Early in my Ashtanga Yoga life, ashtanga meaning the Sanskrit word for eight limbed and the type of yoga I like to practice, I noticed the similarity to Jewish holiday observances. Though it is a daily and unchanging practice, there is no practice held customarily on Saturday. Handy for the Sabbath practicing Jew. Many holy days include fasts, chanting, and then the coming together of people in community with song. And food. Lots of food.
Both traditions also follow the calendar of the moon. Full and new moon days are observed, a custom which really resonates for me. Like all things of a watery nature, and rumor has it we humans are about 70% water, we are affected by the phases of the moon. Full moons occur when in opposition to the sun’s rays and new moons when they are in conjunction. Both sun and moon exert a gravitational pull on the earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle. The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation, an expansive and upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional, but not well grounded.
The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation. This time is of a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded, but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion. I am sure some of you know what I mean this week; fatigue seemed to abound, as yesterday was such a day in Ashtanga yoga land. A day of rest. Some mark it with abstinence from sex and from certain foods. It is also to be marked with (more) meditation, a tradition given from Chinese Astrology.
This meditation begins with gratitude toward the abundance you have, and then heads into requests. As I sat there yesterday, doing first my breath practice then my own evening prayers in Hebrew, I tried to incorporate this “request” practice. The first part was easy. Abundance always feels evident this time of year. The feeling of being just where we are, and having that be enough greets me as one year draws to a close and another lies nearby in hope and promise. And as I sat with this gratitude, I could not quite articulate the “more” that I might want. Not to say, I don’t have wishes, certainly I have many lists of wants! Books upon books of what I think I deserve greet me in spades, and often. But last night, I could not truly, with sincerity, imagine wanting more than I had as I listened to the steady breath of those in my house, the lingering scent of those who had just left, and the promise of light of the moon and sun to greet me upon waking.
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga over time has made me more attuned to natural cycles. Observing the moon days is a tool to help recognize and honor the rhythms of nature, which I think can offer us our own lives in greater harmony between that which we want and that we already have.
I hope you will think to greet me and others THIS SUNDAY MORNING AT LULULEMON , 335 N. BEVERLY DR., BH for a FREE YOGA CLASS AT 9:30 AM!