Lord Hanuman/Anjaneya, the monkey god, who plays a key role in the Ramayana, has legions of devotees in India. Some believe that he is an avatar of Lord Shiva. If Shiva was the Adi Yogi, Hanuman was also a Yogi. It is said that he was the inventor of the Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation). He invented it as a form of Guru Dakshina for his Guru, Surya or the Sun God, who taught him the Scriptures. Supposedly, Lord Hanuman was also the first to teach Pranayama to mankind. It was Vayu, the God of wind, who taught Pranayama to Hanuman. Yoga Anjaneyar is a form of Hanuman, who is depicted in a yogic pose. In Yoga, there is a pose called Hanuman Asana or monkey pose.
Let us explore how Hanumanasana got its name. Hanumanasana is also called the splits or full splits.
The Truth Behind Hanuman’s Name
As a child, Hanuman was known as Anjaneya after his mother, Anjana. She was an apsara who had a monkey’s face due to a curse. Her husband was Kesari, the king of the monkeys. Since Vayu, the God of Wind, had a role in Hanuman’s birth, he is often described as Hanuman’s father. One day, Hanuman saw the Sun and mistook it for a fruit.
He wanted to eat the fruit and leaped towards the Sun. The Sun became afraid on seeing this. Lord Indra intervened to protect the Sun, as he was the keeper of the clouds in the sky. He sent one of his thunderbolts at the child, and Anjaneya fell down. Due to the lightning bolt, his jaw became distorted.
‘Hanu,’ in Sanskrit, means ‘jaw’ and ‘man’ denotes a person who has an unusual or marked body part. In essence, the name means ‘man with a disfigured jaw.
Hanuman’s Courage, Power, and Devotion
Many of the tales about Hanuman speak of his great courage and power. He is also known for his devotion to Lord Rama.
When he is required to use his power, he doesn’t question the importance of the task. If he had done so, doubts would have crept into his mind.
In the Ramayana, he helped Rama by literally taking a leap of faith. Though Hanuman had been bestowed many special powers by various gods to compensate Indra’s punishment to him, he was also cursed by powerful sages to forget his magic powers. It was Jambavan, the king of the bears, who reminded him of his powers.
Lord Rama, his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshmana, were living in exile in the forest when Sita was abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. To rescue Sita from captivity, Rama and his army of bears and monkeys needed to cross the ocean. But first, Rama wanted to get some news of Sita, so he decided to send Hanuman first and find Sita.
Once Hanuman reached the seashore, he supposedly kneeled down in Virasana or Hero pose. He meditated to collect his strength, and thinking of his great love and devotion for Rama, leapt over the ocean!
The Ramayana describes another incident in which Lakshmana was mortally wounded by Indrajit, Ravana’s son. Rama told Hanuman to bring a life-saving herb called Sanjeevani from a mountain on which medicinal herbs grew. This was the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayas. But after reaching the place, Hanuman was not able to identify the herb, so he uprooted the entire mountain and took it to Rama.
Because of all these feats, Hanuman has come to signify courage and power as well as devotion. The Yoga pose, Hanumanasana, perfectly represents this aspect of Hanuman.
Hanumanasana is a powerful pose. Though Splits is more of a gymnastics exercise performed to achieve aesthetics and flexibility, Hanumanasana, which is likened to it, is more about power.
When one practices Hanumanasana (or a variation like Anjaneyasana), one pulls one’s thigh bones into one’s hip sockets. This activates the muscles around the thighs and hips to build strength.
Hanuman’s strength and power are legendary. They enabled him to perform miraculous feats, like jumping at the Sun, leaping across the ocean to reach Lanka, and carrying an entire mountain of herbs.
When one is in Hanumanasana, one cannot help but remember Hanuman’s energy, willpower, and courage. These are also the attributes that his devotees seek in order to overcome the myriad challenges of life and emerge victorious.
There are many temples for Yoga Anjaneya, a form of Hanuman who offers boons as well as protection to devotees. People perform Yoga Anjaneyar Homam to invoke his blessings for protection and prosperity.