Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yoga Story 8. Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose)

It seems some of the simplest wishes in life are getting harder to get granted these days. For example, getting a bull’s-eye-shot at the Cupid’s arrow for marriage or producing a bundle-of-joy even after marriage are no easy matters anymore. Particularly, rising infertility issues among married couples are so dire that seeking IVF treatments are talked over lunch like norms. God must be going out of business due to high tech medical interventions nowadays…

In old days however, when women had difficulty in progeny, they used to pray. Not just wish-wash kinds of wimpy prayers, but hard ones at that, like embarking on one-hundred days of fasting combined three thousand daily kneeling in the moonlights…then somehow they could be endowed with a brilliant son or daughter in the end. That was God’s ways of testing the seriousness and readiness of women’s desire to be mother before. Now it seems obstetric specialists are replacing the God’s role. Because not many modern women have such patience and determination to wait until God answers her prayers…

In Yoga mythology, there are number of stories related to difficult progeny and magical births. One such story is about Anjana, the mother of beloved monkey-god Hanuman.

The Lunging Yoga Pose, Anjaneyasana, named after her arduous spiritual penance, is a deep, kneeling lunge that stretches the psoas muscle, which runs from the middle of the spine to the inner thigh. This very deep core muscle is pivotal in the fight-or-flight response that is built into our bodies. For many people, the fight-or-flight response is almost continuously stimulated by our on-going low-grade application of stress, by our daily habit of sitting for long periods of time on chairs, and results in a chronically locked psoas. Because of its relation to the fight-or-flight response, which typically engages when we are fearful, the psoas is where we generally hide fear. The process of opening the psoas gives us an opportunity to physically shed our fears and move into a state of fearlessness.

According to the story,

“Anjana was a beautiful woman who deeply desired to become a mother, so she prayed daily for the miracle of a child. The wind god Vayu admired Anjana very much, and when he heard her prayer, he decided to help her out. He blessed a few grains of rice and sent them with his bird friends, who were flying her way. Anjana was engaged in her daily prayer ritual. She had her arms stretched upward in anjali mudra, ready to receive the grace of God, when she received a few grains of rice instead. She knew better than to question what came to her through prayer, so she opened her mouth and tossed in the rice. Upon her consumption of the blessed rice, she became pregnant.

When her baby Anjaneya (which meant “son of Anjana”) was born, he was quite a precocious youngster. He was half mortal and half divine, since Vayu was his father. His demigod status is what often led him into big trouble. One morning Anjaneya woke up and saw what he thought was a giant mango floating in the sky. Since mangoes were his favorite treat, he immediately leapt up into the sky and rushed toward the fruit, not realizing it was actually the sun. When the sun god Surya saw this little troublemaker racing to take a big bite out of him, he threw a lightning bolt, which hit the boy in the jaw, killing him instantly and sending him tumbling to the ground.

When Vayu learned what Surya had done, his great fury made him take a deep breath. It was so deep that he sucked up all the air from the earth, and all the beings began to suffocate. The gods called an emergency meeting to try and placate both Vayu and Surya and restore order. Vayu refused to exhale until he got his son, Anjaneya, back. But Surya didn’t want his potentially dangerous child running around unrestrained.

Finally, an agreement was reached. Anjaneya would be renamed Hanuman, which referred to the broken jaw he received from the lightning bolt (hanu means “jaw” in Sanskrit). He would be revived, but cursed with short-term memory so that he would never recall his godliness long enough to cause any real harm. If he believed himself to be just a mortal, what damage could he possibly do?

And finally, he would be removed from his mother’s care so that he could start a new life. The trusted monkey king, Sugriva, agreed to take Hanuman under his wing, and the little boy took the shape of a monkey to better match his new family.”

Now this Hanuman is no ordinary monkey, who was to leave mother’s bosom and forget his godly nature for time-being, so that God could prepare him for his life’s grand mission to assist Ram, the greatest hero in the history of ancient India. Anjana, on the other hand, although she loved her son dearly, has to let go of him so that he could become a man of the world to fulfill his divine mission. In Anjanasana, we can access her fearless energy by thrusting our reluctant psoas muscle inside hip toward floor while folding palms into anjali mudra toward sky to indicate our surrender of inhibition and fear. Behind a heroic son like Hanuman, there is a heroic mother like Anjana. A fearless mother and ardent devotee like her is the lost role model for our modern mom-wanna-be. For more about Hanumanasana in the next story…