The Full Moon in Ayurveda & Yoga
by Elli Gold
March is here and on its second day of arrival, it is greeting us with a bright full moon, also the second full moon of the year. A full moon is always a great opportunity to feel and harness all the cosmic energy that naturally surrounds you, as well as to connect with yourself and nature. Now, let’s explore how the ancient practices of Ayurveda and Yoga look at the full moon:
Full Moon in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the ancient practice of medicine in India, a full moon if has a powerful healing force. To understand how, let’s start by naming the five master elements that constitute every-thing in the cosmos; the elements are air, fire, water, earth, and ether (space). They make up everything within our bodies and everything outside of our bodies.
Now, according to many parameters, such as character, habits, diet, even energy, season and time of the day, a person has one dominant specific dosha (mind-body type) and functions according to its characteristics. There are three doshas in Ayurveda; they are derived from the five elements and express unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. They are: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each dosha is formed from two out of the five master elements.
The full moon is associated with the Kapha energy, which has water and earth as its primary elements. Kapha expresses protection and structure. Kapha is enduring, solid, stable, smooth, slow, heavy, dense, steady, cool; Think of a clay pot made out of a blend of water and earth, much like your body. A full moon with its Kapha energy, brings with it a time of calming, nurturing, cooling and fullness, and it offers healing and transformation, especially for the relationships we have with all things “hot”, stimulating and energizing.
It awakes all these qualities into our minds and bodies during its phase. So on the 2nd March, it is time to naturally slow down, cool down from the rate of our everyday lives, silently observe our relationships with ourselves and others, reconnecting, rebalancing, reassessing, bringing in positive change, while feeling gratitude for all the beauty we have in our lives. It is a time to unleash your creativity, bring ideas and projects into life, honoring your inner child, the nurturing, creative genius we all have inside.
Full Moon in Yoga
In Yoga, the moon’s and sun’s gravitational pull, which come at a maximum every full and new moon, are compared to a person’s breath cycle. The full moon energy relates to the end of an inhalation, when the prana is at its greatest. This is a lifting, expansive energy force, making us feel not well grounded, emotional and energetic. Respectively, the new moon energy is linked to the end of an exhalation, when apana is at its peak. Apana is a down- and outward movement of prana through the body, which makes us feel naturally grounded and calm, usually wanting to abstain from activities that require physical effort.
“Hatha” Yoga, which is one of the most ancient Yoga practices along with Ashtanga, comes from the Sanskrit words “Ha” and “Tha”, which mean “sun” and “moon” respectively. The reason for that is the way the practice of Hatha Yoga is structured; Hatha Yoga is based on balancing the feminine and masculine sides within each person, the feminine part being the moon (yin)- cool and receiving- and the masculine part being the sun (yang)- hot and giving. The constitution of pranayama (breathwork) with asanas (postures) is meant to (re)create harmony within the body, by balancing the opposites. Let’s not forget that Yoga practice involves both masculine and feminine properties simultaneously in effect- effort, as well as surrender- to some extent trying and being engaged, and to some extent letting go.
Ashtanga Yoga follows a different tradition which honors the natural moon cycles by abstaining from practice on the days of the full and new moon. It is believed that the body is subject to the forces of the moon which are very strong on that day and can throw us off balance. Hence, accidents are observed to be more frequent during the full moon and new moon phases.
“As we become in tune with our natural cycles in the universe, we honor the rhythms of nature to live in greater harmony with it.” – April Saunders
What I personally do and recommend, is to do a short, gentle and opening practice that involves Moon Salutations and a few asanas that can help you optimally receive and use the energy of this celestial event. Specifically, this full moon in Virgo wants us to analyze how we feel.
Everything needs to be categorized, rationalized and analyzed, in order to understand what we really feel, so that it can assist us on a practical level. Meanwhile, opposite the moon, Pisces, Sun and Neptune combine their forces and bring forth a Dionysian dance of imagination, creativity, dream, idealization and self-transcendence. To cope with this balancing act that the Universe wants to put us in, we can prepare with a series of nourishing and gently strengthening Yoga poses that will help us stay grounded and connected, activated, yet calm.
Here is a practice with seven Yoga poses that will help you flow with this full moon’s intensity and passion:
First start by closing your eyes in a seated position and devote a moment to set your intentions around tonight’s full moon potential.
Proceed by doing 6 rounds of Anulom-Vilom (alternate nostril) breathing to balance your female and male nadis (energy channels– video demonstration here).
Do 6 rounds of Chandra Namaskars (Moon Salutations) to move your prana (life-force energy) in accordance to the energy that the full moon brings and gradually warm-up (video demonstration here).
Allow 2-3 minutes of Shavasana (Corpse Pose) when you are done, and then engage for 20’’-30’’ in each of the following asanas:
1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Tadasana is an excellent grounding pose, allowing us to rotate our body awareness through all parts of our body, steadily awakening each one, and gently generating energy from Mother Earth up through all of our body.
2) Veerasana I (Warrior I)
Veerasana is a very strong pose that helps us build up physical and emotional confidence. Picture yourself as a spiritual Warrior while holding the pose, and use your breath to move strain and negative feelings away from your body. It cultivates steadiness, determination and persistence, all qualities we want to harness for this full moon.
3) Veerasana II (Warrior II)
You can start de novo, or if you have energy left, continue to this permutation after the previous Veerasana I pose. Veerasana II a potent hip-opener, that helps release stagnant energy and negative emotions we might have been storing in our hips.
4) Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Of course, our practice wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include the ultimate asana to honor tonight’s cosmic event. Enter this asana slowly and steadily, as you will find out it is a challenge that calls for balance and patience. Perform on both sides.
5) Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
With this low lunge pose, you will begin to feel more open and accepting of emotions that your practice might have caused to surface. It is important to acknowledge the feelings we are experiencing, without judgement, patiently and mindfully. A problem can be truly solved if, and only if, we know its source.
6) Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
Ustrasana is a beautiful heart-opening deep back-bend. If you focus your awareness in your heart center while performing, you can experience feelings of self-love and appreciation, which in turn will create a strong foundation for what this Virgos full moon’s vibes can bring up.
7) Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
Finally, Kapotasana’s deep hip-opening action releases any stress stored as tightness in your lower body, really cleansing you of any old emotions you might not even know you still held on to. Finish with Shavasana (corpse pose) for at least 5 minutes.
So on the 2nd of March, take a moment and think how you want this full moon to find you, based on what it is bringing along with it. Prepare yourself mentally, psychologically and physically. Balance and ground by doing this simple Yoga sequence, so that you can make use of the natural potential the full moon bears, to take it slow, to transmute, to be creative. Make space to feel what you need to feel without judgement and learn from it as Virgo wants you to, with caution to not emotionally surrender and indulge in negativity. Know that when you are in a harmonious state and move along with the energetic tides of the days, you can unlock great possibilities with the power of a full moon.