108 Days of Hanuman

12/23/2012
Tapas Report from Gabriel, Santa Cruz, CA
photo of Gabriel in HanumanOn January 1st 2009, I began the first of 108 days of practicing Hanuman Asana. I had recently completed 108 jump-throughs on the first day of winter and was excited to practice more tapas. The jump-through practice was indeed a challenging tapas, but typically those movements come easier for men. I thought that to practice a deeper austerity, I should pick a theme that would be more focused on sustaining a deep opening that comes less naturally to a male practitioner. It was ten years earlier that I first became interested in the pose, and at the time reaching the ground seemed an impossible dream. Little by little the dream became reality thanks to the wonderful emphasis we put on the pose in Tri Yoga and encouragement and inspiration from the senior teachers and, of course, Kaliji.
When I began in January, I was already able to go to the ground in the pose but the practice of repeating the asana every day helped so much to improve the ability to relax into it and refine alignment of the hips and torso. To avoid overexertion, every other day I used a variety of props to experience even more relaxation and to rediscover the love of using the bolsters and cushions. This practice was not just helping my comfort level in Hanuman, but a huge variety of other poses were benefiting from this as well. Forward bends and backward bends improved as the front and back of the legs affect these movements greatly. I was able to refine extended star and wheel pose significantly. Forty days into the practice, I was able to do Hanuman Swan (thigh stretch with foot to head), a pose I had thought would take me a couple more years to move into! Shortly after this breakthrough a student of mine of several years passed away in a tragic accident. I was very sad but also so grateful to have known him. The day after I found out, I did a special practice that included Hanuman Swan as a dedication to the life of my friend and student Steven Vasquez.
Winter passed by and Kaliji came to Santa Cruz to lead workshops and trainings many times. We always did Hanuman and I never enjoyed myself more! In the past, the long holds would take a lot of willpower and I would be grateful to come out of the pose when it was finished. Now I was holding without that sense of anticipation and was therefore able to focus more on the meditative quality of the pose, which I think is the most important quality to focus on.
Spring arrived and still I practiced Hanuman Asana. I had practiced on sand, grass, carpet, wood floor, tile, and stone patio. I practiced at all different times of the day and sometimes I practiced the pose two or even three times in a day!
On the 108th day, I lead a workshop to celebrate the Hanuman Jayanti which had taken place just days before. We practiced multiple rounds and variations of Hanuman Asana. It was a fantastic way to complete a most challenging endeavor.
This practice was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I had ever set out to do. By the end, I felt it was a deep cleanse for the body, mind, and emotions. I highly recommend considering this or a similar tapas to yogis ready to take their greatest ever leap. Even if multiple bolsters are needed:)
To me, Hanuman Asana is not just about opening the legs but also opening the heart and facing our fear so that we may conquer the personal demons that block our path towards becoming more like the heroic Hanuman. May we always be kind, strong, fearless and ready to serve!
May there always be
Victory
To the Mighty
Hanuman!