Updated: Mar 27, 2022
Moon Day Rest Days
Water: Why No Drink During Practice
Food: When & What to Eat
Best Times to Practice
Śaucha - Cleanliness
Svādhyāya - Philosophy: Self Study
The gravitational effect of the moon is strongest when the moon is both new and full. That’s why the ocean’s tides are more extreme on these days. How it affects living systems such as plants and animals is perhaps more subtle than the effect on the ocean, but it is still real non-the-less. It is a long-standing tradition in Ashtānga Yoga to rest from our regular āsana practice on these days. Following this lunar rhythm connects us with one of nature’s most prominent cycles, and provides a welcome respite from the rigors of daily practice. Attune yourself to nature by following the lunar rest day cycle, and enjoy using the time for other spiritual practices such as prāṇāyāma, chanting or meditation.
We use an Indian astrology system that divides the lunar cycle into 30 time periods. In the West, a simply astronomical calculation of when the moon is full or new is used. In the Indian (Jyotish) system, the period of time prior to the point when the moon becomes exactly new/full is considered to be the ‘moon day’ (called a tithi in Jyotish Astrology). Our moon days come from the following online source: mypanchang.com and calculated for Irvine, CA.
The term ‘moon day’ is a misleading translation of the Sanskrit term ‘tithi,’ ‘lunar phase’ is a better conception. Each tithi is the time it takes the moon to traverse 12° across the sky - making 30 tithis (lunar phases) per lunar month. These tithis begin at varying times of day and even vary in duration as much as 19 - 26 hours. What gets called full and new ‘moon days’ – from a yoga perspective, from Sharath Jois’ perspective – are the 15th and the 30th tithis of the Jyotish Astrology system. And just to keep us on our toes: In Jyotish, day begins at sunrise not midnight!
WATER: Why We Don’t Drink During Practice
Do not drink water during practice. Whenever anything is put into your stomach, your body sends resources there to process it (even just water). This hinders circulation and metabolism which in turn hinders the benefits and progress gained from your practice. Be sure to drink plenty of water more than 30 minutes or more prior to practice.
FOOD: When to Eat & Practice
In order to purify the body & mind properly, yoga must be practiced on an empty stomach. Following this discipline also helps free our sense of contentment from externals crutches:
Eating Before Practice - How much time is required
4 hours after a full meal
2.5 hours after a snack
1.5 hours after beverages other than water (but do not drink water during practice)
In Case It needs Mention
1.5 hours after cigarette
8 hours after alcohol
Foods greatly affect the functions of our internal organs. Digestion is a laborious process for the body. Our body & brain tends to function at its peak performance when the stomach is empty. We will feel lighter & have far greater clarity. Do not mistake an empty stomach for hunger - attune yourself to your energy level - and practice when circulatory & metabolic functions can produce the greatest depth of purification.
Eating & Drinking After Practice
15 - 30 minutes after practice for beverages including water
30 - 60 minutes after practice for eating
Waiting for the body’s autonomic functions to return to a neutral state before consuming food & beverages allows the mind-body system to more fully absorb the benefits. Thus we become brighter & more clear.
FOOD: What to Eat
Food should produce clarity, strength & lightness; it should not make us lethargic. We should not eat when not hungry nor should we overeat. The stomach should only be filled half full with solid food, a quarter full with liquids and the remaining quarter left empty. Following this, we should not eat for several after afterward waiting not just until the stomach is empty but for the body to actually require more energy. The practice of not snacking and allowing more time between meals strengthens digestion, transformation, assimilation & purification. It will generate a noticeable increase in vitality.
Fresh, seasonal and unprocessed foods, foods that are easy to digest and balanced in flavors, not too spicy, salty, sweet nor sour - these are the guidelines for a healthy diet conducive to our vitality, yoga practice & spiritual development. The more we follow these guidelines, the more we will progress in our yoga practice.
BEST TIMES TO PRACTICE: How Often Should We Practice?
Whenever we are able and willing, it is best to practice some form of yoga every day and more vigorously 5 - 6 days per week (with the exception of ladies holiday - see below). It may not always be possible (nor always necessary) to do a “full practice” so frequently. In such cases, we must avoid the “all or nothing” approach. A little practice everyday is better than a lot of practice sporadically. Do some practice daily - even just 10 - 40 minutes of some āsanas, prāṇāyāma, chanting or meditation will produce remarkable results both mentally & physically.
Be enthusiastic and there will be plenty of energy for practice. The steadier our practice, the more stable our mind-body system becomes, and we will then become more successful in all aspects of our life.
LADIES’ HOLIDAY: Menstruation
Menstruation is a time when the female body needs more rest & nourishment to regenerate & cleanse the tissues of the uterus. It is therefore recommended that women rest from vigorous āsana practice & strenuous work during the first three days of the menses cycle as this will require too much contraction of the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles and interferes with this natural cycle of fertility. Some women also notice a tendency to be more prone to injury during the three days prior to menstruation. So please be mindful and enjoy the rest days - they are for you!
Cleanliness is the first aspect of Niyama (one of the eight limbs of Ashtānga Yoga) and is of two types: External (Bāhya Śauca) & Internal (Antar Śauca).
External Cleanliness means keeping yourself, your surroundings, your clothes, etc. clean so that they are uplifting in appearance & scent. Bathing ourselves brightens our mental state & calms our restlessness bringing us more clarity. For this reason, it is best to bathe before practice or to keep clean anything you wish to imbue with more positivity energy. The way we treat the earth & her environment is also a part of Śauca.
Internal Cleanliness means keeping the heart & mind clean. That is to say we don’t allow feelings of sensationalism (kāma), anger/frustration (krodha), haste (māda), confusion (moha), greed (lobha) & envy (mātsarya) to cloud our sensibility or taint the purity of our experience. When these thoughts or feeling arise, we turn our minds towards breath, dṛṣṭi & and our physical posture. Coming back to our tangible existence (Satya - Truth) helps to displace the hindrances of our useless, detrimental thinking (Viparaya).
SVĀDHYĀYA - PHILOSOPHY: Self Study
Svādhyāya (lit. self study) has three meanings: 1) Practice, 2) Study of texts, and 3) Study of ourselves. The essential ingredient in each each of these being to make an effort to better understand things & to integrate our insights in a way that transforms our experience & relationship with life.
Practice should never be merely mechanical. It should always be done mindfully with utmost alertness such that we notice things anew from moment to moment, from breath to breath.
Study of texts should never be a mere accomplishment. Ideas & information should be taken to heart, contemplated deeply and understood in applicable ways that positively influence our perception of ourselves and the world of which we are an integral component.
Study of ourselves helps us to awaken from unconscious behaviors that undermine our progress in life and our yoga practice. It takes a keen awareness to identify the ways we hinder ourselves and cause ourselves suffering. We are completely responsible for our inner well-being, but we do not really understand the true nature of suffering nor of wellness. When such is the case, where is the question of understanding the Self (ātman)?
Only through careful study, can we come to understand the holistic nature of yoga - how the physical, the psychological & the spiritual are intertwined. Armed with this knowledge, we broaden our purpose in yoga. We develop an ever constant dimension to our practice that gracefully supports us through life’s ups & downs (injuries, illness, family, care giving, etc). Studying yoga and applying it is the purpose of svādhyāya and the way to improve the quality of everything we do, experience & encounter in life.