The story behind the pose Hanumanasana is a story of courage and devotion. In Hindu mythology, Hanuman is the fearless monkey god. Hanuman was born half human and half god. Because of his naughty nature as a little boy, he was transformed into a monkey and made to forget his divine nature so that he wouldn’t cause trouble in any of the realms. As he grew up he became best friends with King Rama, who he loved whole-heartedly. One day, King Rama’s beautiful wife Sita was kidnapped by the evil demon Ravana who took her to a new continent across the water far away. Rama had to stay and fight a war so he sent Hanuman to save Sita.
Hanuman may not remember his divinity but his undying faith and love for Rama gave him the courage and strength to activate his true nature. The brave monkey leapt across the ocean from one land to the next, in the posture of the splits or “hanumanasana”, to save Sita and return her to Rama which he did so successfully. Of course, this tale is famously known as the Ramayana, wherein courage, devotion and true love overcomes fear.
Anatomically, the full posture is the full splits facing forward, stretching the front hamstring while releasing the back quadriceps. The lower body is still fully engaged whilst the upper body relaxes either in extension or folded over the front leg. Of course, there is the alternative and more accessible Ardha Hanumanasana, ‘ardha’ denoting half, wherein the back knee is bent and stacked under the hips. Both variations coax the psoas muscles to lengthen and release. And so, not only does this posture feel like a deep gooey stretch for the legs; it is also a reminder to stay present and remember who you are at your core. Let the love in with every peaceful breath and see just how much strength you already truly have!