Anjana was a beautiful woman who deeply longed to become a mother. Every day she prayed for a child. The wind god, Vayu, admired Anjana very much and when he heard her prayer, he decided to help her. He blessed some rice and sent it with some birds to Anjana. Anjana was praying with her arms stretched overhead in anjali mudra (prayer position) when this rice landed in her hands. Not questioning how prayers are answered she ate the rice immediately. This is how she came to be pregnant.
Her son, Anjaneya (son of Anjana) was half mortal and half divine since Vayu was his father. Being a demigod, he was able to do just about anything. He got in quite a bit of trouble because of his abilities. One day he saw the sun in the sky and thinking it was a mango, his favorite fruit, he leapt into the sky to get it. Surya, the sun god, saw this and threw a lightning bolt at Anjaneya, hitting him in the jaw and killing him instantly.
Upon learning of his son’s death, Vayu was furious! He took a deep breath and sucked up all of the air from the earth so all beings started to suffocate. The gods called an emergency meeting to try to restore order. Vayu refused to exhale until his son was back. Surya didn’t want Anjaneya running around causing trouble. An agreement was reached.
Anjaneya was renamed Hanuman (referring to being hit in the jaw as hanuh means jaw in sankrit). He would be revived, but would be cursed with short term memory so he wouldn’t remember that he was a demigod long enough to cause any real trouble. He was removed from his mother and brought to a trusted monkey king, Surgriva, to be raised. He was given the shape of a monkey so he would fit in with his new family.
Hanuman met King Ram one day while walking in the forest. The two had an instant connection and Hanuman vowed never to leave Ram’s side. Ram trusted Hanuman completely.
Ram’s wife, Sita, was a very beautiful woman and the two were deeply in love. An evil demon named Ravana kidnapped Sita one day because he was so jealous. This started a war. Ram had to lead his army in battle and asked Hanuman to rescue Sita.
Hanuman started to travel to where Ravana was keeping Sita, an island called Lanka. When he reached the shore, though, he had no idea how he would get to the other side. He knelt in prayer, praying for the strength needed to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. His faith was very strong, and this allowed him to take the leap across the ocean that seemed impossible. Of course, he was completely capable of this as he was a demigod, he simply forgot his divine nature. He flew over the ocean toward Lanka, one foot stretched before him and the other reaching behind (splits). Despite numerous obstacles he was able to land in Lanka and find Sita. The lovers were reunited because of Hanuman’s efforts.
Just like Hanuman, we forget that we are divine and can accomplish anything, even the seemingly impossible. Take a leap of faith.
To accomplish this difficult pose, start in a lunge with the front knee over the ankle. Drop onto the back knee and begin to walk your front leg out in front of you. You might stop when you get to Ardha Hanumanasana (half splits), pictured here:
Work at keeping the core tight by squeezing the abdominal muscles and floor of the pelvis. Straighten the spine as much as possible. This will be a big hamstring stretch, go only as deeply as is right for your body on any given day. If you wish to take it further, start to bring your back leg further away. As you do this, bring both inner thighs toward the back plane of the body: the front inner thigh will press toward the floor as the back inner thigh presses toward the sky. Squeeze the legs together without moving them anywhere. This action will likely lift your pelvis from the floor a little more, but will help to stabilize your hips and be much better for your joint health in the long run. This is a pose in which you need to practice ahimsa (non-harming), vairagya (detachment), and be gentle with yourself. That’s the essence of yoga, rather than splaying your legs out into a pose without using your muscle strength to support it. I haven’t yet accomplished hanumanasana, but I keep gently moving toward it, allowing my muscles to open in their own time and being happy where I am. As with any difficult pose, this is the real lesson. Practicing Vairagya (detachment) from attaining the final pose and santosha (contentment) with what my body is able to do.
This version of the story of Hanumanasana is told in the book Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij