Hanuman; The Ancient Monkey-Superman
The monkey god Hanuman, was given the birth name Anjaneya (powerful, fiery). He earned this name Hanuman when he was quite young. Playing in some green, grassy fields, Hanuman looked up and saw a big, orange, juicy sun and mistook it for a giant mango. Monkeys love mangoes!
He decided to leap into the sky and steal the mango for his afternoon snack. Indra Devi, the Sky God, saw what was happening on his home turf and became quite angry at Hanuman’s imposition, so he began throwing lightning bolts every which way. One of the lightning bolts hit Hanuman in the jaw (‘Hanu’ means jaw) and propelled him to the earth where he landed with a dramatic thump, killing him.
All the deities panicked in seeing his lifeless little body. They knew Hanuman’s dad would be furious, and he was. Vayu, the God of the Wind, saw his little son lying on the ground, lifeless. He went into grief and rage and started sucking the air out of the universe. Everything started to wither, shrivel up, and die; just like young Hanuman.
The deities came out from where they were hiding and begged Vayu to restore balance to the universe, to give it back its ability to live, breathe, and exist. Vayu claimed he would only do so if they brought his son back to life. Everyone readily agreed, as each deity walked over to Hanuman’s lifeless body and touched him. Each god who touched him infused a little life back into him, and unbeknownst to Hanuman, a little bit of their power.
When Hanuman opened his eyes, he had no recollection of what just happened. He yawned, stretched, and felt the fresh green grass underneath him. When he realized his father was watching him, he sat up and gave Vayu a hug. Even while chastising him for craving the mango-like sun for his afternoon snack, his father put his arm around Hanuman and walked him home.
As Hanuman grew up, he had no inkling of all the superpowers that had been infused into his body. So he continued on his path of schooling and working out. He was known as a very humble yet strong and fit monkey-person. He finished high school and decided on a local college where he studied business and went to grad school.
But once he started working the corporate life, he realized he was unhappy. He wanted to do something else besides sitting in front of a computer. He wanted to do something more fulfilling, purposeful, and helpful. But he didn’t know what that would be. YET.
Luckily for Hanuman, Lord Ram had been watching him because he knew Hanuman was a culmination of all the deities and their superpowers. Lord Ram, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, was known for his tendencies towards chivalry, virtue, and love. Ram appreciated Hanuman’s humble way of being, as well as his strength and fitness. And Ram loved that Hanuman was a Bhakti Yogi who liked to sing and chant, so he offered Hanuman a job as head of his palace troops. Hanuman became a devoted servant.
Hanuman was delighted by the opportunity to work for the prestigious Lord Ram and his beautiful wife Sita. He worked out and studied for his new position and became a very good, yet humble friend of the royal couple as his muscles grew bigger.
What didn’t grow with his muscles though, was his ability to believe in himself and in his own strengths and capabilities. Sometimes we confuse humility with insecurity, but soon realize humility couples best with confidence, and Hanuman’s questionable belief system was about to be tested.
One day, Lord Ram came running over to Hanuman beseeching his assistance in a very serious and grave matter. Lord Ram mentioned Sita had been kidnapped by some evil demons (which represent negativity to us, or our debilitating self-belief systems) and was being held captive in Lanka. Lanka was an inaccessible location as it was located across a massive ocean, that was almost uncrossable to most. Lord Ram was building a bridge to cross over and rescue her, but it would take time and effort. He needed Hanuman to take the great leap across the ocean to deliver her a ring as a promise of her impending rescue.
Hanuman started shaking in his Uggs. His first thoughts were ‘why me?’ ‘I can’t do it.’ ‘My hamstrings are too tight from working out.’ ‘I’m not flexible or capable enough to do this.’ As the sweat started to pool in his armpits, he vehemently shook his head ‘no’ over and over again and started to walk away. Lord Ram said he would give Hanuman a little time to think it over before he commanded him to help with this massive endeavor.
Hanuman went to confide in his best friend The Bear King, Jambavan. Jambavan told Hanuman he needed to complete the task as Lord Ram’s humble warrior. ‘Perhaps you are capable of more than you know!’ Jambavan helped Hanuman realize that beneath all his levels of fears and doubts, Hanuman’s deepest fear was letting down Ram, the person he loved most in the world. Hanuman realized he needed to attempt the journey to fully serve Ram and worry less about his perceived limitations.
The moment Hanuman decided to challenge his limiting belief system something changed. He knelt at the shore in half hero position, chanting to Ram (the breath of the universe or Source) for ability and strength. What Hanuman didn’t realize was once he stepped out of self-deprecation and into service for Self and others (Ram) was the moment his superpowers kicked in.
They propelled him in the splits position across the ocean to the other side. People looked up at the flying bundle of Hanuman, representing the balance of both strength and flexibility, and named him Superman. Hanuman was successful in delivering the ring to Sita, who was later rescued.
We are all both strong and flexible of mind and body. Hanuman teaches us we can transcend our own limiting belief system in order to shine and share our gifts and talents with the world. He teaches us to be in service of ourselves and others. But we must first believe in ourselves and combine confidence with humility… and sing to Ram for a little extra boost of strength.
The Legend of Garuda; Half-Man, Half-Bird
Chances are, if you’ve ever found yourself on your yoga mat, you may have experienced Garudasana, or Eagle Pose. Many are unaware of the origins of the yoga pose, or the story behind the legendary Garuda. I love Garuda because I went to high school in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the main airline in those days was called Garuda Airlines. I also remember seeing many statues of Vishnu in Bali riding on top of his trusty friend, Garuda. I soon became infatuated with the stories of Garuda and what he exemplifies for us as yogis.
Garuda, half-man/half-eagle, was the vehicle for Vishnu. Vishnu is known in Hindu mythology as “The Protector” or “The Sustainer” and is one of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity consists of Brahma (Beginnings), Vishnu (Middles), and Shiva (Endings). The beginnings, middles, and endings represent the eternal ebb and flow of all of our experiences. We soon learn they are the only constant in an ever-changing world. Vishnu as The Sustainer is much like our breath that sustains our life. He is also the love that sustains our souls.
Garuda was known for his propensity for eating poisonous serpents. The full yoga posture binds the arms and legs around one another and provides compression. Once any compression posture is released, we generally experience a fresh new outlook and energetic exchange. Garuda loved to eat poisonous serpents for his meals. His body knew how to transform the serpents into nutrition in order to feed, sustain, and nourish himself.
When Garuda was first born he was massive. The egg he hatched from was enormous, and his wingspan was unlike anything any deity had ever seen before. The other deities were very intimidated by his size and knew he would grow even larger over the year, so they huddled together and came up with a plan. They asked Garuda to make himself smaller. Because Garuda was new to the community, he acquiesced. Being a newborn, he didn’t want to offend anyone. He also wasn’t so proficient at standing up for himself yet. But he did realize that even though his frame was smaller, he still had a bigness of spirit. He promised himself he would always let his spirit shine as big as he could.