New Year’s Intentions & The New Moon

capricornOur first new moon if the year fell very appropriately on New Year’s Day. New Moons have long been heralded as the beginning of a cycle and so I find it very appropriate that we begin this new year with that extra push of new beginnings. This moon is also a “super moon” which means that the moon itself occurs at our near its closest approach to the earth. This super moon energy adds an extra powerful punch to the intentions and seeds we plant at the start of the year.

The moon is in the sign of Capricorn which is an earth sign. Beginning our year with the energy of earth is like an offering from the universe of fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of your intentions. Use this time at the start of the year to examine your beliefs (especially those beliefs that you find are self-limiting) and begin to sow the seeds of intention for the new year.

Fueled by the drive of Capricorn, this is an ideal time to start cleaning house on mental, emotions and energetic level. What in your life is currently serving you? What are you ready to let go of. Use the clear-headedness of Capricorn to make decisions that truly suit your best interest.

Keep in mind that Venus is still in retrograde (she went retrograde 12/21 and will remain so until 1/31). This descent of the feminine into the underworld is asking you unpack your feelings around femininity, sexuality and how it plays a role in your power as a woman. What strong intentions might you set to embrace this energy in the new year?

Here is a practice to connect you with this new moon energy:

Take your journal and find a quiet place that you will be undisturbed and read the following from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book “Women Who Run With Wolves”:

“There is probably no better or more reliable measure of whether a woman has spent time in ugly duckling status at some point or all throughout her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment. Although it could be a matter of modesty, or could be attributed to shyness- although too many serious wounds are carelessly written off as “nothing but shyness”- more often a compliment is stuttered around about because it sets up an automatic and unpleasant dialogue in the woman’s mind.
If you say how lovely she is, or how beautiful her art is, or compliment anything else her soul took part in, inspired, or suffused, something in her mind says she is undeserving and you, the complimentor, are an idiot for thinking such a thing to begin with. Rather than understand that the beauty of her soul shines through when she is being herself, the woman changes the subject and effectively snatches nourishment away from the soul-self, which thrives on being acknowledged.
I must admit, I sometimes find it useful in my practice to delineate the various typologies of personality as cats and hens and ducks and swans and so forth. If warranted, I might ask my client to assume for a moment that she is a swan who does not realize it. Assume also for a moment that she has been brought up by or is currently surrounded by ducks.
There is nothing wrong with ducks, I assure them, or with swans. But ducks are ducks and swans are swans. Sometimes to make the point I have to move to other animal metaphors. I like to use mice. What if you were raised by the mice people? But what if you’re, say, a swan. Swans and mice hate each other’s food for the most part. They each think the other smells funny. They are not interested in spending time together, and if they did, one would be constantly harassing the other.
But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but instead out came a honk every time? Wouldn’t you be the most miserable creature in the world?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. So why, if this is all so and too true, do women keep trying to bend and fold themselves into shapes that are not theirs? I must say, from years of clinical observation of this problem, that most of the time it is not because of deep-seated masochism or a malignant dedication to self-destruction or anything of that nature. More often it is because the woman simply doesn’t know any better. She is unmothered.”

Journaling Practice

Now take out your journal and begin by writing a stream of consciousness reflection on Dr. Pinkola’s passage above. Write whatever comes to you with no thought for punctuation, spelling or grammar. Write as long as you need to and when you finish, pause and ask “Is there more?”.  Write anything else that arises.

Now turn to a new page, a the top of the page write the following sentence “In the year 2014, I let go of the following limiting beliefs about myself and my worth…”

The Moon and the 2nd Chakra

As we talked about last week, the 2nd chakra is ruled by the water element. Given its rule of the tides and the movement of water, the moon is deeply connected with the 2nd chakra. This week a new moon fell on the Wednesday of our chakra yoga class and so I invited the moon into our yoga class. These practices are excellent for accessing the 2nd chakra and can also be utilized during the moon cycles each month.

Scents

One of the areas of the body associated with the 2nd chakra are the sexual organs. Much of our ideas about sex and our own sexuality, healthy and repressed are held within the 2nd chakra. Sexuality and sensuality are deeply linked and one way to access sensuality is through the sense of smell. During savasana, I have been offering essential oils for students to smell. Depending on the properties of the oil, essential oils can be uplifting, grounding, stimulating and relaxing. Essential oils that help to relax the body during savasna are lavender and chamomile (you can purchase essential oils from many companies, one of favorite companies is Aura Cacia). One of my favorite essential oil compounds is one called Tranquility.

Riding the Tides: Practicing with the Moon’s Cycle

In her book, Making the Gods Work for you, Caroline Casey writes this about the moon: “The Moon also governs our inner tides of feelings and moods. She reminds us that extroversion and introversion—animation and retreat—are both necessary for a complete emotional life.  The Moon goddess provides a time, or phase, for every undertaking…Following the prompting of the Moon, as communicated to us through feeling, provides us with the stability and rhythm of internal seasonal fluctuation necessary for creativity.  The Moon is our caretaker, providing the stable, ,nurturing environment we need to cultivate intimacy with all of creation.” Just like the cycles of the seasons, we go through our own cycles at times feeling grounded and stable and at other times feeling expansive and open. When we practice with this in mind, new moon practices involve spending more time on the floor, practicing in darkness (whether a dark room or practicing with eyes closed), focus on downward moving energy in the body (the apana), and slow, long breathing practices.

Goddess Squat

Because of the location of the 2nd chakra in the low back and pelvis, hip openers are strongly associated with this chakra. One of my favorite hip openers to explore with a lunar based practice is Goddess Squat. This asana invites and opening into the inner groin and hips and can afford some softening in and around the glutes. Proper alignment also invites a length to the spine, including a drop of the tailbone and a gentle drawing up of the pubic bone. As we do this, mulha bhanda is accessible and as when we draw up on the pelvic floor we can more easily access the bowl of the pelvis. As we stand in Goddess Squat, I invite students to visualize a crescent moon resting in the pelvis and as we breathe, we invite the bowl of the pelvis to fill with air.

Opening the Back Body: Lunar Poses

Martin Scunduto

The term Hatha yoga can be divided into two parts “Ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon. Hatha yoga is the practice of dancing between the sun and the moon and finding balance between the two. In hatha yoga there are sun poses and there are moon poses. Our focus being on the moon, we invited lunar poses into the practice. The back of the body is thought to be lunar in nature as it is the part of the body that we “keep hidden” from the rest of the world (we don’t really walk around exposing our backs to everyone we meet). Given this, any poses in which a forward fold is taken become lunar in practice. We speak of these poses as opening the vulnerable, hidden side of ourselves and exposing it to the world.

A Prayer for the New Moon

I read this prayer on Wednesday in our 2nd chakra class to call in the energies of the new moon. It speaks so eloquently to the cycles of life–the lunar cycles, seasonal cycles and the cycle of life and death that hold us all:

image courtesy of bluelightlady.com

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With scared wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.
– Joy Harjo

Autumn Equinox and The Harvest Full Moon

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” Gilda Radner

As many of those who practice with me know, I love the moon. Many classes I teach are geared toward the moon cycles and their impact on us in our daily lives. The Autumn Equinox last night marked a transition in seasons, but also a very special cycle of the moon–this transition was marked by a full harvest moon to herald in the fall season. A full moon at the equinox happens once every twenty years or so and carries with it potent energy. The equinox itself is a huge signifier of change. It is a time of harvest. It edges the fullness of summer and the darkness of winter. It is the balance point between the yin and the yang.

At this apex of the equinox is the harvest moon holding the energy of transformation–it is the jumping off point from which we can embrace the transformation with open arms or fall back into the security of old patterns and unhealthy ways of being. We have a profound opportunity at this crossroads to reevaluate our lives and our next steps. We can choose to make conscious decisions and move toward our own personal development. Paradoxically, the easiest way to do this is by letting go of the outcome and releasing the idea of doing anything.

In Pantanjali’s yoga sutras, he addresses the idea of non-attachment: 1.15 drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam (When the individual becomes free of craving for the sense objects which he has experience as well as those of which he has heard, that state of consciousness is vairagya.) This non-attachment, or vairagya, is the process of letting go—letting go of aversions and desires, and as we progress the attachments become subtler and subtler. The deeper one travels on this journey the trickier it can become.

There are times I have often felt that I am practicing non-attachment but as I start to unpack my experience and why it is feeling so “crunchy,” I realize I have often fooled myself into believing that my repression of a feeling, thought, or situation is the non-attachment I am seeking. In the end, all I have done is to create suffering for myself and consequently more attachment. When we truly practice non-attachment we can feel the easy with which we travel in the river of life. This doesn’t mean that we don’t encounter difficult things or that we don’t continue to strive to be in alignment with our highest selves. Instead, we can choose not to create suffering for ourselves when something doesn’t appear to go our way.

So for those of you who have been feeling some extra tension around the energy of this equinox, recognize that it is a time of opportunity to make new choices in your life and as challenging things arise, embrace the opportunity for growth and see where the river takes you.