In yoga, you’ll often hear references to the moon, whether that’s in the name of a pose (e.g. Half Moon) or in the teachings of some instructors. For example, they may reference the moon if your class falls on the day of a new moon or full moon. In this article, we break down why the moon is so significant in yoga, and how it can help deepen your practice and connection with the Earth.
It Begins in the Name
“Hatha yoga” is the term used to describe yoga exercise (physical postures). The word hatha means willful or forceful. Translated from Sanksrit, ha means “sun” and tha means “moon.” Together, they relate to the balance of masculine and feminine energy within all of us. The masculine part of us is the sun – hot and energetic, and the feminine part of us is the moon – calm and grounded.
When we practice yoga, we are working toward balancing these masculine and feminine energies; to unite the opposites. Think about how a typical hatha yoga class flows; you have the energizing poses that bring fire to the body, like Sun Salutations and Warrior poses, and the calming and grounding poses, like pigeon and happy baby. Hatha yoga is a powerful practice. It is a tool for balancing the body and calming the mind.
The New Moon and Full Moon
So how does all this relate to the moon? Well, the sun and moon work together to create a gravitational pull on the Earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle.
Each month, there is a new moon and a full moon. The full moon corresponds to the top of an inhalation; when the force of prana (energy) is the strongest. Take a deep inhale and hold your breath. Do you feel the energy building up in your body? During the full moon we tend to be more energetic, more headstrong, more motivated, and more likely to take action.
The new moon corresponds to the end of an exhalation, when apana is at its greatest (downward energy). Close your eyes and take a deep exhale. Notice as your lungs empty, your energy naturally drains away with the breath. You feel more calm and grounded. During the new moon, we tend to be more reflective, contemplative and still – maybe even a little physically exhausted.
Just as our breath affects our physical disposition, the moon cycle affects the Earth. This is most visible by observing the tides of the ocean. During a new moon or full moon, the tides are higher, the waves are bigger, and the ocean life behaves differently – it’s quite an incredible natural phenomenon. When this happens, we are all instruments in the hands of Mother Nature. We begin to realize our connection with all other living things. Honoring the moon cycle is a way of aligning ourselves to the energetic forces that are always around us.
New Moon Yoga Traditions
Many say that a new moon is a time to let go. It’s a time for turning inward and planting the seeds for new beginnings.
Some of ways you can celebrate the new moon include:
- Making space for new things. Find a cozy spot and sit with your thoughts. Then make a list of all the things you are ready to let go of: guilt, toxic relationships, negative self-talk. Burn or tear up this list once you are truly ready to let it go.
- Now that you’ve symbolically created space in your life for new things, it’s time to set goals. Check-in with some goals you already have, or take the time to create some new ones. Be gentle with yourself, without feeling guilt for not achieving them sooner. Write these goals down with a renewed energy and inspiration for the month ahead.
- Rest and renew. Allow yourself to sleep in, eat comfort food that’s easy to digest, read an inspirational book, practice restorative yoga and take it easy.
- Find a comfortable spot and close your eyes. Allow your thoughts to drift in and out of your mind, without becoming attached or fixated on any one thing. Allow yourself to rest in quiet awakefulness. Once finished, bow to yourself and the new moon above in gratitude.
Full Moon Yoga Traditions
Between a new moon and a full moon, the energy builds and builds. The full moon is a powerful time to release this energy, unburden yourself and purge. It’s a time to take action on the intentions you set yourself during the new moon; to celebrate your emergence by stepping out of an old skin, a negative behavior, relationship or attitude, and cleansing yourself.
Some of the ways you can celebrate the full moon include:
- Taking some time to reflect. Write down what you’re releasing, then light a candle and burn it. The flame of the candle is a purifier and symbolizes the sparks of inspiration.
- Sit under the full moon and feel it’s energy above you. Walk around barefoot outdoors to feel your connection to the earth.
- Practice an energetic yoga class, like Hatha, Power Yoga or Hot Yoga. Embrace your masculine energy.
- Eat a full, hearty meal without guilt!
- Take a long bath or shower to cleanse your body.
Celebrate the New Moon and Full Moon with Yoga City
There’s no time like the present to start a moon ritual. Yoga City will be hosting mediations sessions every month for the new moon and full moon. Come join us to create quiet space for yourself for contemplation and self-reflection.
$5 for members and $10 for non-members. Please email email@example.com to reserve your spot.
Debbie is a Yoga Instructor at Yoga City, Mississauga. She has been practicing yoga since 2008 and completed her 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in 2016 with Yoga City. Debbie has a professional background in writing and digital marketing, with a passion for Health, Wellbeing and Personal Growth. She is thrilled to be able to combine both as the Editor of the Yoga City blog. You can follow Debbie on Instagram @yoga.bee