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What Does The Moon Have to do with Yoga?

I have always been fascinated by the night sky. In my childhood home, there was a sliding glass door in my bedroom that led to the balcony where I had easy access to the roof. Some nights, I would sneak out and lay on the pitch on the roof, look at the stars, and try to identify different constellations. Other nights I would go out there to lay in the darkness as I talked on the phone with a friend. When the Full Moon was out, it was a whole other story. I'd get carried away staring at her spots and craters, looking for more detail in her terrain, and bathing in her light until my dad would discover my location and get me back inside the house.

That memory is from long ago, and before I discovered yoga - and yet I think the curiosity and wonder that the moon inspired in me is one I get present to again and again when I move on my mat. Practicing Yoga brings us more in tune not only with our own rhythms and cycles, but also those of nature. When we connect our practice to the moon and her cycles, she offers insight towards deeper listening. Whether it's energetically accurate or symbolically true, the moon has a way of revealing wisdom in knowing we are a part of something magical and something much bigger.

The moon is our planet's closest celestial neighbor. The gravitational pull that exists between the moon and Earth has a powerful influence over every living thing and at any given time during the month, this pull will fluctuate depending on which phase she is in. By the moon's influence, we can be unconsciously dragged from place to place, moment to moment, or we can channel that energy and choose to move in conscious awareness.

Yoga & The Moon Phases

New Moon

The new moon is the beginning of the lunar cycle, when the moon is between the earth and sun. This is when the side of the moon facing Earth is in darkness and the back side of the Moon is illuminated. It is a time to turn inward, set intentions, and explore new opportunities.

Mind-Body-Breath in the New Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes and focus on the feel and sound of your inhalations and exhalations. If your mind wanders, come back to your breath.

  • Move through restorative poses like Seated Forward Bend, which are soothing and calming so you can tune inward.

  • Practice a Left Nostril breathing technique to activate the calming part of your autonomic nervous system: Close your right nostril with your right thumb, slowly inhale through your left nostril and exhale through your left nostril, breathing deep into your lower body.

Waxing Crescent Moon

In this phase, the moon becomes visible again as it grows in light and energy. This is the time to focus on building new habits and concentrate on amplifying things you already have.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Waxing Crescent Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes, focusing on the sounds you hear as a way of staying in the present moment.

  • Move through energizing poses like Warrior 1 to encourage physical and mental growth.

  • Practice Ujjayi breath to warm the body from the inside out and keep the mind focused.

First Quarter Moon

The first quarter is also known as the half moon because only 50% of the moon’s surface is illuminated by the sun. It occurs one week after the new moon and is the time when things begin to take shape.

Mind-Body-Breath in the First Quarter Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes, focusing on the connection between your body and the ground beneath you.

  • Move through opening poses like Half Moon to help you focus, build strength, and expand.

  • Practice Three-Part Breath to help you feel grounded: Lay on your back and inhale slowly and fully, then as you exhale, let the breath go first from your heart center, then from the rib cage, and finally from your belly.

Waxing Gibbous Moon

This is the lunar phase right before the full moon and when energy levels are high. It is a perfect time to expand the body and the mind to their maximum potential.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Waxing Gibbous Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes visualizing a glowing ball of light at your solar plexus. Envision this light growing in size and brightness.

  • Move through a dynamic practice like Sun Salutations to allow the energy to flow.

  • Practice a Cooling Breath to balance this energetic time: press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips open, Inhale slowly through the teeth, close the mouth and exhale through your nose.

Full Moon

The full moon takes place when the Earth is located between the sun and moon. The Moon is in its most powerful phase when it is entirely illuminated by the sun. This is a time of peak energy, fulfillment, and celebration.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Full Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes, using a simple mantra of "Let Go" to anchor your mind.

  • Move through restful poses like Savasana to release and let go

  • Practice 1:2 breathing, which involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation, to relax the nervous system.

Waning Gibbous Moon

The moon appears less than full but more than half-lit. This is the perfect time for slowing down and becoming introspective.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Waning Gibbous Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes, gradually withdrawing from each of your five senses.

  • Move through mindful transitions like Single Standing Leg Raise to Airplane to maintain energy while also preparing the body to slow down.

  • Practice Box Breath to stay calm and improve concentration.

Last Quarter Moon

The last quarter is the half-way point to the new moon and an opportunity to begin shedding the things you no longer need in order to come clear.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Waning Gibbous Moon:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes lying down doing a full body scan.

  • Move through twists like Supine twist, which allow for letting go, release, and finding calm.

  • Practice Equal Breath to create balance and deep relaxation.

Waning Crescent Moon

This is the final stage of the lunar cycle before we return to the new moon. It is a time to digest and understand the wisdom gained through the last cycle.

Mind-Body-Breath in the Waning Crescent Moon:

  • Move with the support of props in poses like Bridge to encourage slowing down and clearing the slate for the next cycle ahead.

  • Meditate for 5 minutes while practicing Chanting Breath with the Om mantra to strengthen the lungs, remove negative thoughts, and clear the mind.

During her 29.5 day cycle, the moon’s energies invite us to begin anew, work to accomplish what we have set out to do, and then let go of the old to create space for something new, once again. Whether I was tuned in to the moon's effects in my early teenage years or not, the draw to go outside and look up offered time for wonder, inspiration, reflection and introspection. If tapping into the moon's phases helps to connect with yourself, then I say, yes.

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