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Ashtanga Yoga is sometimes described as one of the hardest yoga styles to practice. While that may be true, Ashtanga is one form of yoga where even daily practitioners regularly take “yoga holidays”, and the timing of these holidays depend upon the cycle of the moon.
In general, Ashtanga is a daily practice, but Ashtanga practitioners take days of rest for the new moon and the full moon. They do this in order to remain attuned to natural cycles and the rhythms of nature -- as a means to live in greater harmony with it.
Both the moon and the sun exert a gravitational pull on the earth and therefore all the entities and beings on the earth. We know the tides of the ocean are impacted by the phases of the moon, and because human beings are 70% water, we too are influenced by the moon’s phases.
In the practice of Ashtanga yoga, the position of the moon (and its corresponding position to the sun) relates to our cycle of breath -- inhalation and exhalation.
The full moon corresponds to the end of inhalation. As air fills the lungs and our chest expands to its fullest, this is when the force of prana (or life) is greatest. This inhalation of breath generally makes us feel energetic and emotional, but potentially, not well grounded.
The new moon corresponds to the end of exhalation. As our lungs empty and our chest contracts, this is when the force of apana is greatest. The exhalation of breath can help us feel calm and grounded, but disinclined towards physical exertion.
Full moons happen when the moon and the sun are at opposite sides and new moons happen when they are closest together. When the sun and moon are aligned, their gravitational force and its effect on us is stronger, and that’s why Ashtanga yoga practitioners do not practice on the full or new moons. On these days in the moon’s cycle it is better to let our bodies rest and heal.
In addition to the moon day holidays, most Ashtanga yoga practitioners generally also rest on Saturdays.
Ashtanga yoga videos are a great way to get started practicing Ashtanga yoga or to augment your studio practice days.