What is it about 'moon days'?
Some Ashtanga practicioners follow the tradition of not practicing on full moon days due to an ‘increased risk of injury’ (because of an excess of prāṇa (becoming ‘headstrong’/impulsive) due to a supposed increase in gravitational force*) but this is not a part of the teachings I share.
Sri. T. Krishnamcharya, the teacher of Pattabhi Jois, and often referred to as "the father of modern yoga”, and nowadays considered the creator of the Ashtanga Yoga system as we know it, did not observe moon days or mention them in his invaluable book ‘Yoga Makaranda’. It appears the convention started from a time in India when most teachers such as Pattabhi Jois were Brāmaṇas (priestly caste) and it seems that Jois didn’t teach on moon days because he was actually too busy with his temple duties and rites, or even with family time at the request of his wife and, over time, this full moon ‘rest day’ became a tradition of the practice and a ‘rule’ that some of his students felt necessary to preserve. And maybe the mythology took on a life of its own. In my opinion, this makes more sense than it being to do with the rising flow of prāṇa or the gravitational field of the moon leading to injury.
As one of my fab London based senior teachers and one of the most advanced Ashtanga practitioners in the UK, Adam Keen, says “I must confess I have never rested over moon days, feeling that there is enough that influences our body energy these days much more strongly and detrimentally than the pull of the moon. Just consider the phones on our person and their associated networks. So, it has always been my thinking that the body is not truly so aligned these days that this influence would really be felt”
It is also well known that Krishnamcharya adapted the practice to suit his students, which is something I aim to do with all the options I offer (such as bending the knees in forward folds), which isn’t a ‘traditional’ way of delivering Ashtanga. When his student, Jois, became the ‘torch bearer’ of ashtanga, introducing it to westerners, he made the series VERY rigid and many rules and traditions (such as not practicing on certain days) became prevalent and, in time, he became increasingly and unreasonably deified by his students. This blind guru worship has now seemingly complicated the recent controversy surrounding him.....[Incidentally, another tradition I don’t follow is the inclusion of the opening and closing chants. As I mainly teach in church halls and have been requested not to include anything ‘religious’ in my sessions and, as the chants are prayers to a man, I’m happy to omit them....and indeed in the light of the recent allegations many teachers are now choosing to omit them and distance themselves from the Jois family completely. Indeed, Krishnamcharya separated yoga from religion and never asked students to pay homage to yoga gurus]
In my opinion, blind guru worship is never a good thing and I’ve always questioned the traditions, the ’rules’ that Jois introduced; some of which are misogynistic and some just poor science....But Ashtanga Yoga is much more and much bigger than the Jois family. And as Krishnamcharya said “Don’t call me guru. I’m a student of yoga like you. Maybe I’ve studied a bit longer than you but a student nevertheless.”
I have personally practised on moon days for many years and haven’t experienced any adverse effect that I’m aware of.....so my advice is to enjoy your practice, not forcing anything (as I keep saying!), being mindful, always listening to your body and breath, and not worry about the moon....”Taking responsibility for our own lives and practice”, as Adam says “Within any method, especially one with so many rules and politics as ashtanga yoga, it’s all too tempting to absolve oneself of this task, by hiding behind what are, in the end, only someone else’s SUGGESTIONS, however nicely laid out."
*While it it is true that watery bodies such as the ocean (Humans are about 70% water, so some believe we are also affected) are influenced by the gravitational force of the moon, this doesn’t correspond to the phases of the moon, but its distance from the earth, which can fluctuate each month between perigee (its smallest distance to the earth) and apogee (its greatest distance.) Perigee and apogee can occur at any phase during the lunar cycle, not particularly full or new moons.....