• שי בכר

Lord Hanuman and the secrets of pranayama

What is the connection between pranayama and mythology?

Can it be that stories from the different spiritual traditions are encoded with secret knowledge?

Is there anything in mythology more than 'just' stories? And Does the monkey headed God has any secret to teach us about our own yoga practice?

To answer these questions we need to first look at the roll of mythology in religious life and practices, and explore the connection between mythology and philosophy.

The roll of mythology and philosophy in religions

Any religion is divided into three major sections or limbs

  • Philosophy

  • Worship

  • Mythology

Philosophy is the foundation to all religious and spiritual sects because it describes in the clearest way the most abstract ideas. Ideas about creation, existence and the Supreme Being or God.

philosophy is a refined way to present our ideas but at the same time it is very complicated to communicate, hard to teach and above all – hard to be remembered and transferred to future generations.



So what to do?

Here the roll of worship and mythology comes into to play.

Worship is nothing but philosophy in action

In all types of worship, from all the different traditions of the world we can see symbolic elements that suggest a philosophy behind them. For example: in one of the Hindu worship ceremonies we hold a flower in-between our closed hands in front of our hearts and pray. At the end of the prayer we offer this flower to God. This is a small example of philosophy in action – we are 'doing' what we wish our minds and soul to experience. This is a small example of how an abstract idea manifests in a ceremonial way, in this way much deeper and more subtle levels of philosophy can be transferred as well.

Now, what is mythology?

If worship is philosophy in action so Mythology is philosophy in a symbol

Through stories and images we transfer great philosophical ideas and a range of religious emotions.

How wonderful and how easy it is to remember the picture of the biblical story when God splits the sea for the nation of Israel to go through and sets them free. It is nothing but a philosophical idea for the spiritual aspirant. This small example is the symbolic way to say 'God is always with you, and be sure that when the moment comes, when you cannot see a way of emancipating yourself from your ego after all the spiritual practice you've done, he will come and graciously open the sea of misery for you and let you go through…'

So, what about pranayama?

Since the monthly topic of our 'galaxy of yoga' is 'pranayama', let us try and see, where can we find the teachings of pranayama in mythology and how can they help us in our own understanding and practice?

The first and most lovable example that one can think of in the maze of Hindu mythology is the story of Lord Hanuman – the monkey God.

Let us see, who is Lord Hanuman? And what does Lord Hanuman represent as a mythological character?

The story of Lord Hanuman Is mentioned in the great Hindu epos 'The Mahabharata', where is depicted as the son of Vayu – the God of wind. This is our first clue for what Lord Hanuman represents.

He is immortal and cannot be killed- this is the second clue.

He knows many languages and he is a master poet- another clue.

Above all, Lord Hanuman is known for his power - He is so strong he can move mountains.

When untamed he is destructive…

When tamed he is the best servant of God himself! (a big clue!)

So what is he, this Hanuman?

As we can see, our dear Hanuman is no other then our own prana!

Prana is connected with wind (air-vayu) element - Lord Hanuman is the son of wind.

Prana cannot be killed – this is a very important aspect of prana and one of the characteristics of Lord Hanuman.

Every scientist knows – energy cannot be wasted but only transferred or moved-on, energy In the universe is always in the same amount.

Who moves the mountains? What power controls the stars in their movements and who is responsible for the currents in the sea? And more than that – who pumps our hearts and blows the air in our lungs? The answer for all these questions is prana. Only prana is that strong to move mountains, to move stars and to keep us alive.

The power that Lord Hanuman demonstrates as he moves the mountain in the Mahabharata shows that he is nothing but that prana.