The Sun is now diving into the deep unconscious waves of watery Pisces. Under this influence we can access our inner mystic, poet and dreamer. Pisces loves to connect to the deep inner self to cultivate empathy and compassion. The Piscean creative flow encourages us to dream and to connect to our deep inner bliss body.
This is a good time to slow down, to let go, to let flow, to trust and to have faith. Pisces gives us permission to daydream and to reflect. We may feel the desire to indulge and go on a retreat, leaving our daily routines behind, swim in ours oceans, rivers and lakes to soak up nature’s healing energy. Imagine yourself as a mystical mermaid, wild, free and adventurous. Delve into the world of magic and imagination remembering your inner power of creativity.
The mythical mermaid archetype delves in the deep waters of the imagination and embodies self-love and self-empowerment. On the yoga mat she asks us to integrate creative spontaneous movement and to focus on the emotional quality of everything we experience. Tantra yoga refers to this as rasa which translates as the energetic essence of human emotion. Rasa is in everything and remains the invisible substance that gives life its meaning.
During asana practice we can apply three fundamental rasas: vira (courage), shanti (peace) and sringara (love). When these rasas are cultivated, the thinking mind quietens and pure feeling pulses through our body. This transformational state of awareness is a type of communion between ourselves and that which surrounds us and we are left feeling united with our current experience. Incorporating rasa to our practice allows us to move with grace and fluidity. It moves us away from the analytical thinking mind towards the heart centre of creativity and imagination.
“Always be yourself unless you can be a mermaid, then always be a mermaid”
With the regal influence of Leo, today’s super full moon eclipse is especially potent and has the potential to create major ripples in our lives. This eclipse invites us to use our resources and influence to manifest major change. This is the time to find our inner courage and to speak up in support of issues of social justice, in particular to support women in their struggle for respect and equality in the workplace and in society in general.
The symbolism of Durga is similar to that of Leo and the Strength card in tarot. She is depicted as a regal queen riding on a lion. Durga’s mission is to protect the community from the negative forces of prejudice, hatred, greed, selfishness and anger. She is that aspect of our nature which is compelled to act out fearlessly and to make a positive difference in the world. No challenge is too big for this magnificent goddess as she rides her lion into battle to eliminate the demons of self-doubt.
In yoga we evoke the powerful energy of Durga to remind us of our own inner strength. During asana practice this helps us to dig deep and find our inner courage as we flow through challenging poses. This leaves us feeling fearless and boosts our confidence.
Another powerful way to invoke the power of Durga is to chant the mantra “Om Dum Durgayei Namaha” which translates as “Salutations to the feminine energy that protects from all negative influences”. Chanting this mantra helps us to overcome fear and transform the limiting destructive forces in our lives, chanting with this intent helps us to stimulate and awaken the energy of change.
Durga represents the Cosmic Mother and the remover of obstacles. She teaches us to believe in ourselves, to live in our truth and to respect ourselves.
Durga’s key teachings are to never doubt our own power, to stand firmly in our truth, and to call forth our fearless heart.
Venus and the Sun are both currently travelling through Aquarius helping us to focus on our relationship to the wider world. The sign of Aquarius is forward-looking and growth-oriented, concerned with social justice, equality and individual freedom for all.
Although Aquarius is represented by the water bearer, he is nonetheless an air sign, detached and intellectual. The waves pouring out of his vessel are energy waves. In yoga we can feel these energy waves circuiting through our bodies with the practice of chanting.
Chanting is a combination of sound, breath and rhythm that helps us channel our energy with the intention of transmitting certain frequency vibrations. This practice has subtle yet powerful psychological and physiological effects on our bodies. Everything living thing in the universe is in a state of vibration, when we are in a natural harmonious vibration we are in a state of health but if some part of the body begins to vibrate at a counter frequency, the energy becomes stuck and creates dis-ease. In yoga we use mantric chanting to release stuck energy in the body returning it to its natural state of wellness.
The vibrations created from chanting stimulates the hypothalamus gland in the brain which regulates communication between the nervous system and the endocrine system, it absorbs information from our body and transmits it outward again via our ‘happy hormones’ serotonin and dopamine. This help to balance our moods, our metabolism and our nervous system.
On an energetic level, chanting fills our bodies with breath carrying prana (life force) through each of the chakras from the base of the spine to the top of the crown where the vibrations we create are released out into the world. Stimulating our chakras this way helps in the smooth functioning of different body organs keeping them healthy.
On a spiritual level, chanting is the easiest way to raise our vibration and to harmonize our frequency with the divine universe, it allows us to unite with all of existence.
An appropriate mantra to chant during this humanitarian Aquarian time is “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” which translates as “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” This mantra has been used for centuries to invoke greater states of compassion and peace. By chanting this mantra, we move from our personal self and radiate an intention of love for all beings in existence, including all animals, plants, planets and galaxies. This mantra is a reminder that we can all make a positive impact on all of creation.
“Chanting opens the heart and makes love flow within us” - Swami Muktananda
Today the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn heralding a period of focus, productivity and pragmatism. This is a good time to set goals for the next chapter in our lives. Simultaneously, Saturn Lord of order reenters his own sign in Capricorn after a 29 year jaunt around the zodiac, and he is here to stay for the next 3 years. Time to make those 3 year plans!
Capricorn is the taskmaster of the heavens and has a reputation for being a workaholic, these goats work with focussed determination forever grasping for the next reward to achieve success through hard work and perseverance. This influence is one to be careful of especially during the silly season when we are all prone to burning the candle at both ends. To work hard and play hard can lead to stress, exhaustion, anxiety and can reek havoc on our nervous system.
It could be said that our results-driven society is ruled by the characteristics of Saturn, the ruler of Capricorn, creating a culture of individuals who are forever in pursuit of the next big thing and never content with the here and now. Many of us have developed a habit of looking outside ourselves for validation and fulfilment. The truth is that we can only ever be ourselves and to ignore our inner greatness leads us to ongoing discontent and unhappiness.
The great lesson for all of us at this time is Santosha as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Santosha means contentment, it means letting go of striving for what we don’t have and accepting what you do have with gratitude. It means being happy with what we have, where we are, and who we are. It means not looking outside of ourselves for happiness, it shows us that peace comes from within. We live in a consumerist society that feeds our discontent in order to sell us more stuff, we are conditioned from a very young age to want more. We also know from our own experience and the stories of others that having more stuff (including power and influence) does not bring us any lasting fulfilment and often leaves us empty. We can easily get caught up in this continual cycle of striving for more in the hope that the next thing will bring us happiness, and so the wheel of samskara keeps spinning.
Santosha can only be achieved by letting go of desire, letting go of having to prove anything, letting go of the need to conform, to fit in and to be what our culture/family/friends/peers want us to be. If we allow wealth, power or fame to be our driving force towards fulfilment, all other aspects of our lives including our relationships, our health, and our spirituality suffer.
It’s important to note that Santosha does not advocate sitting on the couch doing nothing, it isn’t to be confused with complacency. It simply means accepting and appreciating what we already have. Practicing gratitude feeds our confidence and creates a sense of well-being. When we are satisfied with ourselves and our lives, we are able to enjoy life more fully.
One way to create Santosha in our lives is by practicing mindfulness, which is to bring conscious attention to the present moment without judgment and finding contentment here. Mindfulness is not a passive activity and does not simply rest in acceptance but encourages us to bring awareness to the tendencies of our minds. Observing how our mind behaves then helps us to distance ourselves and to gently redirect our thoughts in a way that serves us. Cultivating Santosha brings us deep satisfaction and relieves us from being slaves to our minds and to a culture driven by power and money.
The path of yoga is to seek the truth rather than believing the cravings of the mind. By practicing mindfulness and cultivating Santosha we are better able to detach from our desires and cultivate an inner peace and joy that is not dependent on external circumstances. We find our own strength and our own truth from within. When we feel Santosha we begin to enjoy the simple things in life and we begin to notice just how abundant we really are.
“When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you” - Lao Tzu
Today is the last Full Moon for 2017 falling in the air sign of Gemini, it is also a Super Moon so its energy is amplified.
The moon represents our emotional needs and all that we need to feel safe and secure, under the Gemini influence this is all about communication. During this time our motives and intentions will come to light allowing our truth to rise to the surface. This is a good time to express ourselves, to speak our truth, to say what we mean and mean what we say. However, the way we speak our truth is a practice that for many of us needs contemplation and refinement. The Gemini tendency is to think feelings and to broadcast them immediately without pause or thought. This full moon encourages us to stop before we speak and bring mindfulness to our speech.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali speaks of Satya (truthfulness) as one of the five yamas (constraints). To speak our truth in a way that is mindful means slowing down, allowing time to filter and carefully consider our words so that we have the space to choose them wisely. When we speak instantly as a reaction to certain situations it is often on a purely primitive level, we’re often not seeing the truth and are speaking from a place of fear and conditioning. When we practice meditation we are able to create a fraction more time to process situations before speaking out. This allows the more evolved part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, to consider before the primitive brain takes over. A daily meditation practice helps us to take some time observing our thoughts as they arise and watching them pass without getting caught up in them. This way we get to experience and see that all thoughts, emotions and situations come and go and are in fact not true. Satya encourages us to speak our truth in such a way as to not create harm to another remembering that personal opinions are not the truth, they are merely constructed from our personal conditioning and experience.
Like yoga, Satya needs continual practice and refinement. As we consistently bring more awareness to our words, we find an improvement in all our relationships including the relationship to ourselves. When all falsity ends we are set free to live in truth. To speak from Satya is to bring out the very best in ourselves and in others. When we do this, we are contributing to the creation of a world that we want to live in, a world based in truth, kindness, clarity and connection.
“When the practitioner is firmly established in the practice of the truth, her/his words become so potent that whatever (s)he says comes to realisation” - Yoga Sutras
The Sun enters Sagittarius today calling us to think big and to act on our vision, to imagine a better world, to expand our minds and our belief systems. Sagittarius is fiery and mutable and carries with it an optimism that reminds us to have faith and to connect to something greater than ourselves.
The Saggitarian centaur teaches us to search for our purpose in life and is especially concerned with bringing more consciousness into our daily lives. This is a great time to set goals and to take steps in that direction, it’s time to listen to our intuition and ask ourselves whether our actions are in line with our higher purpose.
The centaur energy is active and busy and also has the tendency to run wild without focus so the challenge presented to us is to practice Tapas as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Tapas is focussed discipline, passion and enthusiasm. Without focus, the centaur energy can be wasted. While we search for higher meaning in our lives, there comes a point when we need to pause and channel our energies towards a particular practice, otherwise there is a danger of fleeting from one modality to the other without ever giving ourselves the time to savour, absorb and let the benefits of our practice unfold.
Practicing Tapas helps us to direct our energy and to keep it on track. We can do this in our asana practice with core work to build our inner fire and to burn away physical, mental and emotional impurities. The core is where our Manipura Chakra resides and directly influences our willpower and confidence. The element governing Saggitarius, Tapas and Manipura is fire, representing transformation and renewal. For transformation to occur we need the will and the courage to step beyond our comfort zone, this may mean practicing postures that we are not comfortable with. It is often said that the asanas we want to avoid are the ones we need to practice the most, by doing this we build confidence and dissolve our self-limiting beliefs. By facing our challenges we ignite our inner fire and create change, on and off the mat.
Tapas is the passion to practice for the love of it and committing to that practice. It is to burn through our negative thought patterns and remind ourselves of our passion for yoga.
“Practice and all is coming”- Pattabhi Jois
The full moon today is at 12° Taurus and reflects the light of the Sun in Scorpio. This creates an interesting tension between the stable, grounded and patient bull who does not want to budge from its pleasure zone, and the scorpion who is itching for change, growth and depth. Taurus wants pleasure, comfort and is prone to inertia whilst Scorpio is pushing for transformation which can only occur outside our comfort zone.
Taurus lives in the material world and is strongly attached to the good things in life, sensual pleasures and beautiful objects but to experience only the pleasurable aspects of life is to only experience part of what life has to offer. Our life gives us the opportunity to experience and learn from every aspect of our being, the light and the dark, and to truly live we must not push away the things we don’t want to feel, but allow them to happen, understanding that everything changes and passes.
The most powerful way to practice this on the yoga mat is through mindfulness, which is the practice of being acutely aware of everything that occurs in the present moment, with our body, energy, emotions, and thoughts. Through the practice we notice the sensations of the body, the thoughts that come up, our reaction to certain poses especially those that create discomfort. We watch the stories that our minds create from the viewpoint of the witness. As we continue to practice this way, we begin to notice our habitual thought patterns and over time, we learn not to get involved with these thought patterns. With practice we become more aware of our attachments and aversions, and we can let the moment be what it is without trying to cling to it or to push it away. It is only then that we can really be present in the moment.
Attachment to objects, people, habits and thoughts is wasteful of our energy as none of these things belong to us and everything is in constant flux and flow. We learn this on the mat as we transform from one shape into another with grace and acceptance, no matter what comes up for us in the moment, be it pleasure or discomfort. This teaches us to let go of our fears, our desires and setting ourselves free. Asana and meditation practice is about being able to sit with whatever may be happening and trusting that inside of it all lies eternal freedom - the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer.
“The spiritual life is always about letting go. It is never about holding on” - Rev Jesse Lee Peterson
Today the sun transits out of harmonious and peaceful Libra into the emotional and more intense sign of Scorpio. This ushers in a new energy which is deep and meditative. Scorpio symbolising re-birth and transformation on the deepest level, it is the most mysterious sign of the Zodiac and it invites us to explore the depths of the self.
Scorpio rules the sex organs, the bladder and the urinary tract. Any imbalances in these areas can cause headaches, back problems, urinary problems and disorders related to the hips, lower back, and reproductive system. Scorpio is an introverted sign, it tends to accumulate and store unresolved emotions, feelings, and inspiration deep down in the pelvis. This can trigger states of fear, indecision, low self-esteem, depression and loneliness.
To counteract these tendencies we can use our yoga practice to release tension in the hips and lower back. Hip openers are extremely important as they improve flexibility and promote strength and integrity in the lower body, activating the energy flow in the pelvic region. They also stretch the inner thigh and groin muscles helping to release many areas that are tight including the lumbar region. When working with tight hips we need to learn to sit with a certain amount of discomfort (not pain) without running from it. It is through this practice that we can slowly create more space in the hips by breathing deeply into the postures.
Energetically the hips are located at the second chakra Svadhisthana relating to sexuality, desire, pleasure, and creativity. When this sacral chakra is blocked it hinders our ability to let go and let flow, this may become evident in deep hip openers if we are unable to fully open up to the posture. It is believed that the hips are the area of the body where we store relationship issues of all kinds, especially our intimate relationships. Tight hips may indicate an inability to fully open up, and more importantly to fully love ourselves and therefore to love others. When the Svadhisthana chakra is out of balance we can feel an emotional numbness, stiffness in body and mind, a lack of or uncontrolled sexuality, and an inability to be alone. When this chakra is in harmony we feel more connected to others, we maintain good social skills, we have a healthier relationship to our sexuality, and we are more creative. Hip-openers can create space for the birth of new ideas and new pathways.
This month we have the opportunity to use the intense and emotional energy of Scorpio to delve deeply into our bodies and our psyches, to explore and discover any blockages and to release them into the light, leaving us more space to express ourselves creatively.
“By letting go, it all gets done” - Tao Te Ching
The full moon today is in Aries and features a Sun/Mercury conjunction in Libra. This aspect is related to fast, feisty and intense emotion which may manifest through the way that we communicate in our personal relationships. This is a good time to use your yoga practice to release any aggressive energies from your mind and body before you impulsively lash out with your words and say something that you may later regret.
Aries is ruled by Mars the god of war so the full moon in this sign may bring out repressed anger which you haven’t been able or willing to process or release. Asana practice is a great antidote to anger as it allows the energy to move through the body. This is a great time to practice all the Virabhadrasana (warrior postures) variations and to explore the archetype of the warrior.
Virabhadrasana teaches us that the real battle is not between us and the outside world (other people and/or circumstances) but rather it is an illusion of the mind which resides within ourselves, it is the perceived battle over the distractions of the body, our emotions, and our thoughts. The warrior postures are intended to develop the inner qualities of the Warrior essential for developing greater personal and spiritual potential.
In yoga mythology Virabhadra was a great warrior created by Shiva, the god of destruction and transformation. When we perform the Virabhadrasanas we are attempting to embody the inner qualities of empowerment, courage, clarity, and non-attachment. When practicing warrior poses allow yourself to feel your inner courage, power and confidence whilst remaining unattached to the outcome of all your efforts.
The lesson of Virabhadrasana is that when we are truly in our power, with the courage to look at everything with clarity of mind and non- attachment, we realize that there is nothing to fight against, we see that the battle is an illusion created by a mind that views the world as being separate from the self. Wars are fought by people only perceiving differences, unable to see the deeper inner truth of our oneness. A true warrior shines from within and recognizes the union (yoga) of all things. A true warrior has nothing to prove and nothing to fight against, they simply are, they shine bright just like the Moon and Mars in the evening sky.
“Warrior pose battles inner weakness and focus. You see that there is no war within you. You are on your own side. You are your own strength” - Krishnamacharya