Ever showed up for practice in your local Mysore Room and found the doors locked, lights off, and learned that it’s a “Moon Day”? Ever wondered why full moon and new moon days are observed as holidays in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition? Here are the top ten reasons we’ve found for Ashtanga Moon Days.
Water is affected by moon phases and human bodies are about 70% water. The phases of the moon are determined by the moon’s relative position to the sun. During a full and new moon, the sun and the moon are in a line relative to the position of the earth. When sun and the moon are in a line relative to the position of the earth, the gravitational forces are all combined to strongly affect water—and the human body. Okay, we agree. Not the most compelling reason. Hence #10.
#9 — Indian Astrology
“Yoga is India’s gift to the world.” — PM Narenda Modi.
In India, “Moon Day” is a loose translation of the Sanskrit term “tithi,” more closely translated as “lunar phase” than “Moon Day.” Each tithi is the time it takes for the the moon to traverse 12°, making 30 tithis, or lunar phases, per lunar cycle. Tithis begin at varying times of day, and vary in duration from about 19 to 26 hours. What loosely gets termed the full and new moon days, according to Sharath Jois, are actually the 15th and the 30th tithis of Indian Astrology, known as Jyotish (another fascinating subject).
#8 — Energy
Energetic changes related to moon cycles are compared to the breath cycle. Full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana, or energy, is greatest. This expansive, upward moving force makes us feel a little too energetic, too emotional, not well grounded. New moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana, a contracting, downward-moving force, makes us feel calm, grounded, and not inclined toward physical exertion. You can imagine why it might be good to rest from practice in either extreme.
#7 — Preservation of Knowledge
Some students reportedly recall that Pattabhi Jois and other teachers in Mysore, India espoused that knowledge retention was related to the moon. According to this notion, if a teacher teaches new subjects on the Moon Days, the teacher’s knowledge will decline. Whereas, if a teacher teaches a new subject on the day before or after Moon Days, the student’s knowledge will decline.
Guy Donahaye, in Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, says that Pattabhi Jois's astrologer concurred with the idea that Moon Day observation has something to do with the idea “as above, so below:” our mind, like the moon, waxes, wanes, and retains information in a cycle similar to the moon’s.
Maharaja's Pathashala, The Sanskrit College in Mysore, India, was closed each month for classes on the Moon Days, as well as the days before and after. Studies were continued by the students, but there were no new lessons. One reason for this was that on new moons and full moons, certain rituals were performed by the teachers and students alike, who were Brahmins. The ritual bathing the day after the moons takes time to be performed. In short, no time for practice if you’re taking a long bath.
#5 — The Vedas
Since Patthabi Jois held the view that yoga was a practice of Vedic origin, and that knowledge of the Upanishads was to be accessed only through the doorway of asanas and pranayama, he ascribed the same observances to teaching them as he did to teaching the Vedas. Notably, other Vedic traditions imply that teaching on a Moon Day may be inauspicious or detrimental, but not practicing at home.
According to some, Jois used to say that on full and new Moon Days, there was a particular conjunction of nakshatras (lunar constellations) that made it easier to get injured, and that the injury would take longer to heal.
Some say that Pattabhi Jois had certain habits from the time he was 14. Why he had these habits is interesting. We may not be Brahmins, or even Indian, but we can learn about and understand why he developed certain practices, such as Moon Days, and perhaps follow them as well.
#2 — Rest
For Ashtangis with a daily practice, taking Moon Days off is a way to have some rest, plain and simple. Ashtanga practice can be strenuous, and time off may help to soften the practice and allow the body to incorporate changes. For Ashtanga teachers with a daily teaching schedule, Moon Days can be therapeutic.
#1 — Mindfulness
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga over time makes us more attuned to natural cycles an rhythms. Being aware of nature’s cycles and rhythms, honoring them with some change in our practice, creates a sense of humility and mindfulness about the greatness and power of the natural world.
Originally posted on Yoga Therapy Link: https://yogatherapylink.com/blog/ashtanga-moon-days-10-reasons