March 31, 2011

Who is Hanuman?

Many yoga practitioners have heard of Hanumanasana (or, the splits pose).

Hanuman is the Hindu deity with an inspirational story of leaping into the unknown, all in the name of devotion and service. The naming of Boulder, Colorado’s own Yoga and Music Festival was inspired by this tale from the heart.

The following exploration of the Hanuman myth is retold here by yoga master Aadil Palkhivala:

Photo: Ike Render

During mythological times, Rama, the king of ancient India, had a problem. The demon king Ravana, who presided in Sri Lanka, had abducted Rama’s wife, Sita. Rama and his troops set out to rescue her from the vile demon. In the ensuing battle Rama’s brother Laksmana was severely wounded, and the only way to save him was with an herb that grew exclusively in the Himalayas. It appeared that Laksmana would be lost, for who could possibly travel to the Himalayas and back in time to save him?

Hanuman, Rama’s greatest devotee, said he would accomplish this impossible task. He then took one mighty leap that stretched all the way from the south of India to the Himalayas. At that point, he wasn’t sure which herb to pick, and so he carried the entire mountain with him as he made another massive leap back to the battlefield. The healers found the herb in question, and Laksmana’s life was saved.

Photo: Dalbera

In that giant leap Hanuman demonstrated his love for Rama. His intense devotion allowed him to do the impossible, and this is the lesson we can glean from Hanuman’s tale; power comes from devotion.

Hanuman’s mighty leap into the Himalaya’s is memorialized in the pose Hanumanasana. This pose asks practitioners not merely to stretch our legs but also to bring true devotion into our practice. Hanumanasana embodies the potential for expanse that is possible when devotion is in the heart—the sense that we can overcome any obstacle when our yearning to help is combined with reverence and respect, as well as an intense and fiery devotion. In Hanumanasana one strives to reach much further than seems humanly possible.

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

When such an attitude is infused into the practice of Hanumanasana, it brings with it the energy to do this magnificent posture. Though Rama himself was an incarnation of the god Vishnu, he wasn’t able to make the giant leap because he was earthbound in a human body. But Hanuman, with his intense devotion to Rama, could make the leap. This story shows that even a god cannot do what a human can when the human has true devotion in the heart. For a devoted soul, nothing is impossible.


The Hanuman Festival is Boulder, Colorado’s community-oriented yoga and music festival, set at the foot of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Seane Corne, Kathryn Budig, MC Yogi, Waylon Lewis and Elephant Journal will be there. Come celebrate – June 16-19, 2011 with world-class yoga instructors, mind-blowing music, inspirational experiences and a nourishing community. Immerse yourself in body, mind and heart as you relax and rejuvenate, dance and devote, connect and expand, have fun and just be.

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