As a teen-ager I was obsessed with Superman and Wonder Woman. I would get back from school, switch on the TV and be glued for hours. I marveled the fact that they used supernatural powers to help the poor, to liberate the oppressed, to heal the sick, to punish injustice and restore peace. I loved the fact that they were not bound to gravity and could fly around just to appear in the crucial moments and rescue those in need. These naïve and idealistic movies always had a moral to them and were a true testimony of how human virtue always reaps karmic rewards. They also taught us that the human body and spirit knows no boundaries. That everything is possible. And every challenge is just a springboard for higher feats. That energy is never lost. That courage and inner fortitude always pay off.
When I got into Yoga years later I was happy to find that the Hindu pantheon had a Superman, too. It was Hanuman – the Monkey God. The epitome of virtue and supernatural prowess, Hanuman is endowed with miraculous powers and strengths. Hanuman’s tale as told in the epic Ramayana inspires us to face ordeals and conquer obstructions without fear. He is the superhero who liberates Lord Rama’s wife Sita from the evil demon Ravana. Even when Hanuman is captured he outwits his enemy through the cunning use of his powers. Extraordinarily, he has the ability to expand and shrink and to fly across long distances, invoking terror in the hearts of the powerful demons. In the end Hanuman rescues Lord Rama who is to be sacrificed to the Goddess Kali and is appointed as her doorkeeper.
Symbolically, Hanuman stands for pure devotion, complete surrender and selflessness. He teaches us that when we transcend our ego we can experience unconditional faith and meet every challenge with courage and inner resolve. From a Yogic perspective Hanuman is regarded as the “knowledge body” and teaches us that in order to awaken the intelligence of our body we need to suspend the monkey mind. In Yoga we refer to this intelligence as “Buddhi”.
Buddhi consciousness emerges when we relinquish the rational mind and invoke the inner wisdom. It is one of the four functions of the mind. The other three being “manas” – the sensory perception, “chitta” – the storage of impressions and ahamkara.
I like to picture the mind like the four spokes of that drive the wheel of life on the external road. While the wheel turns, the center hub remains still, like the center of consciousness, the Self, which remains still. While the hub is the source of the energy driving the wheel of life, the very center of the hub does not itself move. To know the center or hub (the Self), one must go through the spokes. The only vantage point from which one may fully be witness to the spokes is the Self. One who knows that center hub through Yoga meditation knows the Self, which is called Self-Realization. Thus, the process of observation of the Four Functions of Mind is an extremely useful aspect of the path of Self-Realization.
In other words, in order for the intelligence of the body to awaken, we first have to withdraw the senses inwards, let go of imposed mental constructs and imprints and surrender the ego to the higher self. The work goes to removing the “samskaras” or imprints that overshadow “buddhi”. How do we do that?
Here’s what Hanuman advices:
Buddhi is always present and is always there to guide us, we can learn to tap into our inner wisdom, all we have to do is to start listen to it! Just like Hanuman has the ability to expand and contract in shape and size, so must we make our bodies and minds flexible and open to the widest range of possibilities. Just like Hanuman faces adversity, so must we find courage and inner strength to welcome challenges as opportunities for growth. Just like Hanuman is selflessly ready to sacrifice himself, so must we not let our egos get in the way of building our visions. Just like Hanuman serves in devotion and surrender to the divine, so must we live up to our wildest passions and in pursuit of our self interests think about the greater whole. Just like Hanuman strides in the air, so must we be always ready to take a leap of faith and follow our heart.
Hanuman teaches us to address issues as they come and not procrastinate. He teaches us to adjust to circumstances and employ the flexibility of our minds and bodies in handling complex situations. He teaches us utmost dedication to our pursuits and altruism to our human kin. He teaches us that we always have access to the powers of the mind by challenging our beliefs about ourselves, our bodies and our consciousness. He teaches us that we are a powerhouse of information and energy and that we have the ability to unleash these inner powers in service of the whole. He teaches us that all we see is already embedded within. All we have to do is listen to our inner truth. Once we burn the imprints of the mind we allow the truth of consciousness to shine forth. We are ready to break the bars that hold us back from our true freedom – it is challenging, but the reward will make the challenge worth it.
Power Yoga Routine: Inner Fortitude (intermediate level)
Designed, performed and inspired by our esteemed YA certified teacher Hara Zi
This challenging and fun Yogea sequence burns through obstacles and old patterns. It explores the empowering effect of taking life into your own hands metaphorically and literally as you strengthen your upper body and cultivate the sensation of taking your weight into your own hands. Dancing between powerful standing poses, boosting “vinyasas” and a colorful blend of standing twists, supine stretches, forward bends and back bends while working with the breath – building strength and releasing chronic tension. The sequence has a grounding, detoxifying and empowering effect and takes the body through its potential ways of being. As we overcome our own limitation and self-doubt we embark on a personal quest of freeing the body and spirit.