Move to the Music
While yoga purists may cringe at the suggestion of doing yoga to music, Jivamukti Yoga teacher and musician Alanna Kaivalya believes the two go hand in hand. "Uplifting music turns your mind to joy and bliss," she says. "It helps you go deeper inside yourself."
Kaivalya created the vinyasa sequence to flow with her rendition of the Sanskrit chant Hanuman Chalisa. (You can download it from yogajournal.com/multimedia.) The chant tells of the monkey god, Hanuman, and his leap across the ocean to save Lord Rama's wife, Sita. Because of his leap, Hanuman symbolizes devotion, friendship, and faith.
The sequence that Kaivalya has assembled moves through the three poses associated with Hanuman: Virasana (Hero Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), and, of course, the splits, or Hanumanasana (Monkey God Pose). "When you do this sequence, you are embodying the spirit of Hanuman," she says.
As you begin the sequence, start by holding each pose for three to five breaths. Then do two more rounds, holding each movement for one breath cycle. Over time, see if you can let the music act as a metronome for your practice. The poses may be challenging, but don't be discouraged. As Kaivalya says, "The character of Hanuman teaches us the unlimited power that lies within each of us."
Before You Begin
STAND In Tadasana (Mountain Pose), set the intention to be free from fear and tension.
SALUTE Do three to five rounds of your favorite Sun Salutation, building heat in the body.
1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Beginning in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), inhale and step your right foot between your hands into a lunge. Lower your back knee onto the floor, placing the top of your foot against the ground. Bring your hands to your right knee while sinking your hips toward the floor.
2. Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey God Pose)
On an exhalation, extend the heel of your right leg forward, straightening the leg. Position your hips directly over the left knee. Draw the right toes toward you as you fold forward over your straight leg. Place your hands on the floor or on blocks for support.
3. Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana (Three-Limbed Forward Bend), variation
With your next exhalation, have a seat on top of your left foot so that the heel is between your sitting bones. Extend the right leg forward. Keep the knees together and draw the toes of your right foot toward your nose as you fold forward.
4. Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose), variation
With the next inhalation, lift into a High Lunge. As you exhale, plant your left hand on the floor and extend your right arm up. Turning your torso and head to the right, lift up and out of your left wrist. Be sure to keep the hips stable and square, engaging the left quadriceps strongly. Reach out through the crown of your head.
5. Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch), variation
On an inhalation, float your right hand back to the floor, coming into a High Lunge. From there, exhale, straighten your front leg, and root your back heel into the ground, retaining a wide stance. Fold over your right leg, bringing your nose to your knee and fingertips to the floor. For a few breaths, bend the front leg into a lunge as you inhale and, as you exhale, extend the leg back into Parsvottanasana.
6. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
From Parsvottanasana, inhale and walk your hands to the left until your torso is between your legs, bringing your feet parallel. Exhale and fold forward while reaching through the top of the head. If the head or hands don't make contact with the floor, place them on blocks for ease.
7. Ardha Virasana (Half Hero Pose)
Inhale, turn the torso and toes back toward the front of the room, and bend the right knee back into a High Lunge. Exhale and come into Ardha Virasana, placing the back knee on the floor and sitting to the inside of the foot. Try to keep the knees together as you extend and engage the front leg. If it's challenging to sit all the way onto the floor, sit on a block.
8. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
From Ardha Virasana, lift into a High Lunge. With an inhalation, drop your left knee down and raise your arms. From here, repeat the sequence you have just done—poses 1 through 8—two more times on the right side. At the end of your third cycle, move into Downward-Facing Dog.
9. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Tuck the chin slightly to look down the sides of the nose toward your heart. Feel the lift of the hands drawing energy all the way up your spine, through your tailbone, and down to your feet. Take a moment to draw your attention back to your Ujjayi pPranayama (Victorious Breath).
10. Hanumanasana (Monkey God Pose)
From Downward-Facing Dog, inhale and raise your right leg behind you, keeping the hips square. Exhale and swing your right leg forward and lower into a full Hanumanasana. Internally rotate the back leg so that your kneecap points toward the ground, and keep the hips square to the front. You may modify this position by placing your hands on blocks or by coming into Ardha Hanumanasana instead. Remain here joyfully for 5 deep breaths. Repeat the entire practice sequence on the left side.
After You Finish
Arch or Fold Finish with a series of backbends such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) or Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose) or move directly to -finishing forward bends such as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) or Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose).
Recline Lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 10 minutes. After coming out of Savasana, chant three Oms to mark the end of your practice.