The myth and anatomy behind hanumanasana (front splits) with Tara and Christoph...

I remember the first time I did the splits - it took me 10 years! It didn’t come easily to me - I had never done them as a kid. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to do them but I was really curious to see if I could. I put them into my practice daily and when the day came that I was actually in Hanumanasana, I barely noticed. I like to think this posture symbolises my beliefs about yoga - practise, practise, practise; patience, patience, patience; non-attachment to the goal, enjoy the journey; don’t be limited by limiting thoughts - we are all capable of more than we know.

The Hindu deity Hanuman (monkey god) symbolises physical strength, bravery and spiritual devotion. As son of the wind he was known for his mighty leaps. One of his most famous leaps was from India to Sri Lanka to comfort the captive Sita. It is said that the power of his back leg propelled him skyward, while his front leg reached Sri Lanka’s shore.

“It was the greatest leap ever taken. The speed of Hanuman’s jump pulled blossoms and flowers into the air after him and they fell like little stars on the waving treetops. The animals on the beach had never seen such a thing; they cheered Hanuman, then the air burned from his passage, and red clouds flamed over the sky . . .” (Ramayana, retold by William Buck).

Here is Christoph’s take:

The ability to do Hanumanasana (Front Split) is an incredible achievement in an asana practice as most of did not start as teenagers, so do not have the pliability programmed into our muscles. In my experience, it can be a never-ending journey whereby I do all the preparation taught in different yoga sequences but never feel my hamstrings rest on the floor.

The abilities of the human body and the intimate connection movement has with the nervous system prompted me to develop techniques to stop the hovering above the floor, and work towards safely achieving Hanumanasana consistently. It meant that I had to look outside of a traditional yoga practice to explore techniques that are allowing me to expand my mobility rather than simply flexibility.

From a medical point of view, mobility refers to flexibility and strength, however, in common parlance, mobility is used as an indicator of solely flexibility which can actually be damaging if this is all we’re aiming for.

In regards to Hanumanasana, it’s vital that we focus on proper leg strength first as enough tautness is created to allow for an elastic band effect in the hamstrings, hip flexors, and to some extent the adductors. In extreme flexibility, the elastic band is more like a slack line that can’t fully contract, whereas in muscle tightness, the band is wound too tight.

By using the most efficient techniques from other movement disciplines, Hanumanasana can be entered into in a manner that is strong and flexible, and not about shamelessly relying on extreme and unbalanced flexibility! In terms of yogic principles, mobility can be viewed as Sthira (steady strength) and Sukha (light ease) - without both of these, there’s an imbalance.