Monkey Pose / Hanumanasana
Hanuman was the name of a powerful monkey chief of extraordinary strength and prowess. The son of Vayu, the god of Wind, and Anjana, he was the friend and devoted servant of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Visnu. When Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Laksmana were in exile as hermits in the Dandaka forest, Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (Ceylon), came to their hermitage in the guise of an ascetic and seizing Sita carried her off to Lanka while Rama and Laksmana were hunting game. The brothers searched far and wide for Sita, and enlisted the help of Sugriva, the king of the monkeys, and his general Hanuman. Hanuman went in search of Sita, crossed the sea by leaping over the straits, found her in Ravana's palace, and brought the news to Rama. With the aid of a great army of monkeys and bears Rama built a causeway of stones across the sea to Lanka and after the fierce battle slew Ravana and his hosts and rescued Sita. During the battle, Laksmana had been struck by an arrow and lay unconscious and it was said that the only cure was the juice of a herb which grew in the Himalayas. With one prodigious leap Hanuman crossed the sea and reached the Himalayas to bring back with him the mountain top on which life-giving plant grew and thus saved memorates his fabulous leaps. It is practised by going down on the floor with the legs spread pot laterally while the hands are folded in front of the chest. It resembles the splits of Western ballet.
1. Kneel on the floor.
2. Rest the palms a foot apart on the floor on either side of the body.
3. Lift the knees up. Bring the right leg forward and the left leg back. Try to stretch both the legs straight with an exhalation and keep the hips up. Then press the legs and hips to the ground, and bear the weight on the hands.
4. It takes a long time to master this position and to attain it one must make several attempts each day to rest the legs straight in the floor, with the buttocks touching the ground. The back portion of the front leg and the front portion of the rear leg should touch the floor.
5. Once the straight legs position is attained, sit on the floor, raise the hands, fold them infront of the chest and balance. Stay in the pose from 10 to 30 seconds with normal breathing.
6. Then with the help of the hands raise the hips and repeat the pose for the same length of time, keeping the left leg in front and the right leg behind.
7. Remember that the back of the knee joint of the front leg and the knee of the back leg should touch the floor.
8. Advanced pupils may raise the hands above the head, stretch up, put the palms together and balance. This gives an extra stretch to the legs, and relieves strain on the back.
This beautiful pose helps to cure sciatica and other defects of the legs. It tones the leg muscles, keeps the legs in condition and if practised regularly is recommended for runners and sprinters. It relaxes and strengthens the abductor muscles of the thighs.
Source : Light on Yoga by BKS. Iyengar.