The Myth Behind the Asana

Like many yoga postures, there’s a myth behind Anjaneyasana. In Sanskrit, Anjaneya means ‘son of Anjana’, and as it turns out, Anjaneya happens to be Hanuman.

As the myth goes, Anjaneya was the son of Anjana, a mortal, and Vayu, the wind god. Being half god, Anjaneya was extremely precocious – he also loved mangoes (who doesn’t?!). One day, he looked up into the sky and saw what he thought to be the world’s biggest mango. It was, in fact, the sun.

Anjaneya thought to himself, “I must have that mango!” And he leaped up into the sky, reaching for the sun. Surya, the sun god, looked down and saw this mischievous child coming at him to take a bite, and he grew angry. He threw a lightning bolt that hit Anjaneya in the jaw and killed him. What do you know, the gods are just like us…evidently quick to anger.

This angered Vayu very much; so much so that he took a giant breath in, and in doing so, depleted the earth of air. Are you sensing a theme? Why can’t the gods keep their anger in check? Vayu refused to release the breath until Surya made things right.

The gods convened and a compromise was reached: Anjaneya would be brought back to life, but as Hanuman – Hanuh meaning “jaw” in Sanskrit. He would be cursed with short-term memory so that he would never remember his divinity long enough to get into trouble again. I like to think that we’re a lot like Hanuman in this way – always forgetting our true divine nature 😃

Knowing this myth behind the asana, it makes sense that Anjaneyasana is a preparatory pose for Ardha Hanumanasana (half splits) and Hanumanasana (splits). But that’s enough of story time, let’s get into the pose!

How-To

You can come into the Anjaneyasana from Downward Facing Dog with a step forward, or from Uttanasana (standing forward fold), or Ardha Uttanasana (half lift) with a step back.

We’ll come into it from Downward Facing Dog:yoga tutorial: anjaneyasana

  • Step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning your right knee directly over your heel
  • Lower your left knee to the floor and slide your left knee back until you feel a gentle stretch in your front thigh and groin
  • Untuck your left toes, bringing the top of the foot flat onto the ground
  • Lift your torso upright as you lift the arms next to your ears, palms facing in
  • Draw your tailbone toward the floor and lift your pubic bone toward your navel to protect the low back – you should feel the hip flexor stretch intensify
  • Lift your chest and draw your shoulder blades down your spine – notice if the ribs splay out and gently draw them back in
  • Look straight ahead or come into a gentle backbend with your gaze to your thumbs (only if this feels ok on the neck)
  • Breathe
  • Repeat with the left foot forward
Modifications
  • If you’re having difficulty with the balance, keep the yoga tutorial: anjaneyasanahands on the ground, or on two blocks
  • Place your hands on your front thigh if you have a shoulder injury or if you are only focusing on the lower body
  • If your shoulders are tight, keep your arms shoulder-yoga tutorial: anjaneyasanadistance apart, or wider, when they are raised
  • If you have any neck issues, keep the head in a neutral position and do not look up at the hands
  • Use a folded blanket or double up your mat under the back knee if it is uncomfortable to hold the position
Benefits:
  • Strengthens the back, legs and shoulders
  • Stretches the hips, hamstrings, quads, and groins
  • Improves balance and focus