Myths and Asanas – Anjaneyasana
Yoga is rich in history and its ancient origins mean that there are countless myths which we, as yoga teachers, can use to convey ideas beyond the external nature of each posture. The many stories of yoga are of particular interest to me as I was fascinated by mythology from a young age. Initially I relied on stories from the British Isles like that of Mab, Queen of the Fairies or the changelings that would take human form to cause mischief in the mortal world. As I got older my studies drew me to the myths of ancient Greece and Rome which give so much depth to western literature. These stories help us to explain the world, its creation and they give us context to create meaning in our lives, and they have been central to my growth as a part of this large human family to which we all belong. When I discovered the world of mythology that surrounds yoga, I knew I had found my calling in teaching this ancient practice.
Understanding these stories as metaphors for our experience as living beings is one element of practice that comes alive in teacher training. We examine yoga postures as physical forms for the body, and then we re-examine them in a metaphysical context to bring their practice to our many levels of consciousness; the myths of the asanas help us move from the ‘work out’ to the ‘work in’.
One pose that appears frequently in class, and shows up often in teacher training is Anjaneyasana, or the Low Lunge. Literally translated, this is the pose of Anjana, Hanuman’s mother. Anjana was an apsara, or celestial dancer, who upon insulting a great sage, is cursed to live as a monkey in the forest. She bears her curse with grace, wandering the forest and even marrying, but she longs for a child with all her heart. Each day, she practices and prays with great devotion so that she might be heard by the gods and be granted a child. One day, as she stretches one leg behind her and raises her prayer hands to heaven, her devotion is witnessed by Vayu – the wind god. Vayu, impressed with her constancy, soars overhead and drops a few grains of rice into Anjana’s hands. She received the grains with wisdom, knowing they must be a gift from the gods, and she quickly swallows them. Anjana becomes pregnant with the child of the wind god and gives birth to the great hero, Hanuman.
Anjaneyasana teaches us to accept our circumstances with grace, whatever they may be just as Anjana accepts her curse. It also teaches us that our practice and our devotion to it will help us achieve our goals. At the heart of this is a willingness to trust – our own judgement and the flow of the universe.
Within the scope of our teacher training, we dive into some of the powerful myths that figure into the practice of yoga. As we come to learn about the poses on a symbolic level, we come to practice them with a different perspective, a more reverent attitude, and as our approach to the practice of the postures transforms, so do we.
If you would like to be part of this experience, contact the teacher training department to see where your yoga path might bring you!