When we think of the heart or the energy of the heart chakra, it’s easy to consider the love of romance. But, that’s just a small fraction of the capacity of the heart. The heart chakra symbol is adorned with twelve petals, each representing one of the qualities of the heart. These qualities are joy, peace, kindness, patience, love, harmony, clarity, compassion, purity, understanding, forgiveness, and bliss. In these qualities we experience the full capacity of the heart.
This range of qualities is alive in our families. Whether it’s your family of birth or one that you’ve created, the energy that goes into care and feeding, conflict resolution, and treasuring one another, embodies these qualities of the heart. Brought together, they create an energy of devotion.
Devotion is illustrated in the heroic tales of Hanuman, the cherished monkey deity of yoga mythology. Hanuman’s father is Vayu the wind god. As a god himself, Hanuman’s divinity enables him to do great things. The feats he performs were motivated not just out of ability or duty, but of a deep devotion, that is rooted in the qualities of the heart. As the story goes, Hanuman summons his divine essence and leaps over the ocean to help save the wife of Ram his beloved friend and adopted family. His devotion is so great, legend says that his heart beat the name of his friend, Ram, Ram, Ram.
Hanuman’s pose, Hanumanāsana or Yoga Splits is inspired by his great leap over across the ocean. As you prepare for and practice this pose, imagine your heart’s devotion so great that it cannot be contained, that your heart could burst from your chest.
Option 1: Ardha Hanumanāsana. From a low lunge, place hands on blocks next to the hips as you slide the hips back. Stack the hips over the bottom knee. Press the tailbone back and flex the front foot. The back foot can be tucked or top of the foot flush to the mat. Reach the heart open and forward, creating a long back. Try to create a cobra feeling in the back as the reach of the shoulder heads wide. Bring the hips in line, by hugging the hip of the front leg back in space.
Option 2: Increase the Stance. With hands on blocks or the floor, begin to slide the front heel further away. As you do, hug the femur of the front leg into the hip socket, as if it’s being suctioned into the body. Pull the hip of the front leg back to square the hips. Work to stack the heart over the hips as you move deeper into the pose. If a full stack is not available, gradually work in that direction. Begin to lessen your dependency on the blocks or floor with a lift of the pelvic floor and a gentle hug of the inner thighs. A block or a blanket could also be used under the front leg or root for support.
Option 3: Hanumanāsana. When you are able, extend the legs completely, resting your root on the floor. Keep the back hip rolled down, so the knee and shin are facing straight down. It can be tempting to allow the back leg and knee to roll open. (I’m still working on this!) Continue to hug the front leg into the hip. As you find heaviness and release in this position, focus on the gentle toning and lift of the pelvic floor to create balance and buoyancy. For additional challenge, tuck the back toes, stacking the heel over the toes, and keep the knee and shin facing down towards the mat. Hands can offer support on the blocks or floor. For more challenge, reach the arms wide to open the heart further.
Option 4: Bend the Back Knee. When you can find full hanumanasna, there are lots of other variations to try. Start with picking up the back foot. Bend the back knee, keeping the thigh rolled down toward the floor. Capture the foot with one hand. Use the lift of the pelvic floor to create balance. If you feel stable reach back with the second hand. Another option, if you have the range of motion in the shoulders, is to reach overhead for the back foot. A strap can be used to bridge the gap between the hands and foot if needed.
You may need to tap into your own divinity to find your peak experience in this pose. That can take time and focus, but know that it’s all within you.
Always work where you feel comfortable and find the right amount of challenge for you. Welcome a feeling of devotion and love of your practice as you work. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.