One of the best parts of practicing Ashtanga Yoga is honoring moon days.
What is a moon day?
A moon day is like a mini holiday for ashtangis. It is a day of REST. It also honors the teachers who give so much of their time and service to their students.
If you are looking for a more detailed description of what a moon day is and why they are observed, you may find my favorite description here.
When I began my Ashtanga yoga journey I used to ignore moon days and do my own practice at home. GASP, yes, it's true. I was very stubborn!
Well, now it is 18 months later and sometimes I find that I CAN'T WAIT for moon day to arrive. Lo and behold - there are those rare months when a moon day ALSO falls on your regular rest day - whether it is Saturday or Sunday, in which case, you may cry with joy when the next moon day arrives.
So many things.
First off, I've stopped obsessing so much about the practice, how much of the sequence I am doing, where I stop at, what poses I can or can't do.
When your primary focus shifts away from asana and towards breath, when you let go of expectation, assumption and desire to collect postures, there arrives a major shift in your practice.
Some say that when you begin practicing Ashtanga yoga it is akin to falling in love. You can't wait to get out of bed every day to get onto your mat. You tell everyone about it. You start sounding like an obsessed addict, you can't help but keep talking about it, whether people want to hear about it or not.
Progress comes and it seems like you can keep going. Postures you thought you would never be able to do become more accessible.
Then - progress stops. Sometimes you feel like you are just pedaling backwards. In some cases, an injury, or an acute awareness of patterns of usage arises. You stop doing poses you thought were so close, within reach.
You feel tired, stiff and sore and you show up on the mat and you ask yourself - "WHY the F*%k am I doing this?"
Last weekend, David Swenson mentioned at his workshop- that the moment you ask yourself - why am I doing this yoga? What is the purpose? That is when your practice truly begins.
That is when your connection to the practice deepens. It surpasses that which comes easy. Making the choice to wake up and get on your mat, especially on the days it seems insurmountable to climb out of bed cultivates discipline.
It is EMPOWERING.
For me, this practice has helped me show up for the shit I don't want to show up for. There's a long list of these things that I'd be happy to just run away from. The discipline the practice has cultivated shows that I do have what it takes to stay present and steady even during the most bitter moments.
The postural method of ashtanga yoga connects us to prana, to energy. Practice long enough and the therapeutic aspect of the practice may begin to reveal itself. Or maybe not. Each person experiences this journey differently.
The practice provides an anchor. Life feels just a little bit rough without it. This is a bit challenging for those with obsessive, addictive tendencies. In this way moon days, rest days, ladies holidays are a gift to break us out becoming too dependent on the practice - to prevent us from using the practice as a habit to replace a more destructive one.
Thank goodness for these days of rest. They put the practice in perspective.
So now, instead of missing the time on the mat on the moon day and pushing myself to practice for some ridiculous reason or another, I relish this time off to provide the body the rest it really needs. After all, too much of a good thing can turn sour if over used.
So here is my little ode to moon days!
Moon days are for:
1. Sleeping in! YES YES YES!
2. Extra snuggles in bed
3. Savoring the sunrise
4. Taking the dog for an extra long walk
5. A gourmet breakfast
6. Catching up on reading in the morning
7. Enjoying nature with a gentle hike.
8. Last but not least - my personal favorite. A few extra hours to spend morning time with my family.
Hope everyone is enjoying their moon day!