Salute the sun and the moon
by Nancy B. Loughlin
(Published in News Press on December 2, 2014. Posted with permission.)
A balanced day begins with saluting the sun. It ends with connecting to the moon.
Ritualized reverence for the sun and the moon has been practiced for thousands of years in respect for the body’s unity with celestial movement. When enough energy is put into any activity, particularly the tradition of saluting the sun and moon, there is what Purna Yogi Aadil Palkhivala calls “an etheric change;” this practice of reverence alters the universe. Palkhivala recently appeared at the Yoga Journal conference in Hollywood, Fla.
Palkhivala is a protégé of the great B.K.S. Iyengar, a teacher who emphasized alignment and precision in practice. Iyengar died this year at age 95.
The sun salutation is a yoga staple, particularly in power yoga or vinyasa flow. It can be a workout. It’s rigorous, and it builds heat, strength and vigor in the body. But, the sun salutation is not a burpee substitute, nor are chaturangas intended to be the squat thrusts of middle school gym classes.
“Yoga is not gymnastics. It is the placement of the body in an organized manner. Any sloppiness, no asana. You must be 100 percent present,” Palkhivala said.
The classical sun salutation explores your relationship to time. There is no side-to-side motion, only forward and back. Historically, this asana was considered so sacred it was only taught in closed compounds, Palkhivala explained. Indeed, saluting the sun is honoring the source of all life.
For this reason, the sun salutation is ideally practiced in the morning to energize the body and to recognize with great gratitude the start of another day.
The moon salutation, however, taps into an altogether different energy.
In a moon salutation, the focus is lateral movement which makes alignment more significant.
The moon salutation sequence is longer and demands precision and delicate pivots. The sequence includes transitioning among side stretches, Goddess Squat, Star Pose, Triangle, Pyramid and low side-to-side lunges. Click on the online version of this article to watch the entire sequence demonstrated by Anna Withrow of Yoga Bird, Fort Myers.
While the sun salutation pumps the body with prana and energy in the morning, the moon salutation processes the day’s fallout and tension that compresses the body and impedes energetic flow.
The side stretches and Triangle poses open the chest and stretch the ribs while stimulating the digestive and elimination systems. In Pyramid Pose, the torso spills out of the pelvis, lengthening over the legs, restoring the high body with the low. The full sequence also opens the hips, releasing storehouses of accumulated pressure, fitting at the day’s end and prior to sleep.
As you practice sun salutations in the morning, do so with the intention of tapping into the sun’s fiery masculine power. Balance that energy with moon salutations at night with the intention of connecting to the cooling, feminine power of the moon, soothing the stimulation of your day.
(Clarification: Upon publication, two people reached out to me regarding paragraph two. It was not my intent to claim that sun salutations are thousands of years old, but the “ritualized reverence for the sun and moon” is thousands of years old. Sun and moon salutations are a modern manifestation and practice of that ancient reverence. I shall endeavor to be clearer in the future. Thanks, all!)
Nancy B. Loughlin is a writer and yogi in Ft. Myers. She can be reached at NancyLoughlin@yahoo.com or Twitter @NancyLoughlin