Monday, April 10, 2017

Jai Hanuman - A Heroic Sequence To Ignite Your Devotion!

by Gina Caputo, founder and Director of the Colorado School of Yoga

For many of us, “the splits” is an elusive and desirable pose we start striving for from our first time on the mat. Like finally being able to touch our toes, the splits can feel like a valid way to measure our success and evolution on the mat. And in class, it’s one of the asanas that causes the most side to side glances amongst us! But the truth is, I was disappointed to discover on the day I finally touched down in splits, nothing big happened! No fireworks? No spontaneous insight? No shift in self-perception? Soon enough I realized that because I was only practicing the pose physically, it’s potential was still untouched! And it’s true power begins with it’s story...

In the Hindu pantheon of deities, Hanuman is one of the most celebrated and beloved of all. Known for his unwavering devotion and love to Rama, he is the consummate hero and the ideal devotee. Powered by his ardent devotion and bravery, Hanuman is able to achieve the impossible: take one giant leap across the ocean from India to Lanka, outwit hideous and clever demons of all sorts, shapeshift on demand and bring an entire mountain back to Ram in one hand. And when his reverence and love for Rama and Sita is challenged, he rips open his chest to expose them inside him, in the space of his very heart.

When you know Hanuman’s story and what fuels his heroics, “the splits” no longer feels like an adequate name for such a potent asana. HANUMANASANA is named for his impossible, fearless leap across the ocean and when we embody it with courage, devotion to living fully and undying love, we start to feel it’s energetic signature. And that’s when the magic happens - when it ceases to be about your hamstrings’ or hip flexors’ flexibility and becomes a whole body mudra, when you align yourself wholly with Hanuman’s devoted heart.



Hanuman Ki Jai!
You can either start this fun and invigorating practice with a few rounds of Namaskars or just dive right in!


Monkey Utkatasana Variation 3-5x
Like a monkey hanging from the vines, grab on and pulse with your breath. First sit in Utkatasana with your feet hip width apart and extended vine grabbing hands! On an inhale rise up a little, on your exhale sit deeper and repeat. Monkey faces and sounds encouraged.


Anjaneyasana Pulsation with Hanuman Kriya
After Monkey Utkatasana, fold forward and step back to downward dog. From there, step your right leg through to Anjaneyasana and enjoy some prana moving pulsations here! Anjaneyasana or Lunge was named after Hanuman’s mother whose name was Anjana (Anjaneya means son of Anjana). After pulsing 3x on your right leg, jump to switch your feet and pulse 3x on your left leg. Repeat this 3-5x each leg - JUMP SWITCH and smile a lot!



Monkey Utkatasana Variation 3-5x again!
After your last Jump Switch! in Anjaneyasana, step forward to Utkatasana again and finish off this heat building wave with your feet together, squeezing your inseams together to feel your leg power and then sweep your arms up on your inhale and back along your hips on your exhale. Huge breaths here and release anything left that might inhibit you from having fun with this. Repeat 3-5x!


A Hero’s Beginning
We’ll begin the next sequence at the top of the mat in Ardha Virasana or Half Hero. Hanuman is most certainly a hero and he is often depicted in this asana. Start with your left leg folded under you, your right leg bent in front of you. Take a moment and pause connecting with your own heroic heart and what you’re devoted to. From there plant your hands and free the leg under up to Standing Hanumanasana.


Expand
Step back from Standing Hanumanasana to a Virabhadrasana 2 base. As you sink in deeper to your powerful base, feel yourself being tested and respond with heroic, victorious breath. Stay here 5 or more breaths before straightening your front leg and extend out, out, out for Trikonasana. Here, feel that radiant quality of Hanuman. From here, rise to the challenge of shifting forward and lifting up into Ardha Chandrasana. Imagine that your extended leg is like Hanuman’s tail and really shine out through your heel. Open wide and be brave enough to maybe fall! Test your limits!


Step back from Ardha Chandrasana into Virabhadrasana 2. Then take both hands down and step back to plank. Enjoy a connecting vinyasa to take you back to Adho Mukha Svanasana. From there, step forward and kneel down into Ardha Virasana again but this time with your right leg folded under you and begin the sequence again, this time on the left!

The Next Leap

After you complete both sides, we’ll begin the next wave the same way. Pause in Ardha Virasana with your left leg folded under you and remind yourself of what you love the most. After a few contemplative breaths there, lift your left leg up into Standing Hanumanasana.


From there, step back into Anjaneyasana (Lunge). Feel your base! And from that strong and steady base, rise up into Crescent Pose. In Crescent we’ll ignite with a HA Kriya. On your inhale, extend your arms up overhead with your hands in fists like Hanuman’s mace and as you exhale, powerfully chant HA! as you pull your fists down. Then on your next inhale, extend your fists forward and as you exhale, chant HA! loudly as you pull them back in. Repeat this cycle up to 9x. Feel the mudra and hear your essential voice!


Son of Anjaneya
From here, slowly release your back knee down into Low Anjaneyasana and enjoy a hip flexor lengthening pulsation that feels a lot like cat/cow in low lunge. Start in low lunge. On your inhale, coil up, hollow out and press your belly away from your front thigh, on your exhale sink your hips down while you press your heart back and away from your front thigh. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Repeat 3-5x.


After pulsing in low lunge, take your elbow across for Parivritta Anjaneyasana (Prayer Twist). Either keep your back knee down or lift your mighty back leg! After 5 breaths there, untwist and release back into Ardha Hanumanasana (Half-Splits). On an inhale, lengthen out over your leg, on your exhale, bend your elbows to go deeper, try keeping your spine very straight and your heroic eyes slightly forward. Repeat that pulsation 3x and then enjoy 5 deep breaths in Ardha Hanumanasana.


From Ardha Hanumanasana, shift forward again to Low Anjaneyasana and then draw your front leg back to Plank. Enjoy a connecting vinyasa to take you back to Adho Mukha Svanasana. From there, step forward and kneel down into Ardha Virasana again but this time with your right leg folded under you and begin the sequence again, this time on the left!


Moment Of Truth!
We’ll begin our final wave just like before, dropping down into Hanuman’s most benevolent asana. Pause in Ardha Virasana with your left leg folded under you and this time connect with selfless service. How can you uniquely serve the people in your life and teach by example? After a few contemplative breaths there, lift your left leg up into Standing Hanumanasana.

From Standing Hanumanasana, step back into Low Anjaneyasana and shift back again into Ardha Hanumanasana. Feel free to explore any micro-movements that will help free up your hamstrings and calves. Begin to slide your front foot forward and edge your back foot back. Pause and remember it’s not just a fancy pose. Putting a block under each hand so that you can keep your hands alongside your hips will have you leaping across the ocean in no time. Blocks under your hands are Hanumanasana’s best friend, I promise! Let go of any attachment to outcome and pay close attention to sensation. Pause at your edge. Puff your heart forward like Hanuman and smile with the thought of your Beloved. Don’t just DO the pose, FEEL it!


After several magnificent breaths, shift yourself back to Ardha Hanumanasana.

From Ardha Hanumanasana, shift forward again to Low Anjaneyasana and then draw your front leg back to Plank. Enjoy a connecting vinyasa to take you back to Adho Mukha Svanasana. From there, step forward and kneel down into Ardha Virasana again but this time with your right leg folded under you and begin the sequence again, this time on the left!

After you enjoy the left side, come forward and all the way down onto your belly. Take anywhere from several breaths to several minutes in Pranamasana. Full prostration before that which you are most devoted to...


Let’s finish this off by coming onto your back for a playful Purna Chandrasana (Happy Baby). And like a monkey might, allow for any spontaneous movement to arise. This is all for you. Eventually, release your feet down, soles together into Supta Baddha Konasana. Place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your belly simultaneously feeling your tender heart and the fire in your belly. Enjoy as long as you like and when you’re finally ready, unfurl into a blissful Savasana.

Gina’s passionate and inspirational style of teaching is a balanced fusion of informed, vinyasa flow yoga with attention to holistic alignment, personal evolution and humor called Integrated Vinyasa. Always with a nod to Hatha Yoga’s austere roots and intelligence, she feels its essential for our yoga practices to feel less like busy work and more like a powerful, embodied celebration. When she’s not teaching classes and teacher trainings in Boulder, she’s the Yogini On The Loose spreading the love far and wide.