Should I practice on moon days?

by Lisa Ash Drackert

“Here’s the deal: I want to be a dedicated Ashtangi, but I’m not sure if I can practice two hours of Ashtanga-Vinyasa every day of the week.  Or if I should practice at all on the weekends? And then I really get going on a routine of daily practice, but the full moon hits and I’m not sure if I should practice or rest, or? I’m just not sure what to do.”

Sound familiar?

As we are incorporating daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga into our lives, this conundrum is a typical one. As students, we hear a myriad of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ and traditions and routines ascribed to the Ashtanga-Vinyasa lineage and feel a little bit lost: when and how often should I practice? Why are some Ashtanga studios closed on Moon Days and others aren’t? Should I practice on Saturdays or not? All these questions are valid; and remarkably, they have differing valid answers.

One of the most prominent questions surrounds taking rest days on the Full Moon and the New Moon. Many yoga schools honor the tradition of resting on Moon Days and are closed on these pre-set days throughout the year. There is merit in this approach for several reasons. Here are two of the most common reasons:

  1. Traditionally, sacred puja rituals were practiced by priests, yogis and families in community on Moon Days. These ceremonies were more extensive than routine morning puja rituals and thus required more time in the day. Ashtanga-Vinyasa was not practiced but Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga were practiced during these rituals.  Ashtanga Yoga schools would be closed on these days.
  2. When women began practicing Ashtanga Ashtanga Vinyasa, it quickly became apparent that resting on Moon Days was preferable to women whose cycles were synced to the New Moon and the Full Moon. This remains a personal preference for women Ashtangi’s; each yogi should assess her own stamina throughout her own cycle and choose to rest or practice depending on how she feels.

However, the lunar cycle’s relationship to Ashtanga Yoga is more nuanced than these two practical reasons alone. We also must remember the considerable energetic power of practicing on the Equinox and Solstice days, on which the moon coincides with the Sun as it rests in its eight cyclical stations. As Kim Johnson, lead teacher at Maya Yoga explains, practicing on certain moon days, “links our Solar Ashtanga practice even closer to the Sun, which we salute in every Vinyasa.”

The Equinox times partner with the Summer and Winter Solstices and are unique energy times in the cosmological wheel of life. The Vernal Equinox, for example, marks a balancing point that precedes birth and renewal as the sun crosses the celestial equator.

Kim Johnson explains it like this: “Have you ever stood in the middle of a see-saw standing with one foot on the left branch of the see-saw, and one foot on the right? It is at this point that you know you hold the power of balance, movement or stillness in your body and your legs. If you intend your weight and energy through the left leg then that side of the see-saw moves toward the ground. If you intend your weight and energy through the right leg then that side of the see-saw moves to the ground. If you center your weight and your energy that you remain still, in balance. This is the place that we exist within during the 3 days of Equinox energy.”

Practicing a Full Led Primary Series on Equinox days will significantly balance and heal your body; essentially tuning in to the cosmological energy of rebirth and renewal.

And what do we deduce from all of these different viewpoints? That each teacher and each student must take into account what it best for him or her and make appropriate energetic and reverent choices to honor their body and Spirit each time they practice, regardless of the day on the calendar.