While Yoga & Astrology are both different subjects of study and practice, yet they have many similarities as they work on common principles of elements, chakras and energy. Astrology is like the sister discipline of yoga They are both useful tools in daily life, which are also very ancient and have stood the test of time as are still very relevant up to this day and age. Both astrology and yoga help to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and the world around us. Through our personal agency, we can use the science of astrology to move through life with consciousness – awake, not asleep.
It is worth a brief mention that besides astrology, there are other divination methods are such as the Tarot (layouts of cards mirroring a certain situation) and the I Ching (a Taoist approach depicting the fluctuations between yin and yang [hyperlink yin yang blog] through 64 stages) which we can study to help us navigate through life too. But for now we will focus on the connection between yoga and astrology.
Astronomy gave rise to astrology, around the 6th century BCE – a time during which mystics and philosophers would gather to study astronomy and its effect on our human lives, which led to the emergence of the science of astrology and its spreading across the world. Star signs have ancient origins and still are relevant today. Zodiac signs are archetypal images which show our innate potential, as well as the areas in life where we tend to have difficulties in, which are often those aspects of ourselves we deny or reject
ZODIAC SIGNS & ASANA
The practice of Hatha (Sun-Moon) yoga cultivates a synchronization with the celestial cycles, it is a natural practice that aligns our being with the Sun, Moon, stars and cosmos! “Ancient yogis knew that Ida and Pingala align our bodies with the Sun and Moon and attune us — if we’re willing — with all of creation. That explains the term hatha. Ha-tha yoga in actuality means Sun and Moon in Sanskrit. Ha = Sun. Tha = Moon.” -Diane Booth Gilliam
As planets influence areas of your life, you can practice asanas to strengthen certain parts of your physical body related with planets which have an effect on your emotional body. This way, you can go through a beautiful process of transformation through which you alchemically transmute energies and turn weaknesses into strengths. Each astrological sign corresponds to a part of the body, carrying with it a universal resonance which highlights the dominant qualities of the zodiac signs. This way, we can make the most of these qualities by developing them further (and attuning to some we may feel we lack – I personally like to learn from all the zodiac signs and try to practice embodying all of their beneficial qualities!) Although some appear to have gotten lost in tradition, there are corresponding asanas for each zodiac sign:
Aries – warrior 1 (fighter)
Taurus – bullpose (grounding)
Gemini – downward dog – (quiets inner chatter)
Cancer – cobra – (works on the heart area)
Leo – Simhasana, lion pose (what more to say!)
Virgo – nabhyasana, nauli kriya (gut feeling)
Libra – balancing asanas – trikonasana, natarajasana. (weighing/balancing out)
Scorpio – scorpio pose (obvious one!)
Sagittarius – the archer – the adventurer, hips & thighs (warrior arms up)
Capricorn – the gate – (works on the knees & skeletal structure)
Aquarius –eagle pose – (steady gaze, steady mind)
Pisces –fish pose – (another obvious one, also works on the feet)
There is a lot to be said and studied about astrology. For example, the Sun signs depicting ways to discover yourself and others and your main tendencies; moon signs represent the hidden power of your emotions. Then there are the houses, each of which is home to each sign of the zodiac. Houses break up the sky in chunks; and they represent areas of your life. Moreover, you will often hear astrologers speak about conjunction (planets in relation to each other) and transits (the constant movement of planets in relation to their position at the time you were born).
Creating a comprehensive interpretation of an astrological chart requires some basic knowledge and understanding of astronomy (the planets and their qualities), the ability to create connections, and intuition. As a sidenote, this is why in a way, reading astrological charts can be considered an ajna (third-eye chakra – about vision and understanding) – vishhuddha (throat chakra- about intuition, aesthetic intelligence and intuition) practice.
There are features of astrology that are similar to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which mention yoga citta-vritti-nirodha – the cessation of the turnings of the mind, to open oneself up to union with the Higher Self and perceive the divine within (kaivalya).Yoga helps to bring our impulses under control. It helps us to bring more awareness about our structural behavior so that we can redefine happiness – the search for which defines much of human life!
ASTROLOGY AS A MAP
We, like cellphones trying to connect to WiFi, are searching for a connection that is more permanent rather than temporary. As much as Yoga teaches us how to tame the mind, this is practically impossible to do without reorienting it towards something higher. Yoga is not about negation or regimen, but rather about a better alternative: connecting to a higher signal that lives in the heart. So, what’s the link with astrology? Coming back to citta-vritti-nirodha, and the idea of the turnings of the mind: the Sanskrit word vritti is shared in common with the Greek language, and in Greek it refers to the turnings of the planets in the sky. The planets are always moving, the mind is always moving. With Yoga leading to the cessation of the churnings of the mind, it is not meant to be the same as astrology – it is more like astrology helps us to understand our mind better, not to get caught up in the dramas of our lives.
Astrology gives us like a map of the psyche and the soul, showing what we are experiencing in this particular body, it can go as far as depicting your dharma, your gifts, your challenges.
The planets follow predictable cycles, just as all of the ecology on this planet does, following the principle of the resonance between the microcosm and the macrocosm: as above, so below. When we look at how the planets are positioned and moving through the sky, we are seeing something a mirroring of where we are at. An astrological chart is basically an artificial photo of the sky, as if frozen in time, showing where all the planets are at a given moment (e.g. your birth date), showing us a unique point in time and space in which we find ourselves in, and a sense of where our lives are heading.
As astrological charts present us with a symbolic mirroring of where we are at, it is important to also have a symbolic attitude towards astrology rather than a deterministic one. Astrology helps us to see and understand our karmic tendencies so that we can live our lives with a little bit more wisdom. All too often, people identify themselves with what they look like and other material matters pertaining to maya (the illusion). This false identification is part of our tendency to, metaphorically speaking, fall asleep, instead of awakening to the true essence of who we are: Spirit. The karmic drama is not who we are, yet we do need to deal with it, and it is easier to move through a terrain if we have a basic understanding of the map. The point is not to get lost in it, but to be able to navigate through it in a way that promotes our spiritual evolution and act in a way that is both meaningful and effective.
It all comes down to attitude and stepping into our power (which we so often underestimate!). Having said this, I would like to conclude with a quote by Dane Rudhyar:
“The Essential Purpose of Astrology is not so much to tell us what we will meet on the road, as it is to suggest how we meet it.”
Thanks for tuning in, and until we meet next time in yet another version of the now,
Today we return to the theme topic of the niyamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically addressing the fourth: svadhyaya. As a context reminder, the yamas in Yoga are the “do nots” -things we are advised to constrain from doing; while the niyamas are like the “”do’s”- the “do-not constraints,” things we are encouraged to do. The niyamas are essentially comprised of actions of self-love that support a happy, harmonious and spiritual life.
The breakdown of the Sanskrit word svadhyaya goes as follows: sva, means “self,” and adhyaya, means “lesson/lecture/reading.” Another interpretation could be derived from dyhai, which means “meditate/contemplate.” So svadhyaya basically means the study of the self.
The study of the self in the yogic sense of the word goes beyond the Western approach of psychoanalysis. It is more about the study of our Higher Self, our eternal self. It is about realizing the true nature of our being – who we really are. Creating space for introspection definitely supports this process!
YOUR ESSENCE IS DIVINE
To quote Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44
Self-realization is the aim of most spiritual practice. And our Self is divine. I personally love svadhyaya because it helps me to be in a constant state of mindful awareness and self-inquiry. Asking myself where my actions are coming from has opened up my eyes about many layers of my being – shedding light on many aspects to be worked on. Seeing how I can recognize the essential divinity in myself and everything around me has added such profound spiritual value to my life, as has recognizing this essence in others too.
Studying and reading anything about the Self, or anything that will help you to connect with and understand your (Highest) self will present you with a great opportunity to observe svadhyaya. Find any books which support you in deepening your practice. While this blog is not meant to market literature, there are a few recommendations we can refer you to. Books I have been studying recently and would definitely recommend are: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda (1946), The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer (2007), The Undivided Self by The Swami Venkatesananda (1977), and Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith (1996). Swami Satchidananda, an Indian spiritual teacher and yoga adept, who became famous in the West and wrote several philosophical and spiritual books, speaks of svadhyaya as the “study that concerns the true Self, not merely analyzing the emotions and mind as the psychologists and psychiatrists do. Anything that will elevate your mind and remind you of your true Self should be studied: the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Koran, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, or any uplifting scripture. Study.”
Remember that it is not only about reading, but also about understanding what you have learnt – integrating and living it.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
There are many other activities you can take upon yourself to deepen your observance of svadhyaya. You can practice svadhyaya in more ways than might initially meet the eye by embracing it as a yogic attitude, a modality of being so to say.
1. Examine yourself. Question your actions. Question your beliefs. Practice self-inquiry in general (The Work of Byron Katie is a great tool to support you in this).
2. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness does not require any action from you in particular, it is all about simply paying attention. For example, observe yourself on your mat – what kind of thoughts and emotions bubble up? what is your breath like? where are you tense, and possibly challenged? what do you enjoy? Take nothing for granted, see it all as a lesson to take you further…deeper…closer to yourself.
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self” – The Bhagavad Gita
3. By becoming conscious of all that which you are not, you can come closer to yourself. Some of the things which you are not are for example your ego, your emotions, and your thoughts. Discern that which is not you in essence, but rather a part, or layer of your being by asking yourself questions such as: who is the voice in your head that limits you from living out your best potential? Then zoom out, and try to get to the real core of your true and essential Self by witnessing the witness: who is the one experiencing your life? Who is feeling saddened by a wave of a painful emotion? Who is enjoying the cup of tea? Who is the one reading all of this? Do not judge. Just observe.
4. Explore both inner worlds and outer worlds. As much as we can learn about ourselves by studying ourselves, we can also come to know ourselves better by seeking to understand others (rather than judging). Others function as mirrors in our lives. And in our process of getting to know them (and the world around us) better, we end up getting to know ourselves better too. Like a loop. This is because everything is connected. That universal connection is the reason Yoga means union.
5. Still your mind, so that your Self can be revealed. See the divine in yourself. As Swami Vivekananda said: “Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being?”
A note I would like to add on the topic of Self-Realization is that the Self is ultimately whole. So, seek for wholeness by seeing the big picture of it all, and living a holistic life.The more you practice yoga, the more you will see the unfolding of your daily life merging with yoga philosophy. Your individual consciousness is deeply connected to universal consciousness. It is a part of it, never separate. To realize this, is the goal of svadhyaya. As we come to know ourselves better, we begin to understand that we are like drops of the ocean, and, as the buddhist song goes, the only way from stopping a drop of water from ever drying up, is by throwing it back into the ocean.
Sat Chit Ananda (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss).
Aldona from saktiisha yoga centre
If you think of people in your life who you perceive as pure, what qualities do they have that make you see them in this way? Isn’t it usually the case that you consider someone pure when you feel they are transparent, having no hidden agenda, healthy, and genuinely well-intentioned? Perhaps you came up with some different things. Like being clean, for instance. Sauca, which means purity in Sanskrit, is an essential part of Yoga practice, and ultimately of life.
Currently finding myself immersed in the wondrous pages of Paramahansa Yoganada’s Autobiography of a Yogi, the topic lies relevantly close to my heart these days. In this post, I would like to share some insights about why that is, and the ways in which we can speak about purity in relation to many aspects of life from a yogic perspective.
If you’re sincere about being a yogi, you know of the yamas and niyamas in Yoga, and you do your best effort to live by them. In case you are new to Yoga, the yamas refer to “restraints,” or rules for harmonizing the relationship between yourself and others; and the niyamas refer to “non-restraints,” or ways to cultivate inner discipline and organize your inner life. Sauca, or purity/cleanliness in Sanskrit, is the first of five niyamas according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The other four are: santosa (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual study), and isvarapranidhana (surrender to the Divine).
Living a pure lifestyle creates the ideal conditions within our being to come into resonance with the beneficial energies of the universe, and more importantly, to truly come to see the reflection of the divine nature of our own being. This may sound like a mouthful, but it’s true!
There are different types and processes of purification that can occur at various levels. Purification can be physical, mental, or emotional, and even causal in terms of burning karma. Although outer cleanliness is considered important, it is nowhere near as important for spiritual evolution as our emotional and mental purity. The idea is to be pure inside out. Why? It all comes down to resonance. Remember- ‘As above, so below.’ Every single energy in the universe at a microcosmic level corresponds to an energy at the macrocosmic level. In Yoga, we are trying to attune our microcosm with the macrocosm. In order for us to be able to attune to the energies which are beneficial, our own energy needs to resonate with them! By purifying, we can take more responsibility in our lives and empower ourselves. When we attract negative energy into our life, it is mostly a result of our own impure structure at a given time.
Look at it this way. The more impurities you have, the harder you will have to fight in life. As you eliminate impurities, you will see obstacles disappear. The less impurities, the less obstacles. Hatha Yoga is very purifying. When you are in an asana, you are flushing energy through your being. This purifies. It clears the path.
There is a type of Yoga that particularly aims to purify all the levels of your being. Paramahansa Yogananda brought Kriya Yoga to the West in the 1920s after it had been refound by some yogis of the nineteenth century. The sat karma kriya (six actions of purification) make up a complex system of internal and external cleansing methods. These are: neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, kapalbhati, and trataka. The Kriya Yoga methods as presented by Paramahansa Yogananda carve a path to meditation. The practice of Kriya Yoga smooths the path for evolution. It can be a path to liberation! You can also add some of the techniques to your practice and daily life. Kriya Yoga improves your health, clears your mind, and makes your body youthful.
I’d like to make a small parenthesis about the terms karma and kriya. Both of these words mean “action” in Sanskrit. Kriya refers more to actions that purify (Kriya Yoga as a path of purification), and karma refers to the notion of all actions having a cause and effect (Karma Yoga as a path of selfless service). Ultimately, all types of Yoga are meant to lead to samadhi (oneness).
In essence, we are already pure. The very essence of our being is pure. And that is the Beauty of Purity. Our sight is merely clouded by filters. By getting rid of any layers and obstacles
blocking our experience of the true nature of reality we come in touch with the true nature of our being. Just as we can only see our reflection in the water if the water is still and not murky, in the same way, we can only come to see the reflection of who we truly are within ourselves (the Atman) if we are pure. Essentially, we are reflections of something greater, and the idea of individuality is but an illusion limited by the confinements of our egoes.
With all this being said, I hope to have inspired you to have a look at your life, and address those aspects which are standing in the way of you getting in touch with your pure and beautiful Self.
Aldona from Saktiisha
LET THE SUN SHINE IN
The longest day of the year is coming up for us here on the Northern Hemisphere this Friday 21 June, at exactly 17:54 in the Netherlands to be exact. This day, known as summer solstice or midsummer, happens twice (one per hemisphere – Northern & Southern) a year when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. In this moment, the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky, and after this day the days start getting shorter again, leading up to the winter solstice. The etymology of the word solstice comes from the Latin term solstitium, which means “sun stands still.”
ANCIENT TRADITIONS & CULTURE
Tributes to the summer solstice have been celebrated by many ancient traditions such as by the Aztec (festival of Xilonen), Mayan (many of their epic structures align with the Sun on this day), the Incas, the Celtic, the Native Americans, the Egyptians (this day marks their ancient New Year celebration, and on this day the Sun sets precisely between two of the Great Pyramids), the Greeks (this day also marked the first day of the year in their ancient calendar), the Romans (homage to Jupiter’s wife called Juno & Vestalia festival), the Christians (feast of St John the Baptist), the Pagans & the Wiccans (celebrating Litha – balance between fire + water and also a time of unity + fertility), the Chinese (the festival of Li, Chinese Goddess of Light and also celebration of yin -feminine energy) and of course – the yogis (summer solstice meditation and International Yoga Day)!
At Stonehenge, made more than 5,000 years ago, the Sun rises exactly over the structure on the summer solstice. People continue to gather en masse for this moment, and in line with the modern times we find ourselves in, they party and take lots photos of the moment with their mobile phones (check it out on google if you want to have a look…or maybe plan a visit yourself sometime if you’re into that!).
All in all, as you can see, summer solstice has been and continues to be celebrated all around the world.
WHY MEDITATION IS EXTRA SPECIAL ON THIS DAY
Times of seasonal transition are powerful moments to meditate upon our our internal transitions in life, and these times are also substantial moments to set our intentions in motion, whatever these may be – you decide!
So on this day, you could set your intentions & prepare to meditate around the time of the solstice. Set your space up before and begin your meditation 15 minutes before to allow yourself some time to sink deep into it, so that you are in meditation during the hiatus (at 17:54 here in The Netherlands), which you can consider a beautiful cosmic pause during which our little corner of the world is being blessed the heat and the light of the Sun.
SUMMER SOLSTICE & AYURVEDA
It is very common for yogis to meditate on moments of hiatus such as the summer solstice (or the spring equinox). Such is exemplified by the practice of ritucharya, literally meaning something like “walking with the path of the rhythms,” and which in Ayurveda (the Science of Life), involves consciously aligning internal practices with the environment and its relevant external seasonal rhythms.
The summer solstice marks the transition between spring (vasanta) and summer (grishma). According to Ayurvedic science this marks a gradual transition into a time where it is recommended to engage in practices which balance kapha (water & earth) soothe pitta (fire). Considering this, postures which are earthing and solar are great to integrate into your practice – so things like dynamic warrior poses, backbends and other solarizing postures like dhanurasana (the bow bose), bhujangasana (the cobra pose), and of of course surya namaskar (Sun salutations).
FUN WAYS TO CELEBRATE SUMMER SOLSTICE
- Wake up to the sunrise and start your day with Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) Bathe in the Light of the Sun
- Get creative – set yourself up with a brand new morning routine
- Enjoy Sunbaths – responsibly 😉
- Give your (or your friends’ or neighbour’s) garden some love
- Change up the decor in your home and give it more summery vibes
- Enjoy meals outside
- Connect with nature: do Yoga outside, go on meditative walks in the forest or city parks
- Do karma yoga at a local farm where you can get your hands in the earth
- Stay hydrated and fluid (do not deplete yourself in the heat!)
- Balance out the intensity of the Sun by enjoying also more time under the Moon & gazing at the stars (beautiful and affordable romantic yogi date idea!)
- Find seasonal solstice diets online (there are so many!) to follow if you are interested in that! Mostly they will be meals made with foods which are considered to have a strong relation to the Sun
AWAKEN YOUR INNER SUN
It is a beautiful synchronicity for summer solstice to be happening on International Yoga Day – actually it is quite probably not at all a coincidence. Let the Sun shine in on this day: into your home, into your life, into all your friendships & relationships, and into your heart. Allow the powerful blessing of the solar energies brought to you by the summer solstice to fill you with nourishing light, and the fire that will support you in following your dreams. Once you have set your intentions, stay focused, and let the universe work its magic upon you.
Love & Light,
Aldona from saktiisha