It is traditional not to practice asana on the full moon or the new moon….The days preceding the new moon (sometimes called the dark moon) cause a decrease in fluids in the body.  As a tendency there will be less energy, the joints more dry and so an increased chance of injury…

The waning of the moon (becoming darker) is a reducing, eliminating, apanic process.  The peak of the dark moon is a time to start new ventures…”

– Matthew Sweeney, Ashtanga  As  It Is (Page 22-23)

I’ve been banging on about the moon sequence for ages now, so I figured it might be useful to put it into context.  When I was in Bali we followed the very strict, Mysore Ashtanga tradition.  Very methodically progressing through the Primary Series, and beyond (for some) with great discipline, and sometimes unforgiving dedication.  A few of us were practicing into symptoms of Typhoid and  Dengue…but in true Ashtanga style, took rest (kicking and screaming) on Saturdays, moon days, and for us ladies…the first 2-3 days of our periods.

I struggled with it at times.  It encouraged my masochistic side.  Ashtanga is very upward energy, generating heat, dynamic…which is why I love it.  I like the discipline, I like the dedication, the commitment required.  I like the sweat…but I’m starting to accept that as much as I like that, it may not necessarily be the best thing for me all the time.  I’m Vata-Kapha, which means I’m in my head a lot of the time, always on the brink of taking off, when I should be working towards finding the earth.  I have a Pitta imbalance, which is heat and fire, and when that happens I end up with all the negative symptoms of both Kapha and Vata – physically get fat and despondent and congested, and emotionally anxious, fearful and self-loathing.  Oh, and lets not forget the critical case of insomnia.  All the while wrestling with this Pitta anger that isn’t a part of me, isn’t in my natural constitution.  In other words – a right old mess!

I didn’t know all of this when I was away.  In fact, I had been misdiagnosed as a Pitta-Kapha, probably because of the way I look and showing symptoms of my imbalance.  Of course I was imbalanced.  Preceeding my trip I went through great upheaval and loss. It takes time, and a lot of healing to find your centre after things like that.

I assumed my yoga was helping me.  And in some ways I’m sure it was.  The routine, activity, coming into contact with my body, with my emotions, but I wasn’t necessarily doing it with any understanding of myself.  I was experiencing things, but without the awareness.   And it is the awareness that’s key.

Each person’s yoga, meditative, or spiritual journey, whatever it is to that person, must be done with awareness and acceptance.

It was when I got to Thailand, and began my month-long intensive with Matthew that I really appreciated how important that all was.  Matthew didn’t just teach us a tradition.  He provided us with alternatives and a spectrum of tools to play with so that when we left him we could continue on our journeys, experiment, and learn for ourselves what was best for us as individuals.

One of my lessons, as I mentioned before, is that as much as I like the Primary Series, it isn’t necessarily what’s best for me all the time.  Right now, I’m trying to draw the Pitta out.  I’m working through a long and emotionally exhausting apanic process.  Bringing energy down, and eliminating it.  Without the Moon Sequence I would have probably continued with my Primary regardless and kept generating that upward, heating energy, continuing to provoke and exacerbate this destructive imbalance.

Chandra Krama is intended for practice on the full moon and the new moon. Practicing an alternative gentle sequence at those times of the month can be advantageous. For example, you will avoid strain and injury if you do not do a strenuous practice at those times and you can become increasingly aware of your changing internal body condition as influenced by the waxing and waning moon. Alternatively the Moon sequence can be done at any time when you are feeling tired or incapable of doing your regular practice. Practiced with patience, this sequence is rewarding and strengthening.

For the past month or so that’s exactly what I’ve done.  Practiced Moon Sequence solely, with patience, with awareness and I’ve already talked about some of the benefits I’m beginning to feel from that.   Its nurturing and therapeutic nature on the hips and lower back, that feeling of being womanly and grounded.

The Moon sequence can be practiced during menstruation and pregnancy though this also depends on your current ability..Some general guidelines for your Yoga practice during menstruation are: avoid postures that overly compress the belly or that make you feel uncomfortable in the mid-section of the body. Avoid balancing postures or motions which bring the head up and down too quickly or too often. Gentle back bends are not usually a problem, but avoid more advanced back bending. Lastly, avoid inversions (upside down postures) and any movements or postures that increase your heat. Focus on quiet, continuous and deep breathing. Keep the spine lengthening and combine mobility with stability. Focus on strengthening the legs and opening the hips.

Matthew Sweeney,

I know there’s a lot of controversy out there as to whether women should or shouldn’t practice on their periods, and it seems to cause quite heated and passionate debate.  All I can do is speak from my own experience, and maybe in the past practicing on my period wouldn’t have bothered me at all.  I ran the marathon on the first day of my period after all, I couldn’t really see what difference a bit of back-bending and shoulder stands could do, but then I wasn’t so aware of my body then.  I was aware in terms of aches and pains and nutrition and energy foods and drinks, but I wasn’t in tune with my cycle necessarily, or the subtle and profound effects of the waxing and waning moon.

Today is a Dark Moon, or a New Moon, and it feels like a bit of a special day for me.  Yesterday I wrote about some of the frustrations I was feeling about whether I would ever find my balance…how long is all of this going to take?

Today I wake, after a few months of practicing the moon sequence regularly, the past month solely, and its a Dark Moon, it is a reducing, eliminating, apanic process…it is a time to start new ventures.  Today I wake, and it is the first day of my period, and I knew inside that would be the case, because through all of this work, practice and patience, I am, at last, starting to find my balance.

Happy moonday everyone! :  )