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Hanuman is the monkey god most renowned for his service, strength and devotion. His story is told as part of the Hindu Mythological Epic, The Ramayana. We offer a free audio download of a yoga class dedicated to Hanuman, called Hanumanasana. Cynthia Woodring is a hatha yoga teacher living outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. She generously allowed iHanuman to record her hour and a half class September 17, 2006 at Studio 206 in downtown Charlottesville. Cynthia has studied Hindu mythology along with her study of yoga over the past 15 years and she beautifully interweaves the story of Hanuman into her class, culminating in the pose Hanumanasana. The full pose, Hanumanasana, is quite a challenging pose, but Cynthia takes you gently into the full pose through several hip openers and hamstring lengtheners before asking you to try the full pose. So find a quiet space on the floor with your yoga mat and a few blankets. Do what you can or just enjoy listening to the story. Jai Hanuman!
In this unique yoga class, instructor Cynthia Woodring weaves a story of Hanuman, the monkey-god, with a series of preparatory postures leading to the pinnacle pose of Hanumanasana, or splits pose. The slow-moving, 90-minute class has a Yin Yoga feel to it: as she tells the story of how Hanuman helps his friends Rama and Sita, Cynthia allows for long holds of each posture. In this way, her recent study with Yin Yoga teachers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers is apparent, but the practice also allows for glimpses of Cynthia’s prior Anusara training, particularly in her talk of spirals. Although this is an audio-only recording of a live class (from Fall 2006), I had no problems following Cynthia’s excellent instruction; however, because she uses Sanskrit names for the postures almost exclusively, a basic knowledge of Sanskrit terminology is probably a pre-requisite.The postures focus largely on hip openers and hamstring stretches. Starting in a seated position, Cynthia gently leads you through several repetitions of cobbler’s pose/wide-angle seated forward bend, gradually warming the lower body. Next comes hero’s pose combined with an upper body stretch, and then it’s onto your back for both bent- and straight-leg variations of hand-to-foot pose. After a brief hold of down dog, you transition to your stomach for baby cobra. Next comes a posture I’d never seen before, dove pose: it is similar to pigeon, except that the legs remain parallel to one another with the calf of the front leg tucked under the thigh. After resting in child’s pose, you return to a face-down position for a quad stretch. A brief standing series follows, consisting of wide-legged standing forward bend, pyramid pose, and standing forward bend. Then it’s back to the floor for bridge plus a few seated forward bends (head-to-knee pose and full seated forward bend). Finally, it is time to try full split. Cynthia first has you slide along the floor to your limit, reminding us how, like Hanuman, we all tell ourselves “I can’t do it.” Then, using a prop under the hip if needed, Cynthia encourages embracing a version of Hanumanasana that is an expression of your best ability rather than a pre-conceived notion of what this pose should look like. Moving to savasana, she finishes the story of Hanuman and subsequently allows for a lengthy (about 5 minutes) period of silent relaxation before returning you to a seated position to conclude the practice.This practice isn’t for everyone: those who prefer a more flowing vinyasa style may be bored here (and possibly annoyed by Cynthia’s lengthy storytelling as well). However, those who are able to appreciate the gradual opening that an unhurried, deliberate series of postures can provide will relish this practice and, in all likelihood, find Cynthia’s ongoing narrative (combined with her frequent accompanying chuckles) endearing. Cynthia is compassionately encouraging; through this deceptively gentle practice, she will definitely work your entire lower body while bringing you closer to your fullest realization of Hanumanasana.