These three words encompass the traditional Tantric Hatha Yoga practices. For we can break the word HATHA down into, HA and THA. HA is solar energy (SUN); it is vitalizing, and uplifting. THA correlates to lunar energy (MOON); it cools, and stabilizes both the body and mind. HATHA is the striking of the solar and lunar forces together at our center which creates FIRE and deep personal transformation.
Moon practices are slow in pace and intensity, but demand from us presence and one pointed focus. Do not be fooled, though this practice may seem elementary, it should not be overlooked! Moon is a vital piece to any practitioner’s practice for a number of reasons. The building blocks to success rely on a strong foundation. Thus, we must first cultivate stability in both the body and the mind. A Moon practice focuses primarily on lengthening the exhales, utilizing dynamic movements and long holds, so as to bring us present, calm the front of the brain as well as to shift our nervous system.
For most of us, life is constantly in motion, with numerous distractions, as well as an increasing amount of stress. Therefore the vast majority of us are tired, overworked, and living in a constant state of fight or flight, meaning our nervous system is running on overdrive as its base level. A fellow teacher once said, ‘if you watch a baby sleep, it breathes into its belly. Watch an adult sleep and they most likely breathe into their chest.’ Ever felt like you’re at your wits end, just holding on to get through another day, then something happens and you snap? A good indicator that the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) has been running for too long. Now living in the SNS occasionally can be beneficial, but running that program 24/7 creates a myriad of health issues (another topic for another time!).
In comparison, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is where we want to spend the majority of our time. Why? Because, the PNS is known as our ‘rest and digest’, meaning the body literally is able to return to its regular functioning of caring for the body versus protecting the body. Here is where we are able to digest and absorb the nutrients of our food as well as life experiences. Ever felt rejuvenated from a night’s rest, or a long weekend away? This is the exact state that we are looking to create in Moon practices! Grounded, and calm, yet clear and luminous.
So how exactly do we get clear, grounded AND luminous? The pose categories that you’ll find in Moon are, forward folds and twists. Forward folds aid in the extension of the exhale which, slows down the heart rate, calms the mind and stabilizes the body. The energy behind a forward fold is incredibly grounding, physically and mentally, cultivating a sense of elimination and release. Twists on the other hand, create heat in the navel and help to detoxify the kidneys and liver. Twists target our digestion, with the manual compression and release of the inner organs. Many of us have poor digestion of physical waste (food), yielding to poor digestion of our mental and emotional waste. Twists spark our fire at the navel so that we may extract and absorb the nutrients of our experiences while simultaneously creating space for the new.
Practice MOON when you are feeling: tired, anxious, or ungrounded. When life and your mind are busy; when sleep is unfulfilling and digestion is poor. Or if you’re looking to increase strength and mobility in the spine, as well as increase single pointed concentration in meditation.
A completely opposite vibe than Moon, a Sun class is uplifting, revitalizing, and aims at increasing our energy awareness. As Tantra is the science of energy management, the Sun practice is our introduction to building, and containing energy within. These classes target the inhale, breath retentions as well as bandhas to intentionally draw in more Prana, or life force energy. A word to the wise that you should always bring the cool nature of the Moon with you during such solar practices so as not to overheat the body or mind.
What to expect in a Sun practice. Expect to see backbends and lateral postures; expect to add a breath retention at the top of the inhale. Atara Kumbaka, or inhale breath retention, aids in the building of energy within the body; this is a main focus of a solar practice. It is here where the use of our energy locks, or bandhas come into play to contain energy within our torso; specifically between the pelvis and chin.
To be continued..