Yoga and the Power of Devotion

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 My senior chair yoga students practicing seated Hanumanasana - forward splits posture. Yay, a little victory over the self, and our limited beliefs about our possibilities!

My senior chair yoga students practicing seated Hanumanasana - forward splits posture. Yay, a little victory over the self, and our limited beliefs about our possibilities!

I love my senior students. Surely, I am as much a student to them as they are to me. They teach me so much. They have been so devoted to their chair yoga practice over the last 2 years with me, even when I give them hard poses to do, like Hanumanasana - the forward splits.

And I love returning to the Hanuman theme, which I have done so every year for at least the last ten. The heroic feats of Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God from the Hindu myth, the Ramayana, serve as a reminder that, in whatever mission we are serving in our own life, if we are truly devoted to it without ego and if the mission serves a purpose that will help all beings — not just the little self — that we are capable of persevering in the face of difficulty, challenges and self-doubt and complete the mission. In short, there are times in our life when the greater need is so big that we somehow find a way to do the impossible.

In the story, Hanuman basically does the impossible. He is charged with rescuing Sita, the wife of his master, Rama. Sita was taken to an island in the middle of the ocean - Lanka - and held captive there. Hanuman comes to the edge of the ocean, sees the island out in the distance, gathers up all his powers and resolve and does a giant split leap over the ocean, lands on the island, rescues Sita, and returns her to Rama. According to Religious Studies Professor Joshua Greene, “the myth of the Ramayana is basically a story of the reuniting of Yin and Yang, represented by Sita and Lord Rama. … Hanumanasana is the forward-splits position. The arms are raised overhead in victory. The body is stretched out in all 6 directions. Practicing the pose, we gain victory over our own selves, our ego and our tendencies towards evil.”

One detail of the story that I find helpful to contemplate is that before he made that giant leap, Hanuman basically was filled with self-doubt and didn’t remember that he was capable of doing such an impossible feat. As a child he had a lot of natural physical gifts, but was mischievous — as most children are — and was made to forget his powers. But just before his leap, he was reminded by the wise bear, Jambavantha, of his powers and once he remembered again, he gathered up his resolve and set out to complete the mission. Remembering spurred him on to making that giant leap.

We all have people in our lives who know us well, and are constantly reminding us in our moments of self-doubt that we are indeed powerful. For me last week, it was Richard, the bookkeeper for my nonprofit organization, Keoni Movement Arts, who reminded me in a moment when I was doubting a decision I made to not to dwell on it too much and not to second-guess myself. I remember appreciating hearing that in that moment. Perhaps had it not been for Jambavantha, Hanuman would not have done the impossible thing he did. Similarly, in our own lives, much praise must be given to those people who encourage us, and remind us during our moments of doubt just how powerful and capable we are. Especially for a child, those people can make the difference between the child having an amazing future life of productivity or having one where her/his potential is not realized.

We all have special gifts and we all have a mission to fulfill that serves the greater good in our time on this Earth. I hope that you can tap into that feeling of your life as having a calling — a greater purpose — and that you can have enough people around you encouraging you to complete your mission and along the way reminding you of your powers and ability during times when you falter. Like Hanuman, may you be 100% devoted to completing the mission, and because of that devotion have your powers be uncovered and unleashed for the benefit of all. As the yoga scripture, the Baghavad Gita, says:

At the beginning, mankind and obligation of selfless service were created together. Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires. This is the promise of the Creator. - Verse 3.10

This is the power of devotion — the uncovering within us of our capacity for tireless service and our ability to do the impossible.

May you know your life’s calling, …
May you remember your unlimited powers, …
May you do the impossible, …
for the benefit of all beings.

Aloha, with Metta,
Paul Keoni

 Anything is possible when you can remember the unlimited power that lies deep within yourself!

Anything is possible when you can remember the unlimited power that lies deep within yourself!