“The Core” in Yoga is considered to be both a physical and energetic space.
It is literally the centre of our balance and our strength, on and off the mat. It is a key foundation and aspect of yoga practice that is accesible to everyone, and benefits practitioners of all levels and abilties.
On a physical level, core posture practice focuses on the entire abdonimal region, the waist and the belly, through what I refer to as engaging the external dynamic.
Cultivating the external dynamic, and dynamic activation, in core posture (asana), practice, with focused breathe work (pranayama) and specific core sequences (ullola) builds strength, tones the belly, flattens abdominals, supports the lower back, protects the sacrial joint, and has many other potential physical benefits including improving posture, increasing metabolism and aiding digestion.
But if nothing else, flowing gently through a core practice with some belly busting movements certainly awakens focus, internal awareness and connects us to the inherit intelligence that we already have in body and in mind.
This core connection brings us to an energetic space, through what I refer to as engaging the internal dynamic.
Through this internal dynamic, with mindful movement, we relax the mind bringing ease and effortlessness into our practice and into ourselves.
By awakening the internal dynamic, and internal activation, we also become aware of our core energy. We feel the power of the yogic core as it cultivates resilience, uplifts and energises – and as our practice becomes a little more juicy and delicious!
The issue of the moon and its effects has long been discussed in both science and yoga communities – and I have to admit I am one of those people who loves the moon!
Science tells us that the moon affects tidal rhythms - influencing the rise and fall of sea water levels with an increase in movement from the gravitaional attraction and pull of the Full Moon. (And if you’re wondering if the new moon also affects tides? It does, but I’ll write more about yoga and the new moon another time.)
Midwifes and childbirth professionals often swear that there is a surge in births during the Full Moon. My friend, an experienced midwife and labour & delivery nurse, says she never wants to work on a Full Moon because “it’s so intense” with expectant mother’s waters breaking and a ridiculously high number of deliveries. Ironically, she was born on a Full Moon herself!
On a Full Moon, you will also often hear people comment that their sleep was disrupted, and some studies have shown a Full Moon does affect the level of melatonin (sleep hormone) we produce, so it seems that the moon may indeed affect our sleep.
Some people feel the Full Moon alters their mood or behaviour saying “they went a bit mad.” The word “lunacy”, meaning madness, does come from the ancient Latin word “luna”, meaning moon. And I have found myself and others on a spontaneous night out in unusually ‘top galavanting form’ on more than one Full Moon night, so maybe there’s something in that too!
The moon is said to have a similar effect on us as it has on the sea, causing movement in our internal tides, thus impacting energy levels, joints, muscles, physical and even our emotional life.
We know that biologically humans are made up of mainly water. In adults the percentage of water in our body ranges from aprox. 60% to 70%, and in infants it’s even higher.
Simply put, on a Full Moon there is motion in the ocean, and in ourselves!
So what does any of this have to do with Yoga?
This Full Moon motion happening within our bodies and in ourselves, whether it is felt physically, emotionally or in some other way offers us a rich opportunity.
Yoga posture practice (asana) invites the balance between ‘opposites’, sun and moon, male and female, right and left, and so on. This is expressed in the Sanskrit word “hatha.” All physical aspects of yoga, or yoga posture practice, is a form of ‘ha-tha.’ Translated from Sanskrit, ‘ha’ means “sun”, and ‘tha’ means “moon.” This alone gives us an indication on the yogic connection to the moon, to our environment, as well as the relevance of and our relationship to the movement in the sky.
The Full Moon, and moon cycles, create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breathe cycle. The Full Moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the energy or life-force (prana) is greatest. We can tap into this energy in our practice to deepen our understanding of the dimensions of the breathe (pranayama) and of our experience of life – after all ‘Breathe is Life!’
A Full Moon naturally occurs during a specific month, time of year and season. So, each moon also holds an individual energy that is in synchronicity with one or more of the five yogic elements of earth, water, air, fire and space. We can reap more benefits from a Full Moon yoga practice that includes consideration and focus on this elemental resonance.
In my own life, I feel a personal influence and connection with the cycles of the moon, both on and off the mat. I have enjoyed cultivating, sharing and guiding practices and techniques that empower a direct experience and embodiment of the benefits of doing moon practices – and it is something that has become a valuable tool and useful part of my own life rhythm.
With Full Moon Yoga practices we can understand and honour each moon and its corresponding, unique energy so that we can connect, deepen and invigorate ourselves in body, in mind and in spirit to feel good, to be present and ultimately enrich our experience, our resilience and our openness to the ever-changing rhythms of life.
Moon-ing never felt so good!
NOTE: There are some practices that would not be suitable to do on moon days (such as ashtanga yoga, power yoga and some pranayama practices.) If practicing on your own, I would advise you choose to not to do these stronger physical practices on Full Moon & New Moon days. If in doubt ask an experienced yoga teacher for their advice or you can always just take the moon day off.
* This article was first published in Positive Life Magazine in 2012. It shares my memories of the first yoga retreat I attended back in 1998-ish, as well as some thoughts I had at the time on the benefits of retreat.
Full of nerves, I sent the email and booked myself into my very first yoga retreat.
I had no idea what to expect, I was excited but to be honest had my moments of wanting to back out as well. I was committed. I was going to head off to study yoga and to take time retreating, offering myself a different holiday experience.
When I arrived at the centre, I was greeted by a friendly reassuring smile, I felt like a child on the very first day of school, brimming over with curiosity and a belly full of butterflies.
I had heard many people say how beneficial going on a yoga retreat was- though I hadn’t really completely understood what they meant- but I was here now.
I unpacked and then went out to meet my fellow retreatees. Some were seasoned, many newbies, some solo and others coming with friends but everyone finding the lay of the land, like myself, before going to the yoga room for our first class together.
The first class was a perfect initiation, I was most pleased that I felt that I had done well, for a novice anyway, and was ready for the delicious meal that awaited us.
Over dinner, the same friendly face that welcomed me reviewed the weekly programme with the group. We also went through the retreat ‘rules’ which were really just a few things to remind us to be considerate, as we would all be sharing each others space…and amidst the chats and laughter…I knew I had arrived to a nurturing, positive and fun environment.
I was beginning to realise that I had truly embarked on a unique experience and as the weeks flew by the daily schedule was relaxed - while somehow supporting each of our own personal journeys - through yoga sessions, meditation, discussions, sharing meals while making new friends, with plenty of time for relaxing on my own as well.
Some days it felt easy and care free, while others were more challenging for me. By the end of the two weeks I was wishing I could stay longer and understood that the time I had taken on retreat would give me long-term benefits.
So what are the benefits of retreat?
- Simply put, Yoga retreats give you the fun and adventure of a holiday; while at the same time ensure you feel refreshed and fully revitalized.
- Retreat enables you to not only benefit for the months to follow but potentially for the rest of your life. You will, surprisingly, discover your optimum vitality, learn to relax, reduce stress levels and experience rich relationships in life through Yoga retreat.
- Retreats are normally off the beaten path or in unique locations. Most retreats are in locations where there is hardly any traffic or noise but for the sounds of the birds and of nature.
- In an environment of harmony, you get a real chance to relax, meditate and experience the benefits of Yoga.
- You will surely experience new dimensions of yourself that you may never before known existed; It was through retreat that I came to understand that to go on an inward journey of self-enquiry, within the exploration which is Yoga, is truly the greatest adventure of them all!