Q: I can move into the Upavistha Konasana easily but have trouble with Hanumanasana. How can I open my hips so that I can move into this pose? —Kevin McHugh, Fukoka, Japan
Tias Little's reply:
Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angle Pose) is a posture that demands mobility primarily in the muscles of the inner thigh, the adductors. Hanumanasana (Hanuman's Pose) requires movement in the muscles of the front/back lines of the body, namely the quadriceps and the hamstrings. In Upavistha Konasana the pelvis moves forward in an anterior tilt. In Hanumanasana the two halves of the pelvis (the illium) are moving in opposite directions, which makes it a much more demanding pose on the deep structures of the pelvis.
Practice Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero's Pose) regularly, both supported by a bolster and unsupported. To practice Supta Virasana, start by sitting on the floor with the knees bent and both feet flat on the floor in front of you. Take the right leg back into Virasana while keeping the left foot on the floor. Then take the left leg back. This will encourage elasticity in the attachment of the quadriceps just at the front of the pelvis, which is necessary for the back leg in Hanumansana. (In my teaching I deem that if a student cannot do Supta Virasana unsupported, they are not ready for Hanumanasana.) This variation will also stretch and extend the muscles deep in the abdomen, providing elasticity for the trunk to come upright in the Hanumansana.
Practice Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) and Krounchasana (Heron's Pose) to release your hamstrings. Then try Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split) against the wall. Start in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) with you buttocks to the wall. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and extend the right leg up the wall behind you. Point the right toe and rest the top of the right foot on the wall. As you do this, press the left heel into the baseboard. Push firmly into the left foot to gain the leverage to extend the right foot up the wall further.
When coming into full Hanumanasana, support the sit bone of your front leg with a block. Be sure not to go down to the floor too soon because you will distort your lumbar (lower back) and sacrum. Focus on the hip of the back leg and roll the outer edge forward.
Finally, practice relaxing your jaw with reverence. Why? Because Hanuman means, literally, "One with a Jaw." Prostrations to the divine monkey in us all!
Tias Little brings a wonderful play of metaphor and imagination to his yoga teaching. He is trained in the Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa systems and his perspective clearly reflects the Buddha's teachings. He is a licensed massage therapist and has studied extensively in cranial-sacral therapy and Rolfing. Tias earned a Master's in Eastern Philosophy from St. John's College. He currently co-directs Yogasource in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife Surya and leads yoga intensives throughout the country. Tias' teaching schedule is available on his web site at www.yogasource-santafe.com.