Once in a Blue Moon

WHAT ON EARTH IS A MOON DAY? 

April 2022  was unusual for having three “moon days”.  if you’re new to Astanga Yoga this might be an unfamiliar phrase to you. ‘Moon day’ refers to the dates of full and new moons. The moon orbits the earth roughly once every 28 days ( the lunar month). So there are usually two moon days, approximately two weeks apart. This month is different! 

When two full moons occur in one calendar month the second is known as a blue moon. This is a relatively  rare event (hence the expression “once in a blue moon”). 

When two new moons occur in the same month the second is known as a black moon. So Saturday the 30th is a black moon.  According to Wiccan culture, black moons are a very auspicious time to perform spells and rituals. In some languages all new moons are referred to as black or dark simply because, with no sunlight bouncing off them,  they are camouflaged against the night sky. 

In India both full and dark moons are considered auspicious times for observing spiritual  rituals known as Puja. This is one of the reasons many people rest from practicing asana on these days. If you have a six – day – per – week asana practice you might be looking forward to resting. But what if you don’t practice every day? Is practicing on a moon day bad for you? 

The short answer is, no. It isn’t. Over the years a sort of “yoga urban myth” has grown up around moon days, claiming that the body is too stiff to practice safely on full moons and too relaxed on new moons. Whilst it’s not exactly accurate, it’s not entirely wrong, either (few things in this practice are black and white). 

If you practice Astanga yoga in a traditional shala you will eventually become aware of the lunar phases (if only because of the moon day closures). And once you know where the moon is at, you might notice that this phase or that affects your energy levels, or your strength, or your mood. It’s worth noting these things rather than piling too much meaning onto them. It’s definitely worth journaling them. After all, the moon has a gravitational pull on all the earth’s water (and, just like the planet, we are composed largely of water)! 

Our reproductive cycles tend to follow the lunar month and most women menstruate around the new or full moons (rather than in between). Lots of women rest from asana for the first few days of their period because it can be uncomfortable (traditional teachers might go as far as to recommend this). Observing a couple of  moon days per month allows people who don’t menstruate to rest as well. But the days don’t need to be set in stone. If you are new to the practice and spending less than five days a week on the mat, don’t worry about moon days (unless they appeal to you). If you practice all week but your schedule means that you have more time to practice on a moon day than one of the days either side of it then by all means “move the moon!” 

Two of this month’s moon days are an interesting case in point, falling on Saturdays. If Saturday is one of your regular rest days already then you might feel robbed of the extra lie – ins. 

There is no harm in scheduling in two alternative rest days. I rest from asana on Saturdays so I regularly move Saturday moon days to the nearest Friday or Sunday. Just remember that a Friday moon day means doing a gentler practice on Thursday. If you practice beyond the Primary series make sure that the last day of your practice week is always ‘primary only’. 

To sum up…most advice on how to maintain a nurturing, sustainable asana practice comes back to the same message time and time again:  

Listen to your body. That way it will be able to tell you when it needs to rest. This is fairly straightforward if your schedule is hectic and your time away from the mat is dictated to by other commitments. If you have a lifestyle that allows you to practice most days uninhibited, then following a bit of outside wisdom could be good a way to avoid becoming overly attached to practice (trust me, it can happen). You should rest from asana for a full 24 hours at least once a week. If possible try to rest on the same day each week. Then try to ensure that you take an extra day off every other week. If this happens on an official moon day, great. And if it doesn’t, don’t fret! 

curious about our nearest celestial neighbour? 

this is a great place to read about all things lunar*

(*For children, grown ups and grown up children)

Moonrise over St Ives, Cornwall. Sept 2021