Tomorrow night, a beautiful full moon will grace our night skies. In my morning Vinyasa class at plan-B-fitness, we’ll embrace this lunar energy by doing Chandra Namaskar, or Moon Salutations, as the basis of our practice. There are many versions of Chandra Namaskar, but most are a little deeper and slower moving than the corresponding Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) to reflect the difference between lunar and solar energy.
The term Hatha Yoga is often used to describe the yoga of asana, or physical postures, pranayama, or breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation. Hatha includes all styles of yoga that focus on these areas, including Vinyasa flow, but you will often see “Hatha” used to describe a class that does not follow any particular school or tradition of yoga, but is perhaps a blend of different influences. Ha represents masculine, solar energy, and tha represents feminine, lunar energy, so one interpretation of Hatha Yoga is the unification of solar and lunar energies within each of us. In our practice, we are always working to acknowledge and balance opposing forces: yoga is envigorating and calming, grounding and uplifting, building confidence and humility.
In the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, days of the full moon and new moon are considered rest days on which no asana are practiced. “Moon days” arise from the belief that, as beings made up largely of water, we are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun in different ways. It is believed that we are more headstrong during the full moon phase, lacking grounding and therefore more likely to injure ourselves, whereas during the new moon, we may feel a lack of energy. In other traditions where moon days are not observed, practitioners have still developed special full moon and new moon practices, such as Chandra Namaskar, to acknowledge the changes in energy that may occur at these times.
Even if you do not believe that the phase of the moon has any connection with how we feel, there are lessons that it can teach us. The moon with its cycles reminds us to tune in to the changing rhythms that are inherent in all aspects of life. It shows us that it is normal sometimes to shine brightly and at other times to rest, quiet and dark – and how to transition smoothly and calmly between these states.
Acknowledging the moon phase in our practice is really a way of acknowledging our connection with nature. Taking time to slow down and move a little more deeply within can be an act of great courage and a considerable challenge in our fast paced, externally focused urban world. However, taking the time to be quiet and look within can be one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and has considerable healing power.
On Thursday, I hope you will join me for a Moon Salutation flow! And if you cannot be there in person, I hope you’ll take a little time to reflect on how the energy of the moon manifests itself in your life. Namaste.