It’s a popular topic of conversation amongst those who practice Yoga and meditation, and there’s a good reason as to why the moon generates so much interest – especially as it makes its way towards fullness.
Under cover of darkness, the moon effects us and the world around us in powerful ways we may not be aware of. It may be 384,400 km away, but the moon’s presence is responsible for the pull of gravity, is linked strongly to the earth’s tides, and is the very thing that causes the earth to rotate.
In a Yogic sense, the moon is considered extremely sacred; it is the feminine counterpart to the Sun’s masculine fieryness, and has the ability to strongly influence emotional balance. This feminine ‘moon side’ is seen in our own subtle bodies on the left hand side, with the Ida nadi (nadis are ‘channels’ running throughout the body carrying energy. Think of them as invisible veins which carry your energy. If blockages occur in them, this is when we’re said to experience emotional and energetic imbalances). Practicing Nadi shodhana or ‘channel cleansing breath’ aims to balance the masculine and feminine aspects of the body, while Chandra Bhedana or ‘moon piercing breath’ – in which you would breathe in and out only through the left nostril – aims to primarily activate the calming, grounding moon energy.
Chandra & Soma – Deities of The Moon
Chandra – meaning ‘illustrious’ or ‘to shine’ is a Hindu god of the moon meaning ‘illustrious’ or ‘to shine’. He’s one of the nine Graha gods, with the other eight linked to Mars, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Sun, the Rahu (Northern or ascending position of the sky) and Ketu (the Southern or descending positioning of the sky).
He’s depicted as a young ‘beautiful’ character, with only two arms. This is a surprisingly scant amount of limbs compared to most other Hindu gods. It’s considered that the more arms a deity has, the more battles they’re facing, the more acts they can perform at one time, and the more powerful they are, . Essentially, more arms = getting more stuff done. A deity with only two arms has less power as it is closer to the human form; those with an abundance of arms are considered superhuman. Of course, this is all metaphorical – some gods have more than one head or face representing different aspects of their characteristics.
Chandra is also linked to the Vedic god Soma, who holds the life-giving ‘nectar’ of the moon (also known as amrita), and is closely related to dew, and the ‘juicyness’ of plants and vegetation. He’s the god of fertility, and is also related to that ability to build and maintain our vital essence of life known as Ojas, which we looked at in last week’s post.
The Moon as a Metaphor for Self Realisation
The moon holds many metaphors to teach us about ourselves, but perhaps one of the most important is the fact that it ‘moves’ in phases or cycles.
An essential understanding of the practice of Yoga, is that it is about returning to wholeness, not attaining anything. Another meaning of Yoga – other than ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’ – is remembrance. It’s about remembering who you really are, not what you have come to believe you are through conditioning and external influence.
So we know the moon doesn’t actually change shape, moving from a thin silvery slither to a glowing full
orb – it stays the same full moon, it’s just the amount of it we’re able to see at any one time changes. Well, the same goes for all of us – even though we may not always be able to see or recognise it – or even believe it most of the time – we are always full, whole, complete and perfect. The other word for ‘fullness’ or ‘wholeness’ in Sanskrit is Purnasya, which indicates perfection – not because you’ve attained something – but because you’ve realised you are already perfect and whole in your most natural state.
The moon is associated with intuition, clarity, the mind and emotions, and in a subtle-body sense, it’s linked to Bindu (a chakra situated at the back of the head) and Ajna or ‘the third eye’. This place strongly represents our ability to follow our intuition and trust in ourselves. Trust that we’re whole, we’re full, no matter what ‘phase’ we may appear to be in today. Consequrently, it’s also said that the nectar or ‘juicyness’ of life falls from Soma, Chanda or ‘the moon’ right into this place, so it’s important to keep it healthy and ‘open’.
Remember how Ajna chakra is related to the pineal gland? There’s a reason this place of intuition and the mind is situated right at the pineal gland or ‘master gland’; once we’ve got our heads on straight and our minds clear and free of ignorance, we remember who and what we really are….
Just as the moon takes many forms, so do we; some days we feel whole and wonderful, and others we feel dark, irritable, and like we wish we could probably fly away and live on the moon! In reality though, we’re whole, and we’re so much more than what we may appear at any one time. It’s just about trusting, that despite the moon’s cycles of waxing and waning, nature’s phases of darkness and light, everything will return to wholeness, and so will we.
Get Your Juice Back. A Full Moon Yoga
Posture: Viparita Karani
The act of turning the body upside-down takes us to a position we don’t usually find ourselves in every day. Speaking energetically, the abdomen represents a masculine ‘fieryness’ within us, and in modern culture it’s easy to see we’re all a little over active in this area; power, greed, violence and ego rule right now…. Remember how the center of the eyebrows – Ajna – or the ‘third eye’ is linked to that cooling, calm, feminine aspect of life’s ‘immortal nectar’ (amrita) or ‘juicyness’? Well, it’s said that if the fire in the belly burns strongly for too long, our essence of life – our juice – begins to get consumed, dried out and burned out. You may recognise this if you’ve ever experiences exhaustion or ‘burnout!’
“A new born is about 90% water, most folks are somewhere between 67 and 72% water, however that’s slowly dying out as you get older’. You could say that the process of getting older is the process of drying out.”
– Tom Myers
By turning the body upside-down in a calming manner, we reverse this. The flames of fire burn upwards, so all the time we’re in an inversion like this, we’re regenerating that cooling, calm, life-giving essence and preventing the fire from burning it out. This is why Viparita Karani is such an important posture to take at this phase in the world – we’re all getting burned out, or dangerously close to it. It’s a popular restorative posture, so if you’re in the need of some TLC, this is a very effective asana for helping you feel replenished. It’s a whole-body mudra (a mudra is a gesture for directing energy), and this particular one directs our life-giving energy back into us to prevent ageing, exhaustion, burnout and ‘drying out’.
It’s even said that ‘perfecting’ this asana leads to immortality if practiced for prolonged periods of time. Better get started now then….
Viparita Karani can be practiced in two ways: Supported by a block, a bolster or cushions, or by using your arms in the ‘full’ posture, also known as ‘half shoulder stand’. I would strongly recommend that all inversions are practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.