“Some are born under a star, some are born seeing stars”. – American Indian Proverb

I always teach yoga according to a theme. Every class tells a story. In fact, when it comes to sequencing a yoga practice, I take to heart two pieces of advice.

One is from Edgar Allan Poe regarding the short story: remove anything that isn’t essential to your main point. The second is from my teacher, Swami Dayananda: before you embark upon anything, always know, what will come of it.

 

I believe a yoga practice must have purpose.

So when I teach – whether a class, retreat or yoga therapy training – I consider supporting the unfolding of an inner story in which everything serves a particular point. Every contemplation, pose, adjustment, yoga nidra script, ties to that purpose. There is nothing superfluous or done for entertainment value, or merely because it “feels good”.

Aligning my class with a single principle trims the fat, simplifies my teaching and anchors it.

In private yoga therapy, I can zero in on therapeutic choices based on individual needs. But with groups, I lean into broader influences that can deliver shared benefit and meaning for everyone.

 

Themes of my teachings are inspired and guided by three factors.

  • Insight into a communal need. I look upon my own current body-mind state, that of my students and clients, and even societal patterns to choose a teaching theme. For example, 2017 seemed to be a collective year of depletion for many. Thus in 2018 I have focused on the principle of yogic rejuvenation. You can see the next upcoming retreat on this, here.
  • Ayurvedic seasonal principles. These influence everyone as a group. For example, in autumn in Northern California it is dry and windy, so reclined, stabilizing and restorative practices to help resolve vata dosha are crucial. I have a compact online course, which guides teachers in how to plan a year of healing Ayurvedic yoga themes applicable to any style. You can grab the Seasonal Sequencing Course here.
  • Vedic Astrology. Planet and constellation patterns speak to the play of destiny and free will, and they influence us at the individual level as well as more broadly on the earthly plane. And that’s what I’d like to give a glimpse into right now.

A caveat: before I go any further, don’t expect to walk away from this article ready to plan your yoga practice or teaching according to the stars. This is a small step into a vast and highly complex subject.

 

This is a glimpse into how asana can be tied to astrology.

So here I was, a few days ago, end of June 2018:

I was contemplating what to teach next. Twists were on my mind, but I didn’t have clarity as to why this was coming through. So, with a couple loud kids in the background, I consulted my Vedic Astrologer-husband, Michael Manzella.

Me: “what should I teach this month?”
He: “twists”.
Me: “you’re kidding! Why?”
He: “so many vakri planets right now.”

The conversation gets a little Sanskrity here… I’ll paraphrase the rest.

Several planets are retrograde right now. Retrogression is an astronomical occurrence in which a planet appears, from our vantage point {earth}, to be moving “backwards”. Such a planet is in its closest position to earth possible on its orbit and will appear significantly brighter in the night sky, thus reflecting it’s increased impact in our lives.

 

The Sanskrit word for retrograde, vakri, means twisted, winding, or bent or strange.

The retrograde planet is…

  • Bright
  • Strange
  • Different
  • Sparkly
  • Exaggerated
  • Intensified

 

A retrograde planet is like Michael Jackson wearing a sparkling white suit doing the moonwalk – it’s strange, bright, moving backwards and eye-catching.

Retrogression is not necessarily “bad”. It is simply brighter and backwards, making its influence stronger, more intensified and maybe a little freakish. A retrograde planet can even deliver blessing! if it is well placed and in a good condition in your horoscope. For example, if you have a well-placed Mercury in good condition, Mercury retrograde may bring you luck!

 

So, don’t get caught up in new-age Mercury-retrograde frenzy.

Let’s return to the conversation with the star-man.

Me: “Tell me more about why twists during this time”
He: “It is not a good time to start something new. It is a good time to contemplate, assess, and take stock, to realign for the next forward motion. Twists will help people slow down and take time for this. It will ‘back them up’ and allow them to gain insight.

 

A retrograde planet is “backing up”. It re-traverses an area in the sky {and in your life} it has already covered.

During a planetary retrogression, you re-visit life themes, patterns and psychology associated with that particular planet and it’s position and condition in your particular horoscope.

“When we revisit something, we can either get stuck in a loop, or we can complete unfinished business and gain insight, clarity or depth. This is the problem and the value of a retrograde planet”. – Michael Manzella

So, why twists? I am going to nail down two reasons.

1. Twists poses are themselves, vakri.

They literally twist the spine, in a strange way, clockwise and then counter clockwise. We move one way and then the other, like a planet moving “prograde” and “retrograde”.

In a twist, you traverse and re-traverse the spine.

2. Twists cultivate inward orientation and contemplation, allowing for a pause.

Yogic twists open the heart and quiet the mind. They reverse our normal pattern – blocked heart and busy mind! Normally, we are “prograde” in life – focused on forward motion – hurrying forward and strategizing. The mind gets so invested in “what’s next”, that it loses sight of deeper knowing and being hidden in the heart. In this state, the head literally pulls forward, as the region of the heart tightens and mounds. Twists back the forward-moving head up and bring the heart forward. We “back up” into ourselves.

Twists provide an opportunity to gain the lessons and insights we miss when we are caught in the hurrying forward motion of the mind.

So with that, I lauched a month of twists, to align with a month of multiple retrograde planets. That first class of the series, I emphasized “back bending twists” which bring the heart ahead of the head, and sink the head back in space behind the heart. Rather than ending in Shavasana, we began with Shavasana and ended with meditation. We contemplated the value of resolving the analytical mind into the deeper knowing of the heart.

The room at the end was silent.

No one was ready to get up when it was time. They wanted to linger in that quiet but bright seat of the heart. I plan to immerse in this theme – twists, inward orientation and contemplation – for the upcoming month.

As the retrograde planets move backwards, its light brighter and more intense, it is a good time to turn inward. Try spinal twists, meditation, yoga nidra and contemplation. Take a pause and let the light of your own awareness shine more brightly within. You’ll emerge with brighter clarity and ready for your own prograde {forward motion} in life.

May our hearts and minds become brighter and replenished during this time!

Keep in mind, how the retrograde planets specifically impact you, and your next moves in life, will greatly depend on your individual horoscope. I highly recommend regular readings to know when and how to apply your free will according to the karma you have been handed this time around… and I hope this little insight into how I plan my classes inspires and ignites your own inner knowing as you practice or teach yoga.

Love,
Kaya {and the Star Man}