In one of my favorite images, the Hindu deity Hanuman is embracing his master, Lord Rama. Hanuman’s story is an example for yogis that shows us the power of our devotion to yoga.
According to the legend, Hanuman, the son of a monkey (his mom) and Vayu, the Lord of the Winds (his dad), had an impressive skill. As a boy, he could lift the hills and basically toss them around however he pleased. One day, Hanuman saw the sun, and believing it was a piece of fruit, he decided to eat it. When Hanuman put the sun in his mouth, other gods and goddesses were concerned. The pleaded with Hanuman to spit the sun out to save the world from darkness. Hanuman obliged.
The ability to move the earth and swallow the sun may be impressive, but Hanuman’s real power was his devotion to Lord Rama. He would do things like fly to the Himalayas to get herbs to cure his master’s battle wounds. Since he was always at Rama’s side and ready to come to his aid, Hanuman is often invoked as a healer. He is the lauded for his strength, perseverance, and above all, his devotion.
It’s interesting to note that this beloved figure from Hinduism is a servant. To Hanuman, service is not a lowly pursuit but a source of power derived from his devotion to Rama. The lesson for us: Connection with a higher power gives us great strength.
The Power of Devotion to Yoga
As yogis, we can emulate Hanuman with our devotion to yoga. It may start as simply showing up in class with the intention to practice. If we’re committed, our practice will blossom, and eventually commitment will become devotion. The difference between commitment and devotion is that commitment is based on a promise we make or a belief that we must do something, perhaps because we promised to do it or perhaps because we think it’s the right thing to do.
Devotion, on the other hand, comes from the heart. It’s effortless because the source of our devotion is our love for whatever we are devoted to, whether it’s a deity, a practice, or another person.
From Commitment to Devotion
Devotion often starts as commitment. Maybe this is what you’ve experienced with yoga. When you first started practicing, you may have purchased a group of classes and committed to attending ten sessions over a three-month period, for example. You probably had to push yourself to get to class some of days. Or if you have a home practice, it’s likely that you didn’t always feel like rolling out your mat on a regular basis. Maybe this is still the case, and while you’re still committed to your practice, you’re not yet devoted to it.
If you are devoted to yoga—if your practice has become a seamless part of who you are—do you know how or when the shift happened? In a sense, devotion is a gift we receive when we commit to something (or someone) and that thing or person wins our heart. The object of our devotion often inspires us to be the best version of ourselves, and that is what’s so powerful about it.
If you’re a devoted yogi, you know how much your devotion shapes your life. But if you’re not devoted yet, stick with your commitment, because one day you may you realize the shift has happened, and like Hanuman, you have reached new heights of strength and power that can only come from devotion.