“Moon Wisdom: Twin Faces of Spring and Summer,” the current Wonderful Moon post on the Gemini lunation, discusses duality. The idea of dual selves is applicable to yoga practice. The word “yoga” means yoked or “joined together.” Possibilities might open, on and off the mat, by thinking of the self as twinned.
Yoga harmonizes our halves. As with other forms of exercise, what’s done on the right, is followed on the left, or vice versa. If you’ve taken dance or barre classes, you’ve likely encountered rooting down to lift up. Think of an ethereal ballerina confidently poised on pointe. Or crouch down in a squat, then reach up into a yummy full-body stretch while your feet remain firmly planted. Meanwhile at the gym, you work the front and back body when you use a rowing machine, or do crunches followed by pull-ups or pulldowns. Or you separately train the biceps and triceps for flexion and extension. Besides boosting strength and flexibility, what these fitness activities share is engaging the mind and body for coordination, balance, repetition, and precision. As with yoga, the movement is complementary.
It’s not uncommon to favor a side of yourself. As you go about the day, you may be preoccupied. Nose buried in a mobile device, you narrowly avoid a mishap. Perhaps you stumble because your head was zigging, while your feet were zagging. Or you’re far better acquainted with your right side. That left side is sinister!
Yoga helps send reassurance and mindfulness to areas of neglect, weakness, numbness, stiffness, and pain. For example, backbends can seem strange yet liberating and exhilarating, but also a bit scary. Am I supposed to move this way? Similarly, if you’re used to being physically active, but not stilling the mind, savasana and meditation can seem strange. Alone with my thoughts? What am I supposed to do?
Self-exploration is among the reasons that yoga is popular and beneficial. There’s always something new to learn, a mind-body puzzle to solve. When you’re ready to go further, new revelations occur. You often work with a side of yourself that needs patient, loving attention. If you keep applying yourself, eventually your “inner Gemini” twin gets assimilated. You feel more whole, perhaps more symmetrical. It’s a significant accomplishment to develop your less accessible self.
Front and Back: Looking in the Mirror
We see our front bodies and identify with our faces. We gaze in the mirror and look down at ourselves. Generally we move forward. But the back body? Maybe it gets noticed when you check yourself out in yoga pants or take a shower. Gain awareness with sun salutations that move along the length of the mat, incorporating forward folds with backbends. Also Warriors I and III and reversed, lunges and splits, Plow, Fish, Locust, Pyramid, and Boat poses are front-back oriented. Vinyasa flows often require agility, such as quickly shifting direction to face the back of the room. The body learns how to move better in linear space.
Right and Left: Gaining Ambidexterity
Coordinate and improve parity between the sides. Except for isolated poses, there is no one-handed or one-legged yoga. Gain awareness with moon salutations that move sideways, reorienting so that the mat’s width is the long side. Also Goddess squat and saddle stretches, side bends and planks, Gate, Warrior II, Side Angle, Triangle, and Half-Moon poses, and their twisted or revolved variations, are right-left oriented. Work the side body, moving the arms and legs up, down and across, away and toward the midline. Thread the limbs in, out, and between each other, such as with binds. The body learns how to move better in lateral space.
Top and Bottom: Getting to the Core
It takes guts to practice yoga. The core holds the heart, lungs, and viscera. Yoga encourages mobility of the spine, shoulders and hips, improves breathing and cardiac health, and aids digestion. Loosen through the midsection with Cat-Cow, Happy Baby, Camel, Pigeon, and twists. Strengthen abdominals with various planks, tabletop, squats, Dolphin, Boat, Bridge, and Bow poses. Also strengthen by raising and lowering the upper and lower body from different positions. Downward Facing Dog and Child’s pose, along with headstand, shoulderstand, and arm balances, reorient top-down through inversions. Standing tall on your feet or hands (or knees-shins, elbows-forearms), press down while lifting through the core to balance. Straighten up in Mountain pose. The body learns how to move better in vertical space.
Mind and Body: Mediating the Split
Become more present. The mind and body aren’t any more at odds than the arms and legs. There is no disembodied mind. And the body struggles without mindfulness. Can you bring awareness to your breath, soften your forehead and jaw, and lower your shoulders, releasing stress? To engage the mind, focus on a drishti point, use binds to grasp and tug, and press against the floor, props, or your body for leverage and tactility. Assist memory by thinking about what you’re doing and how it feels. Learn about the chakras and meditate, holding Lotus without fidgeting. Most importantly, stay awake during savasana for deep relaxation and integration. The mind-body reorients, learning to move with better motional and emotional intelligence. You’ll likely become more centered, empathetic, and calm.
Self and Synchronicity: Aligning Our Heavenly Bodies
Open yourself to universal forces. Yoga and meditation take place in time and space, and in all three dimensions. Perhaps you’ll access four dimensions, if inner vision is included. Anchored by gravity, reach up to connect Earth with sky. Through inversions and backbends, reverse your polarities and open your heart. Locate your inner compass and stretch through the cardinal points: north, south, east, and west. Harmonize your breath, your prana, your movement and consciousness with the expanding and contracting universe. On and off the mat, move with grace and gratitude. Send loving, peaceful intentions and blessings, which may return as divine manifestation and karma.
As above, so below; what you give, you receive; micro reflects macro. Our heavenly minds and bodies are made of the same stuff as stars. We’ve long sought alignment with the seasons, solar and lunar cycles, and celestial risings and settings. We know this from studies of Stonehenge, Egyptian pyramids, Mayan tables of Venus, and many other archeological finds. When attuned to universal nature and its rhythms, we connect with larger correspondences and synchronicities. Astrological insights and yoga help integrate our dual “Geminian” selves and souls. We are one.
On Wonderful Moon
See the complementary Wonderful Moon post, “Moon Wisdom: Twin Faces of Spring and Summer.” The next Yoga Wellness post publishes in approximately two weeks, coordinated with the full moon on June 9 and the summer solstice on June 21.
The summer solstice is the most important day of the year for yoga and meditation. The UN’s third annual International Day of Yoga will be observed. There will be streamed classes, local sun salutation malas, and celebrations, such as Solstice in Times Square in New York City. Look for announcements of events, which sometimes require registration in advance.
Wonderful Moon currently is published in two parts before the new and full moons. The focus is on viewing and experiencing the moon with lore, advice, and yoga-oriented body awareness that meshes with the phase, season, and astrological influences. The bimonthly posts are separated into Moon Wise and Yoga Wellness.
Photography: Debbie Maier Workman and Wendy Sphinx, of Pure Light Yoga, are shown in twinned Warrior I pose by Oak Hollow Lake in High Point, NC, on November 18, 2016. We spontaneously took our yoga outdoors on a beautiful late fall day. After seeing how we matched as a pair, we turned the photos into a video-slideshow. Drawn from Sri Dharma Mittra, the serene practice begins with sun salutations. The video’s music is “Alone – Lokah Samastah,” by Ansar, on the album, Yoga Chill (2003).