Hatha: The Sun and The Moon (or the union of opposites and relief from fear & anxiety through breathing)
The Sun and the Moon symbolise different things in different cultures and traditions, but one thing that is common to all is their representation of polarity. One way of translating the term Hatha Yoga is “the union (yoga) of the sun (Ha) and the moon (Tha)”. In yoga, in the tantric tradition, the very essence of the practice is concerned with polarity and reintegration of opposites. The sacred Sri Yantra here represents this divine truth beautifully (The Sri Yantra. From douglaspfeifer.com). Polarity is at the heart of existence and at the heart of polarity is the union of opposites.
It may seem alien or abstract to think of your body and the world in this way, but throughout time stories and legend have been used to explain and help us understand the metaphysical aspects of being in ways which communicate something often otherwise ineffable. Think of the Greek myths and legends, the Apocrypha to the Bible, Aesops fables, Grimm’s fairy tales, the Ramayana, the Bhagavat Gita, and many more. What can be difficult to speak to directly, can often be understood through storytelling and creative representation.
Yoga is a process of reintegration and transformation. We are already all that we need to be in our bodies and in the world, but often this has been lost beneath the layers of conditioning and everyday living that modern culture and life place up on us. Life is just life, this is neither good nor bad, although it is miraculous and beautiful, and because of the way we live we may have forgotten this. We may also have forgotten how to just be and what our natural condition is and this may cause us all sorts of problems and make us very unhappy in our time on this earth. We may have become disconnected and disassociated from ourselves and each other in many respects.
In Yoga we have the opportunity to reconnect and start fully participating again in what it is to actually be alive, beyond the daily grind and pursuit of life’s material rewards, beyond the rat race and the ladder climbing. We get to rest and just be in our bodies and the world and realise what a relief that is. It is an immense relief and very healing.
We can find many pairings that relate to this union. Masculine and feminine, hot and cold, sun and moon, shakti and shiva, the inhale and the exhale. They dance around each other and come together and flow and heal when in right relation to one another. This takes our practice beyond a series of gymnastic poses, out of the realms of mere exercise and transforms it into a mechanism for participating in life for these polarities are life itself and we are life itself too and when we tap into that amazing things come to pass. It makes us receptive to life and to living in harmony on all levels, physical, mental, emotional, subtle and ethereal. It allows us to open and to receive and to exist as and in love.
In many ways, this reintegration starts and ends with the breath. The inhale and the exhale. Receiving and surrendering back. To truly experience this one must practice. Sit with yourself and simply breath for five minutes, closing the eyes, going within, focussing your attention on the inhale, pausing at capacity, and then slowly exhaling from the belly drawing the pelvic floor up and in. How does it feel? What do you notice? The sense of peace and calm, the relief is immense. This is the natural state we are in when we allow it to be, and this can translate and fan out across our lives and into the world.
I will leave you with this story of Hanuman rescuing Sita and returning her to Rama. It is a very well-known tale of Hindu mythology and I hope that it may spark a curiosity about your yoga and going deeper in understanding with it. In brief, Sita who represents the divine feminine or shakti within us all, and also the inhale, has been stolen from her beloved prince Rama, who represents the shiva/ the divine masculine force within us all and also the exhale, by a demon and taken far away to Lanka. Naturally, Rama is lost without her and she is hysterical without him (as so much and many in this world are without their divine feminine and/or masculine essence and the inhale and exhale of life in union), but his dear friend Hanuman, who is pure compassion and love and faithfulness and constancy as well as the complete breath in the body, makes a massive leap of faith, and goes to fight the demon even though he is not sure he can do it, to rescue Sita. In the story, he literally overcomes and moves mountains to do so. This demonstrates the power of the breath and faith. Hanuman, the breath, ultimately reunites the masculine and the feminine polarities and brings the world back to rights, brings wholeness back, and so all is well again.
As we open up again here in the UK anxiety about “going back to normal” is on the rise. I feel it too although I am looking forward to being with people again too, to being reconnected. But being apart and having less on our plates in some ways has been a welcome relief from the hectic pressure of everyday living for many. We need self-care more than ever to stay grounded and balanced now. This realisation is precious and needs to be maintained. Trying five minutes of breathing a day may be all that is needed to realise worries are surmountable and to stay connected to your body and your life in union and flow rather than division and resistance. This is so beautifully simple and accessible to us all. This is Hatha Yoga. Much love and namaste and see you soon.