Reflections on the full moon and rest

One of the most distinct customs of the Ashtanga tradition is the observance of lunar cycles.  Today, being a full moon, I honored the tradition by omitting my daily practice.  I for one have been musing about the significance of taking rest on moon days.  In terms of Hindu philosophy, sky-bound energy better known to yogis as prana is thought to be excessive today.  The confluence of the gravitational pulls of the sun and moon could make one’s daily yoga practice too rajasic, or in other words, stimulating.  I cannot be the only Ashtangi who’s ever asked him or herself, “What’s wrong with a stimulating yoga practice?”  Of course, stimulating activities ranging from sipping espressos, to carving the slopes, and frequenting lively music venues can be loads of fun.  And who can deny that at least little fun here and there is not essential to our overall well being?  Yet for me, I found a degree of justification for the traditional outlook within the pages of the Bhagavad Gita.  The Gita is one of the oldest and most revered Hindu stories, and within chapter 2 lies the mission statement for yogis practicing in all walks of life.  To paraphrase, the purpose of yoga is

full-moon

to enable humanity to achieve excellence through singular purposefulness (2.41).  Yoga here is like an antidote, providing evenness of mind (2.48) amid karmic influences, which if left unchecked would poison our better judgement.  Returning to the moon, any seafarer can attest to the influence which the moon has tidal evenness.  Similarly to our oceans, the human body is primarily composed of water.  Could the lunar cycles have a profoundly visceral effect on human beings as well?  Logically, perhaps, yet tonight I am reminded that my personal justification for taking rest earlier in the day must have been largely intuitive in nature.  Gazing at the moon far above me, and stars orders of magnitude further beyond,, I feel humbled.  I find that on a night like this, the sky being so vast, any attention toward cultivating prana somehow seems like a futile exercise.  I am reminded that the yogi’s journey is not a sprint but a steady hike.  Sometimes rest is needed for its own sake.

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