Monday, September 15, 2008

Moon days

Today, Monday the 15th, is a Moon Day. A Moon Day is the day corresponding to either the Full or New Moon each month.

In traditional Ashtanga practice (as well as some other Hatha practices), Moon Days are observed by abstention from practice, which is otherwise done six days per week. In Mysore, the shala is closed on Moon Days. This practice is also observed by many Ashtanga schools in the States.

It sounds both odd and familiar. There is definitely an echo of the urban legend about Emergency Rooms being swamped on the Full Moon. The reason for abstaining from practice also echoes the reasoning behind this ER legend: the ebb and flow of energy.

The moon exerts an observable effect on the water of the planet (tides), symbolic, it is said, of the rise and fall of energy. Is not the human body, the argument goes, made mostly of water? In yoga lore, it - the human body, YOUR body - is said to experience this same cycle. It is recommended that yogis not practice at the times of peak and valley in energy as it may be more harmful than helpful. More indirect benefits are also logical: preventing attachment to practice, connection with the larger macrocosm through awareness of larger cycles, etc.

It is hard not to be skeptical or, at the very least, curious. Questions arise, both out of the logical arguments made and, for those of us who have observed the Mysore scene in action, in the way that Moon Days are treated by many as holidays - the time to do things to yourself that you otherwise choose not to do, knowing you will be getting up at 5 to practice each day.

How come I've never noticed that I have an internal energy cycle? Why is it that only the day of the Full and New Moons are too great an energy deviance to practice - why not TWO days before and after? Following the Moon Day logic, what about the effects of weather patterns, seasons, and other natural phenomena that seem to have even greater energies and impacts? Should not these be observed somehow as well?

This is the yogic process, inescapable and attendant on making use of the wisdom of millenia: separating the useful information from the meaningless superstition. This is unavoidable and becomes more and more apparent the deeper you go and the more home- and self-practice you do:

The archeological challenge of doing yoga is to sift through thousands of years of practices in order to separate the religion and superstition from the
techniques of lasting value.

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And there's only one way to do it: trial and error.

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