Your Guide to Moon Phases and What They Mean for Yoga
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
Everything in nature is cyclical
Days turn to nights, the ocean tides rise and fall, and the seasons cycle from one to the next. As humans, we too are also cyclical beings. When you consciously honour the rhythms and cycles in your body, in nature, and in the cosmos, you can come to “know thyself” in such exquisite and subtle ways, opening up to a sense of effortless ease and flow.
One of the most powerful ways to start attuning to cyclical wisdom is to connect with the moon and her rhythmic cycles.
Working with the moon was one of the initial gateways of my personal journey into cyclical wisdom. Connecting with lunar cycles and applying cyclical wisdom to my yoga practice and daily life, has truly changed my life. In this post, I’ll share a summary of the main lunar phases, how they affect us, and what this means for your yoga journey.
Why connect with the moon and her cycles?
Why Connect With the Moon and Her Cycles?
As the closest celestial body to the Earth, the moon has a particularly potent influence on us. Whether you’re spiritually oriented, of scientific mind, both, or something in between, the pull of the moon and her effects are undeniable.
We can easily see the effects of the moon in nature. The moon exerts a gravitational pull on the earth, which in turn affects the ocean tides. During full and new moons, the sun, earth and the moon are aligned. At these times, the ocean swells and recedes at maximum capacity, creating the highest and lowest tides. Coral and certain types of sea animals sense the phases of the moon to trigger their species-wide reproduction.
Ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions have venerated the moon since time immemorial. The earliest prehistoric calendars were based on the moon, and ancient cultures celebrated rituals in line with different lunar phases. Wisdom keepers from these traditions understood the potency of the moon’s energy and influence on nature, human life and our connection with spirit. The moon’s cyclical dance of waxing and waning became a symbol of the cycle of birth, growth, death and renewal that pulses through all that is alive. This cyclical pulsation mirrors the same fluctuations of expansion and contraction that take place in the human body and psyche.
Symbolically, the moon represents our inner emotional landscape, our intuitive Self and our subconscious. She also represents the Divine Feminine in all her cyclical and spiraling emanations. Lunar energy is receptive, reflective, yin, mutable, cool, moist, and mysterious. These qualities are often undervalued in our current society, which has come to prioritise doing, acting, manifesting, directing, etc. Yet, living a balanced, healthy, harmonious, sustainable, joyful and abundant life is only possible when we nurture and tend to our lunar qualities. This is reflected in the word Hatha, which is a Sanskrit word that unifies two shorter words: ha, meaning the esoteric sun and tha, meaning the moon. The practice of Hatha yoga helps to unify and harmonise these two principles.
The Moon and Her Many Phases
The moon’s many phases are plain to see when we look up into the night sky. Approximately every 29.5 days, the moon cycles through a full series of phases. She begins as a dark moon, then waxes from a thin crescent to the full moon, and then wanes from fully illuminated back to a thin crescent. Each of the moon’s cyclical phases emits a unique frequency. Working consciously with these frequencies allows us to tune into the vast ocean of lunar wisdom. Attuning our daily routines, practices, and rituals around the moon helps us to get into a flow state with energies that are around us.
There are many ways to break down the different phases in the lunar cycle. Here, I’ll summarise the four main moon phases that I have found to be especially resonant. Before we dive in, I want to underline that the lunar phases can be experienced in diverse ways for different people. All meanings and experiences are valid. What I share below is an archetypal description of each phase, but your own personal experience with the lunar phases is always most important.
The New Moon
Each lunar cycle begins with a new moon. This is when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, that is, she is “in between” the Earth and the sun. When the exact conjunction occurs, the moon is invisible to the naked eye. All of the sun's light reflects off the face of the moon that is not visible from Earth, so we see only a shadow of the moon. At this time of the lunar month, the moon sits below the horizon during the night, which is another reason why the nascent moon is invisible. As the moon and sun slowly separate, a sliver of light illuminates a very thin crescent moon. In some traditions, the new moon is considered to occur when these first rays of light faintly reflect off the crescent moon. Astronomically, the new moon occurs when the moon is at 0 – 45 degrees ahead of the sun.
Energies of the new moon:
The conjunction of the sun and moon carry the energy of creative union. The masculine and feminine principles merge in a sacred, fertile union. This is why the new moon is an excellent time to connect with your dreams and deep heartfelt desires. It is a potent time to plant seeds of intentions and imagine how it would feel to bring your dreams into manifest form. We can consider the time of the exact conjunction between the moon and sun as the moment of conception. And when the first rays of light become visible on the thin crescent moon, it is the moment of (re)birth into a new cycle.
This phase of the lunar month is a quiet, reflective time. We are invited to slow down, to BE, to focus inward and open up to intuitive wisdom and insights. It can also be a powerful time for dreaming and self-inquiry. Since the new moon occurs in darkness, it carries a “both/and” energy – the quiet stillness of darkness and the vibrant promise of a new spark of light.
Archetype: The Crone – wisdom, experience, inner knowing, intuition, sage
Key words: beginnings, (re)birth, conception, intentions, seeds, dreams
The Waxing Moon
During the waxing phase, the moon continues to distance herself from the Earth - Sun line and her illuminated surface grows progressively larger and brighter in the night sky. The phase can be further broken down in to three distinct sub-phases:
The waxing crescent moon, when the illuminated surface of the moon is crescent-shaped. Here, in the northern hemisphere, the crescent appears on the right side of the moon. In the Southern hemisphere, it appears on the left side.
The first quarter moon, when one half of the moon is illuminated and the other half remains in shadow.
The waxing gibbous moon, when more than half of the moon’s surface is illuminated. The word gibbous means bulging, swelling or convex-shaped. It originates from a Latin root, meaning hump.
Energies of the waxing moon phase:
During the waxing moon phase, we may feel a growing energy, stimulation and motivation. This is a time when the seeds planted at the new moon begin to take root and sprout. Our energies start to spiral outward and our mental capacities often sharpen. When we tune into these subtle currents of energy, it can help us to take action towards manifesting our dreams. This might involve consciously committing to your dreams, identifying what you need to bring them forth, taking stock of your resources, refining your vision and prioritising where to take action and where to surrender into being. At the first quarter moon, when the moon is half light and half dark, we are invited to cultivate balance and harmony. The moon encourages you to embrace both your shadow and your light, integrating all aspects of yourself, so that you can bring your whole Self into the co-creative journey of bringing your dreams into physical form.
Archetype: The Maiden - youthful, playful, innocent, pristine, strong, independent, enthusiastic
Key words: initiation, action, evolution, devotion, commitment, opportunity, preparation, efficiency, analysis
The Full Moon
The full moon is the peak of the lunar cycle. The moon swells with light and energy. She is at her brightest and fullest. This occurs when the Earth is in “between” the Moon and the Sun.
Energies of the full moon:
Energetically, the full moon is a time of ripeness, culmination, and release. The fullness of the moon emits an expansive, dynamic and generous surge of energy. This can help us complete projects, birth our dreams into tangible form, enjoy the fruits of our labour, and share abundance with others. There is a buzzing intensity at the full moon. All of the lunar qualities within us – our emotions, intuition, creativity – rise to the surface and are illuminated. The energies of the full moon are outward. You may feel an increased desire to connect with others, and more confidence to allow yourself to be seen.
The full moon is also a time of release. The moon’s brightness helps us to see the whole picture, including things that may have previously been hidden. The moon invites us to release anything that no longer serves our highest purpose. She offers to carry these things for us, as she continues on to the waning phase of her cyclical journey towards transformation and renewal.
Archetype: The mother - expansive, welcoming, sustaining, nurturing, generous, radiant, inner strength
Keywords: Illumination, awareness, abundance, harvest, generosity, release, offering
The Waning Moon
The waning phase of the lunar cycle is when the illuminated surface of the moon progressively decreases. The phase can be broken down into three sub-phases:
The waning gibbous or disseminating moon, when the moon is no longer full, but more than half of her surface is illuminated.
The third quarter moon, when the surface of the moon is equal parts light and dark.
The waning crescent or balsamic moon, when the illuminated surface of the moon is crescent-shaped and progressively becomes thinner.
Energies of the waning moon phase:
The waning moon is the descent phase of the lunar cycle. After enjoying the fruits of your intentions with gratitude, it is now time to prepare for the darker, slower phases of the cycle. It is a time to progressively turn inward. Just as leaves fall off the trees in autumn, this is a time to shed all that is not in resonance with your Truth. You might become more aware of where you feel misaligned and feel called to make adjustments. It’s an important time to create and honour boundaries, prioritising self-care.
Archetype: The enchantress, mystic, or wild woman – free, untethered, authentic, bold, self-affirming,
Key words: Shedding, discernment, boundaries, rest, renewal, surrender
The Dark Moon
In many ancient traditions, the final stages of the balsamic moon phase were considered the dark moon phase. Around three days before a new moon, the waning crescent dissolves into blackness, and the moon disappears from sight. Some consider this phase to be when the moon shows her “true face”, since none of the sun’s light reflects off of her.
In the words of Demetra George, “The purpose of the dark phase of any cycle is that of transition between the death of the old and the birth of the new. The dark time is a time of retreat, healing, and of dreaming the future. The darkness is lit with the translucent quality of transformation; and during this essential and necessary period, life is prepared to be born."
The dark moon invites us to enter the deep void beyond space and time, and to descend into the personal and collective unconscious, where the secrets of renewal and creation reside. It’s a time to rest, surrender, observe and renew. If we accept this invitation, it can be a time of great inspiration, intuition and divine insight. Unfortunately, our modern world has largely forgotten the gifts of the dark moon. We are pressured to maintain a highly productive and fast-pace rhythm and are made to feel like we’re lazy, weak or deficient if we take time to rest and be. Ignoring the invitation of the dark moon to slow down can leave us feeling drained. Giving ourselves permission to rest and find quiet stillness are key to experiencing the blessings of this part of the lunar cycle.
Archetype: The dark goddess
Key words: Rest, surrender, transformation, metamorphosis
So, What Does This Mean for Your Yoga Practice?
Through the practice and praxis of yoga, we learn that the human body is much more than its physical anatomy. The body is also made up of several energetic and etheric layers or sheaths. Harmonising the subtle energetic body is essential to experience optimum wellness.
Quantum physics has found that all matter resonates with energetic frequencies – including the moon – and these frequencies affect us on a subtle energetic level. Consciously adapting your yoga practice to the energetics of the lunar cycle can therefore support you to harmonise your own energetic body.
I’ll share more specific tips on how you can adapt your yoga practice to the different lunar phases in future posts. As a starting point, start to consciously track the lunar phases and take note of how you feel during each phase. You can then adapt your yoga practice to the general qualities of each lunar phase, as well as your own personal needs during each phase. For example, you can choose specific types of pranayama, asana, or meditative practices that align with the energetics of each lunar phase. For people with a menstrual cycle, I also highly recommend tracking your cycle and how it links to the lunar cycle to create an even more personalised approach to integrating cyclical wisdom in your yoga practice (more on this coming soon...)
If you would like to experience what it’s like to attune your yoga practice to the lunar cycle, please contact me to learn more about my Luna Mystica vinyasa flow classes.
With much love,