How to Sync Your Yoga Practice with The Phases of The Moon

Yoga is an ancient practice that can go far beyond a physical workout. One way to go deeper during your time on the mat is to sync up with the phases of the moon.

The yoga tradition is full of practices, teachings, and lore related to the moon. Many yoga asanas, or postures, line up with the lunar phases.

According to the Ashtanga tradition, physical practice ideally changes throughout the lunar cycle to effectively sync the body and the mind with natural rhythms.

Read on to learn how the moon and yoga are connected, plus get tips from yoga instructors to link your practice with the phases of the moon.

How is yoga linked to the moon?

Hatha yoga is one of the most common types of yoga practice. The word “hatha” translates to more “willful,” but it can also be translated from Sanskrit to “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha).

This interpretation of Hatha yoga practice points to the idea that yoga can balance the polar energies inside of us. The fiery, active solar energy is referred to as “masculine” while the peaceful, reflective energy of the moon is viewed as “feminine.”

It’s important to note that the terms “masculine” and “feminine” in this case don’t refer to biological sex or gender, but to the complementary energies that exist in every person, regardless of sex and gender. This mirrors the concept of yin and yang in traditional Chinese medicine.

Linking your practice to the lunar cycle

Honoring the phases of the moon is an ancient part of yoga that many practitioners carry on today.

Louisa Craig is a registered senior yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals and director of LKY Yoga School.

“There’s a natural cycle of life, moving through beginning, sustaining, and letting go,” says Craig. “By attuning to the rhythms of natural cycles, such as the lunar cycle, we’re attempting to tap into the intelligence within, from which the cycle originates. Yoga is about self-realization, and when we connect to the lunar cycles we tune into our true nature.”

Craig believes that the moon cycle can have real influences on our energy levels, though scientific evidence is mixed.

“Just as the moon’s gravitational pull affects the tides, so too does it affect the human body, which is 60 percent water,” she says.

Yoga teacher Pearl Appleby also bases her practices around the phases of the moon.

“Becoming more in tune with the different phases of the moon can really help you understand your emotions and expand your yogi’s practice,” she says.

In other words, shifting our practice to sync up with our energy as it changes throughout the lunar cycle can help us better understand ourselves in relation to the natural world.

What does the science say?

Scientifically, the lunar cycle refers to the eight phases of the moon as seen from Earth. The visible shape of the moon changes as it orbits around the Earth roughly every 27 days and is hit by more or fewer of the Sun’s rays.

According to some studies, there may be a correlation between the moon and the human body.

A 2013 study of male university students found their heart rate and blood pressure were both lower during full and new moons.

Still, much of the research around moon phases and human physiology is mixed. This is also true when it comes to menstruation.

A 2006 review suggests that the moon’s gravitational pull may be linked to the release of neurohormones in mice, but a 2021 study found no association between the onset of a menstrual cycle and the lunar phase.

However, the same study and another 2021 study did find a link between lunar phase and sleep.

While the science is mixed, linking your practice with the moon can still be a meaningful way to honor the moon and its mystery.

Tips on practicing in sync with the moon

Appleby and Craig offer suggestions to attune your practice to the lunar cycle.

New moon

The new moon is a time of change and renewal. This makes it a good time to “clear the space to plant seeds for the next creative cycle,” says Craig.

In Ashtanga practice, yogis abstain from practicing on the day of the new moon altogether. In other traditions, a restorative or gentle yin practice is preferred.

How to practice during the new moon:

  • Focus on setting intentions for the next lunar cycle.
  • Keep your practice slow and meditative.
  • Focus on shifting your perspective and visualizing new beginnings.
  • Consider incorporating Ajna chakrapractices.

Ideal poses for the new moon are:

  • Sirsasana, or a headstand
  • Tadasana, or Mountain Pose
  • Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall Pose
  • Tree Pose and other balance poses like Warrior III, Dancer Pose, and Eagle Pose

Practice themes include:

  • new beginnings
  • setting intentions
  • gentle movement
Waxing crescent moon

Appleby recommends focusing on building new habits and opening your body to new possibilities during the waxing crescent moon.

“Gentle hip opening to release emotions in the body can be useful at this time,” she says.

How to practice during the waxing crescent moon:

  • Introduce strength building into your practice.
  • Try a slightly more energetic flow to encourage physical and mental growth.
  • Stay on your feet with a longer series of standing poses.
  • Practice pranayama breathing to build heat.

Ideal poses for the waxing crescent moon are:

  • Dandayamana Janushirasana, or Standing Head-to-Knee Pose
  • Utkatasana, or Chair Pose
  • Virabhadrasana I, II, and III, or Warrior I, Warrior II, and Warrior III

Practice themes include:

  • fire and heat
  • building strength
  • opening up
First quarter moon

The first quarter moon is a half moon. It occurs one week after the new moon and one week before the full moon. According to Craig, it’s when the body’s energy levels really start to kick in.

“During this phase,” she says, “you are a wilful builder of new structures for yourself and society, and characteristically exert the utmost effort in order to achieve your goals of bringing new forms into reality.”

How to practice during the first quarter moon:

  • Commit to bold, fiery flows that build heat in the body.
  • Start turning your goals set during the new moon into a reality.
  • Introduce bold back bends and heart openers into your practice to encourage this new growth.

Ideal poses for the first quarter moon are:

  • Navasana, or Boat Pose
  • Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon Pose
  • Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose

Practice themes include:

  • strength, growth, and effort
  • clearing obstacles
  • individuality
Waxing gibbous moon

This is the lunar phase right before the full moon. This is the perfect time to expand the body and the mind to their maximum potential.

How to practice during the waxing gibbous moon:

  • Appleby recommends practicing while the energy of the moon is at its fullest.
  • Craig suggests incorporating dynamic, aerobic, dance-like movements into your practice.

Ideal poses for the waxing gibbous moon are:

  • Sun Salutations
  • Moon Salutations
  • Ustrasana, or Camel Pose
  • Dandayamana Dhanurasana, or Standing Bow
  • Viparita Virabhadrasana, or Reverse Warrior

Practice themes include:

  • physical action
  • energy
  • openness
Full moon

Craig says the full moon represents peak, “super-charged” energy.

“It’s also a time of balance because solar yang and lunar yin energies are in harmony,” she says.

This makes it ideal for reflection. According to Appleby, this is a time to reflect on the lunar cycle so far and refocus your goals.

In Ashtanga practice, yogis abstain from practicing on the day of the full moon.

How to practice during the full moon:

  • Focus on meditation and manifestation while the energy is high.
  • Practice restorative or yin yoga during this time.

Ideal poses for the full moon are:

  • Baddha Konasana, or Bound Angle Pose
  • Balasana, or Child’s Pose
  • Savasana, or Corpse Pose
  • yoga nidra practice

Practice themes include:

  • shedding, releasing, and letting go
  • feminine healing energy
  • awareness and illumination
Waning gibbous moon

”There is a restless, sometimes uneasy feeling” during the waning gibbous moon, says Craig. This is the perfect time for slowing down and becoming introspective.

How to practice during the waning gibbous moon:

  • Try a yin/yang class that brings some energy back to your practice while also preparing the body to begin slowing down and embracing lunar energy.
  • Practice mindful transition.
  • Focus inward.

Ideal poses for the waning gibbous moon are:

  • Camatkarasana, or Wild Thing
  • Dhanurasana, or Bow Pose
  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or King Pigeon Pose

Practice themes include:

  • self-reflection
  • slowing down
  • looking inward
Last quarter moon

The last quarter moon comes roughly 1 week after the full moon and 1 week before the new moon. The next week will be about surrendering the lunar cycle to clean the slate for new intentions with the next full moon.

However, the last quarter can be a great time to bid farewell to your intentions with a few mindful practices that embrace your intentions one last time.

How to practice during the last quarter moon:

  • Try practicing slow, expansive, mindful flows that use the energy you cultivated throughout the lunar cycle so far.
  • Begin to incorporate more and more yin elements into your practice.

Ideal poses for the last quarter moon are:

  • Chakravakasana, or Cat-Cow Pose
  • Upavistha Konasana, or Full Split Pose
  • Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana, or Revolved Half Moon Pose

Practice themes include:

  • surrender
  • acknowledgement
  • bidding farewell
Waning crescent moon

This is the final stage of the lunar cycle before we return to the new moon. As Craig says, it should be a time of contemplation.

“The inner reality is presented through dreams and waking visions,” she says. “It’s fertile ground for the new moon intentions to be conjured.”

It’s also a great time to “digest and understand the wisdom gained through the last cycle,” she says.

This phase is also known as “dark” or “balsamic.”

How to practice during the waning crescent moon:

  • Slow your practice down with a low energy flow or a restorative practice.
  • Use props to support your body so it can fully release in yin poses.
  • Try practices that have a focus on digestion.

Ideal poses for the waning crescent moon are:

  • Supta Matsyendrasana, or Reclined Twist
  • Savasana, or Corpse Pose
  • Supta Kapotasana, or Reclined Pigeon with props

Practice themes include:

  • digestion
  • rest and nurturing
  • reflection and manifesting for the future

The takeaway

Yoga is all about aligning the body and the mind with the natural rhythms of the universe. If you’re hoping to bring a little more depth to your yoga practice, syncing up your energy with the lunar cycle can be a great place to start.

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