground but not quite.
Keep your left toes curled under and continue this leaping action or press your toenails down into the ground as you lengthen through the top of your left foot.
If you’re using your hands for support, continue to lift your heart up with the press of your fingertips. If your hips are square and even and resting on the ground, raise your arms alongside your ears shoulder-width apart with the pinkie side of your hand spiraling in and down.
Breathe fluidly for up to one minute. Come out of the pose slowly by pressing into your hands and rotating your right leg out as you pull your right heel back. Repeat on the other side.
Sometimes yoga poses appear stagnant from the outside looking in. However, these postures actually require great energy and stamina from the practitioner as well as a deep letting go.
The story behind hanumanasana is worth googling, and there are many lessons that can be taken away from it. One of them is that in life we often have to use all of the strength that we can muster to take that leap, and then we have to just let go and trust that we are doing the right thing. Have fun beginning your leap with monkey god pose.