We’ve all been there.
You go to your favorite yoga class, you roll out your mat, and patiently wait while the teacher begins the class.
They kick off the class by announcing the theme of the class is the moon, usually, it is something along the lines of ‘since it is a full moon today, we will be working on releasing and cultivating the full moon energy.”
Weaving themes of the moon and lunar cycles into a yoga class and personal practices have been on the rise, as we as a society begin to understand more about the moon and lean into our curiosity about astrology and the lunar cycles.
Although we may be curious about lunar cycles and topics like the full moon may make a great theme for a yoga class, it may leave you or your students wondering what yoga has to do with the moon anyways?
The Origins of the Moon Yoga
Not all yoga lineages have guidelines between what kind of yoga should (or shouldn’t) be practiced during different moon phases, but working with yoga and the moon goes back nearly to the time of Patanjali.
Yoga and the moon are first explicitly explored during the time when Ashtanga yoga was taking form, around 250 BCE, and it was suggested that “moon days” were rest days.
This means that on the full moon and the new moon days those who practiced Ashtanga yoga would take a day off from their practice. This practice is still observed by many today.
Ashtanga yoga, like many of the yoga lineages, falls under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga, which has it’s own ties to the moon. Hatha is formed from two root words “ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon. It signifies the balance between the sun and moon energy that is within all of us.
It seeks to find the sweet spot between these two energies, and aid the student in finding their equilibrium between the moon and sun energy, or Ida and Pingala as it is called in yoga through breath, movement, meditation and all 8 limbs of yoga.
If you have ever looked at a diagram of the energetic body you will typically see the 7 chakras depicted by their corresponding colors.
One main line that runs up and down the spine, which is called sushumna, and then two lines that twist and intersect at each chakra, almost creating a double helix shape.
These two lines that cross at each chakra, are the opposing energies of Ida and Pingala, or sun and moon.
Pingala is the sun energy, and Ida is the moon energy.
It is believed that we are made up of these two opposing energies and through different movements, breath, meditation and other exercises you can stimulate one energy, or work to balance both out.
Think of these two energies as the sun and moon and how during the day both the sun and the moon will have their time to shine, and they both serve a purpose in the world and in your life.
The same goes for Ida and Pingala, both are within you and serve their own purpose and are best handled by being kept in equilibrium with the other.
For now, let’s focus on the Ida energy as this is the moon energy in yoga. Ida is the cool, feminine, nurturing, moon energy.
It is the energy that brings forward rest, nurturing, relaxation, creativity, and femininity.
Ida energy is associated with the left side of the body, and it is stimulated through slower, more meditative practices like yin yoga, restorative yoga, and gentle flows.
It is the part that tunes in with the moon, and allows you to slow down and rest and become introspective during this time.
Working with this type of energy helps to balance out the fiery side of Pingala that urges you to be productive, hot and energetic.
Focusing on the slower side of life helps to stimulate this moon energy within you, and is a common focus of yoga classes. Lean into this Ida energy during times when you need to slow down, rest or are feeling burnt out.
Working with the Lunar Cycles in Yoga
Another way that the moon and yoga seem to collide is utilizing the lunar cycles in your yoga practice.
Although some lineages, like Ashtanga, ask you to rest on days of the moon, for many the full moon and new moon days are ideal days to practice yoga and meditation and cultivating feelings of release, and welcoming new beginnings into your life.
The new moon energetically welcomes new beginnings. It is the time of the month where you can welcome new projects into your life.
Energetically speaking, it is a great time to start a new project, set a new intention and begin again. In terms of yoga, the new moon is a great time to welcome in the new by focusing on these new things, or spending extra time meditating and reflecting.
On the flip side, the full moon is the time of release.
The full moon is the time to let go of what has been holding you back, or what you are currently moving through and need to release to continue on your journey.
Energetically speaking, the energy is high during the full moon and manifestations and meditations can be amplified during this time.
Some choose to use the full moon energy as a theme in their yoga practice and incorporate more twists and deep openings into their physical practice to help release internal gunk and stagnant energy.
This is also a wonderful time to weave manifestation meditation and rituals and on your mat.
Lunar Inspired Practices
There are a few other ways that the moon shows up in yoga, that you may not be aware of.
First, is the use of the number 108.
This is a powerful number in sacred geometry and you may see people practicing 108 sun salutations on special dates like the new year, or the summer solstice, but the number 108 is directly tied to the moon and galaxy.
The Distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon's diameter, and shows up in many other places in the universe.
Moon salutations, the softer, lesser-known sibling to the sun salutation, is a flow that is designed to cool and unwind your body and evoke the moon’s Ida energy.
These slow, fluid movements help you tap into your feminine moon energy and make a wonderful compliment to a fiery vinyasa practice, or can be utilized on days of the moon.
At first, when you look at yoga and the moon you may not see the correlation, but dig a little deeper and you will see all of the subtle ways in which the lunar calendar, cycles and energy pop up in this ancient practice.