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A yogi’s guide to working with the Full Moon


A yogi’s guide to working with the Full Moon to restore energy

Credit: Jacob Postuma

Have you ever been mesmerised by a Full Moon in the sky as it exudes beautiful, cooling light? What are the forces that draw you in? Going a little deeper, are you aware of the influences the moon has on your physiology, energetic body and mind?

A Full Moon occurs when the sun and moon are opposite from each other, gravitationally influencing the earth. With its pull, it changes the tides of the ocean, signifying fulfilment and completion. It also calls for reflection and gratitude for the abundance in your life.

“Full” is the term describing the moon as it reflects light from the sun. It denotes an abundance of acquired goodness, heightened energy, receptivity and strength, but this fullness can also manifest in the overflow of emotions, erratic behaviour and overheated conversations, bringing with them physical and emotional tension.

This article honours the Full Moon and offers practices to align with its energy, enhance your connection to the lunar cycle, release tension and restore yourself, leaving you feeling grounded, rejuvenated and fulfilled.

Influence of the Full Moon: Ayurveda & yoga

Ayurveda (the healing system of India and sister science of yoga) observes the healing forces of the universe and has a deep connection with its cycles. This is practised by aligning with its natural rhythms, adapting seasonal diets, adjusting to the cycles of the sun by modifying eating and sleeping patterns (eg waking up at sunrise) and allowing time for rest, reflection, meditation, ceremony and self-care in the dark hours).

Moon salutations are highly soothing and cooling in their nature. Incorporate them into your evening practice on the days of Full Moon as well as any time when you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, overstimulated or overheated.

The system of Ayurveda has three energies (doshas) that govern physiological activity in the body; they are known as vata, pitta and kapha. The body is also influenced on a physical, mental and emotional level by the five elements.

According to Ayurveda, the energy of the Full Moon is closely connected to kapha dosha (earth and water elements, responsible for moisture, stability and structure in your body). This dosha carries the qualities of heaviness, coolness, density and slowness, which you may notice reappearing in your mind and body during the Full Moon. When balanced, this energy has nurturing qualities and cools “fiery” behaviours and heightened emotions, manifesting in stability, sensuality, grounding and creativity.

Yoga and the moon

Hatha yoga recognises that every yang quality has its yin counterpart. Masculine has a feminine polarity, with shakti female energy ruled by the Moon (associated with love, compassion and creativity) and shiva male energy governed by the sun.

BKS Iyengar further elaborated in his book The Tree of Yoga, “Ha means sun, which is the sun of your body, that is to say your soul, and tha means moon, which is your consciousness. The energy of the sun never fades, whereas the moon fades every month and again from fading comes to fullness.”

The aim of hatha yoga is to achieve balance between the solar and lunar energies, between activity and receptivity. This is why traditional yogis honour the auspiciousness of sunrise (performing sun salutations) and sunset (saluting the moon) for practising yoga.

The energy of the Full Moon relates to the force of prana, the end of the inhalation, characterised by a feeling of fullness, upward-moving energy and expansiveness. While you may feel energetically elevated, you may also experience amplified emotions, yet lacking the sense of being grounded.

Full Moon practices for a yogi

Lighten up your diet

Experiencing a sense of heaviness and sluggishness during the Full Moon is common, so you may want to eat lighter, nurturing, easily digestible and freshly cooked sattvic (prana-rich) meals to balance out the heaviness and coolness of the Full Moon. Nourishing kitchari, a light and simple Ayurvedic dish of rice and mung beans prepared with fresh seasonal vegetables and spices, is a suitable option during this time.

Cultivate gratitude

“Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small, and an appreciation of the moments of good fortune that sustain our life every day,” writes Jack Cornfield, a renowned meditation teacher and author of The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace.

A growing number of scientific studies have examined the effects of gratitude on mental and physical health. They have revealed that a gratitude practice lifts your spirits, promotes empathy, boosts happiness and can also enhance your relationships, decrease depression and improve your heart health.

How to:

This simple practice can be done as a formal seated meditation with your eyes closed, or as a relaxed journaling exercise.

Set your timer for 10 or 15 minutes.

  • Sit comfortably and begin to reflect, visualise and feel in your heart the people and things you are grateful for. It might be your family and their love, your friends and their support, your loyal pets, your life with its material abundance, the beautiful nature surrounding you as well as the country you live in. The list can be as expansive as you like.
  • Be thankful for the gift of the life you have been given; your ability to smell, hear and taste. Express gratitude for your body and how it functions, the wisdom you possess and the love you radiate.
  • Feel this gratitude deeply in your heart, recognising how much you have to be grateful for.
  • On completion of your practice, remain still for a few moments with your eyes closed, reflecting on how you feel.

Practise calming Left-Nostril Breathing (chandra bhedana pranayama)

According to yoga philosophy, the left nostril relates to ida nadi. This energy channel is associated with cooling lunar (chandra) energy. Chandra nadi has also been linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response), the left side of the body and the right hemisphere of the brain, which focuses on intuition and creativity.

Chandra bhedana pranayama involves inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right nostril.

A pilot study conducted at the Advanced Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research (ACYTER) involved 22 hypertension patients practising 27 rounds of Left-Nostril Breathing. The research revealed that the patients had an immediate decrease across cardiovascular parameters, including a reduction in heart rate together with systolic and pulse pressure, declaring it effective in hypertension management.

Along with cardiovascular benefits, nurturing chandra bhedana pranayama is practised to reduce internal heat, refresh the body, quieten the mind, elicit deep relaxation and promote better sleep.

How to:

  • Sit in a comfortable position either in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or on a cushion with your legs crossed.
  • Keep your face and shoulders relaxed and your spine erect.
  • Bring your right hand into vishnu mudra by folding your index and middle fingers into the base of your right thumb, and keeping your thumb, ring and little fingers extended.
  • Rest your thumb lightly over your right nostril, and your ring and little fingers over the left nostril.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb and slowly inhale through your left nostril.
  • Then close your left nostril with your ring and little fingers and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Close the right nostril again and continue inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right for a further 10 cycles, slowly building your practice to 27 rounds with time. (All inhalations are done through the left nostril and all exhalations are done through the right nostril.)
  • This exercise can be practised before or after yoga, or on its own.

Yoga for the Full Moon

This sequence introduces you to semi-circular calming moon salutations. It will replenish your energy and offers an alternative to heating and stimulating sun salutations.

Moon salutations are highly soothing and cooling. Incorporate them into your evening practice on the days of Full Moon, as well as any time you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, overstimulated or overheated.

Salutations to the moon (chandra namaskar)

  1. Upward Salute Side Bend pose (parsva urdhva hastasana)
  • Begin in Mountain pose, standing towards the front of your mat, facing its longer left-hand side, with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Join the palms of your hands together (anjali mudra) at your heart centre. Take a few deep breaths, anchoring yourself and grounding through your feet, distributing your weight evenly.
  • Inhale, raise your arms up, interlacing the fingers and turning your palms upward. On an exhalation, bend to the right side, allowing your hips to draw to the left, gazing down or upwards.
  • Inhale, come back to the centre and repeat on the other side.
  1. Goddess Squat pose (utkata konasana)
  • As you inhale, take a big step with your left foot out to the left, and turn your heels in and toes out at a 45-degree angle.
  • On an exhalation, bend your knees out to the sides, allowing your hips to descend deeply, pressing your chest forwards.
  • Bend your elbows at the height of your shoulders at a 90-degree angle and turn your palms to face each other, spreading your fingers and pointing them upwards.
  • Keep your arms active, engage your back muscles to maintain length in your spine and draw your tailbone towards the floor.
  1. Star pose (utthita tadasana) à Triangle pose (utthita trikonasana) on the left side facing the back of your mat
  • Straighten your legs and extend your arms out to the sides, with your feet parallel, about one leg length apart in Star pose.
  • Transition into Triangle pose by turning your left foot to face the back of your yoga mat, and your right toes in and right heel slightly out.
  • Inhale, elongate through your torso, lifting the left ribcage, and lengthen from the left hip crease.
  • On an exhalation, take the left arm down and right arm up, keeping your left shoulder over the right.
  • Place your right hand on the left shin, ankle or a prop, or bring your fingertips on to the floor, keeping the sides of your torso long.
  1. Intense Side Stretch pose (parsvottanasana) on the left side
  • Bring your hands down towards the floor on either side of the left foot, adjusting the position of your back (right) foot to position the front of the pelvis to face the back edge of your mat. Draw the left hip back and the right hip slightly forward.
  • Inhale, lift your chest and remain here if you feel enough sensation. To go deeper, exhale and fold over the left leg, firming your quadriceps.
  1. Low Lunge pose (anjaneyasana) with the left foot facing the back of the mat
  • Keep your hands on either side of your left foot at the back of your mat. Lift your right heel off the floor, bend your left knee and lower your right knee to the floor for Low Lunge.
  • Inhale, bring your arms up and as you exhale gently bring your hips forward.
  1. Side Squat pose (skandasana) on both sides
  • Place your hands on the inside of your left foot and turn to the longer side of your mat, lowering into Side Squat pose. Keep your left knee bent and extend your right leg, coming onto your right heel. Exhale.
  • Inhale, lift your hips to move over to the other side by bending your right knee into skandasana and extend your left leg; inhale.
  1. Low Lunge pose (anjaneyasana) with the right foot forward, facing the front of your mat
  • Now you are ready to reverse the moon salutation, repeating on the other side.
  • On your exhalation, lift your back left heel of the floor and place your hands beside either side of the right foot, which now faces the front of your mat. Lower your left knee onto the floor.
  • Inhale, rise up into Low Lunge with the right foot forward.
  1. Intense Side Stretch pose (parsvottanasana) with the right foot forward towards the front of the mat
  • As you exhale (with your right foot forward), step your left foot in so your pelvis faces the front of the mat.
  • Inhale, lengthen your spine. On an exhalation, either stay there or fold over the right leg, as you did on the previous side.
  1. Triangle pose (utthita trikonasana) on the right side facing the front of your mat
  • On your next in-breath, enter into Triangle pose. Place your fingertips on the outside of the front (right) foot, or your right hand on the shin, ankle or a prop, with your left arm extended upwards. Exhale.
  • Star pose (utthita tadasana) à Goddess pose (utkata konasana)
  • Inhale, bring yourself back up into Star pose, with your legs straight, feet parallel and arms extended to the sides.
  • Exhale into Goddess pose by bending your knees out to the sides, allowing your hips to descend deeply, pressing your chest forward.
  • Bend your elbows at the height of your shoulders at a 90-degree angle and turn your palms to face each other, spreading your fingers and pointing them upwards.
  • Mountain pose (tadasana)
  • On an inhalation, straighten your legs and step your feet in to touch, bringing your hands into the heart centre in tadasana. 

This is one half of the circle. You are now invited to repeat it, beginning towards the back left-hand side of your yoga mat. The right foot will step out to the side into Goddess pose.

As you do the first two to three rounds of moon salutations, move slowly and stay in each pose for 3–5 deep breaths. As you become familiar with the sequence, you will develop a natural flow. You may incorporate the breath cues described in the sequence, or simply allow your breath to find its own pace.

Practise chandra namaskar for a minimum of six rounds, alternating the right and the left sides of the body. Then take a long savasana (Corpse pose) in the moonlight (where possible), comfortably lying on your back. Allow yourself plenty of time for restoration and assimilation of the effects of the practice.

Bathe in the moonlight

Apart from dinacharya (a daily regimen), Ayurveda equally advocates a nightly routine (ratricharya) to sync you with the lunar rhythms that invite you to slow down and turn inwards.

Acharya Shunya, an internationally recognised Vedic scholar, Ayurveda teacher, author and the founder of Vedika Global, describes this notion: “If we were to pause long enough from our preoccupations at night-time and simply gaze at the moon from a window or a balcony [or lying down in your backyard basking in the light of the Full Moon], we would discover that moon rays have a special calming and relaxing effect on our minds.”

The refreshing effect of the Full Moon can relieve tension, emotional intensity, heat (fiery pitta dosha) and exhaustion. Namaste.



 

Mascha Coetzee

Mascha Coetzee is a yoga teacher, holistic health coach, nutrition assistant and linguist, and a practitioner of hatha yoga, inclusive of ashtanga, vinyasa and yin yoga. She integrates the wisdom of yoga, Ayurveda, CTM and modern research in her lifestyle and teachings. Mascha is based in Launceston, Tasmania.