The fanfare surrounding the moon cycles, as you might have noticed in popular culture, came about during an interesting time. Over the last few years, there has been a massive + collective return to the feminine following of the lunar cycles. Beyond general astrology and astronomy, the moon has become a guiding light (or space of darkness, crescent, gibbous) for a wide variety of folks. In my personal teachings, I like to include the guidance of the moon and its cycles so as to invite balance into our present state through physical movement.
This inclusion of the moon cycles in yoga asana is not a new thing; ashtanga yogis following a regular Mysore practice will have ‘Moon Days.’ That is, on New and Full Moons, they take the day off from their usual Primary, Secondary, or beyond series. Why bother with this? Well, as you might have gathered but the now common occurrence of someone “blaming the moon” for their state or funky mood, there has long been support -- through human experience alone -- that the moon does massively affect us. So, on days when the moon is especially energizing or draining, it’s best not to step onto the mat without taking such into account.
As we don’t all follow the Ashtanga ways, there are a few ways to balance the essences of the moon, while still taking the time to step onto your mat. First, let’s paint a picture of what the major moon phases represent and how they might influence you. From there, I’ll expand upon a few ways to come into balance amidst the changing tides.
New Moon Days
The start of the moon cycle, a New Moon marks a reset within darkness. Generally, this is a solid time to slow down, take stock, evaluate self with a gentle gaze, and set some intentions for the next few weeks, especially as the light begins to grow (AKA the moon begins to wax towards Full).
On a New Moon day, you might feel called to rest up a bit more. A nap might be necessary, and I would highly encourage one. That being said, an energizing Vinyasa or Ashtanga sequence might not be ideal for you on this day. Rather, drop into some Yin shapes and a slow flow.
Bananasana is the ideal shape for most New Moons, no matter the specific essences at play.
This is a perfect stand alone shape if you only have a few minutes to ground down in your body on a busy day. It opens up fresh energy channels, grants the lungs a ton of rejuvenating airflow, and soothes your nervous system. To arrive in Bananasana, lay down on your back. Stretch your legs out long and your arms up overhead; keep your entire body flat on the ground. For the first side, we’ll start on the right. Shift your hips an inch or so over towards the left. Walk your heels, bringing your legs, of course, with you, over towards the right. Find a subtle curve through the lower body. Then, as you’re ready, mirror your legs with your arms and hands by walking them over towards the right, as well. Breathe deep along your left side body to provide optimal airflow through the lungs. You have the option here to cross your left ankle over your right for added depth in the lower body and/or bring your right hand to grasp your left wrist for added intensity in the upper body. Hold for 3-8 minutes. Reverse the motions to find your way out and reset at center before moving to the other side.
For the other side, shift your hips towards the right. Walk your heels and legs over towards the left. Mirror this position with your arms and hands. Option to cross your ankles, right over left, or grasp your right wrist with your left hand. Hold for approximately the same amount of time as the first side before finding your way back to center.
If you’re feeling especially ‘burnt out’ to an extent and need a pick-me-up, you might weave in a few Sun Salutations upon waking up, but carve out most of your practice time for more Yin shapes and slow flow movements.
Full Moon Days
Full Moons. You probably know this feeling a bit better than New Moons as they’re more ‘popular’ in a funny way. It could be because they make us all a little crazy, or because of their energizing effect, they become more talked about and embraced.
On a Full Moon, your ideal practice balances where you are. If you’re feeling frantic and like you’re wading in a mess of everything, then find some Yin shapes. Slow down. Tune in.
If you’re wanting to step into the light and your power that is amplified under skies such as these, then a creative Vinyasa flow would be best. I always grant extra time within a general Vinyasa flow class for students to move intuitively when we’re dealing with Full Moon essences. They’re bubbly and invigorating. They remind us of our wild spirits and when we embrace that, with conscious movement and breath, we can tap into some wonderfully ecstatic energy.
My go-to asana for the Full Moon is a groovy cat + cow. It sounds simple, but I’ll expand with some key cues for you:
Bring intuition + your heart into play here. My teacher always said that ‘God is in your spine’ and cat + cow shows us as much. There’s a reason it’s in nearly every teacher’s warm-up sequence, and why it’s so accessible to most folks. Naturally, instinctually, we know how to move when in that position (table top with hands and knees on the ground). Move in every direction. Send your hips forward and back. Make circles. Tuck and untuck your toes. Rise up onto your base knuckles, off of your palms, and then come back down to ground. Drop into puppy pose, then shift, curl back into child’s pose. Let it be an ecstatic dance of sorts on Full Moon days. Let it be a space for massive self-expression. One with minimal pauses for thoughts that might hold you back or have you question where you’re going to move next. Be embodied on your Full Moon days.