Purity is a theme associated with the zodiac sign Virgo, and purity (sauca) is one of the observances, or the personal disciplines, that make up the second of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. Do you find that purity is a concept that works for you and helps to keep you healthy in body, mind, and spirit? Or has it become another thing to beat yourself up about?
Of course, yoga has a purifying, cleansing effect on a mental, physical, and emotional level. The yoga asanas, coordinated with the breathing, improve circulation and flush out toxins in our system. Deep relaxation allows the body to repair and renew itself. However, the concept of purity can be a double-edged sword. One trap that we can fall into is to become obsessed with self-purification. Some yoga teachers exacerbate this tendency in their students by pushing the idea that we are all impure and need to follow extreme exercise routines and diets, including purging, to detoxify ourselves. Purity shouldn’t become a stick to beat yourself with.
Below are some meditation questions, from my forthcoming book, Yoga by the Stars, that will help you to explore both the negative and positive aspects of working with the Virgo theme of purity:
Purity is not a destination; it’s a way of being. The beauty of yoga is that we experience ourselves from the inside out, rather than responding to the gaze of others, and how they view us from the outside. Perhaps for the first time, we are comfortable in our own skin. This inner confidence helps us bat away projections from others who tell us that we are impure or not good enough. Yoga’s inner journey helps us uncover what is true and pure within: our radiant authentic self.
See also: Virgo Pure Light Visualisation
Virgo: Let the Earth Support You
Virgo is a mutable, earthy sign ruled by Mercury. The symbol for Virgo is a young woman with an ear of corn in her hand and a child in her lap. She symbolises fertility and purity. During the current pandemic, purity, or rather avoiding contamination is a preoccupation for all of us . We are fearful of touching surfaces for fear that the virus is lurking there. We are anxious that the virus might be lingering in the air we breathe. Of course it makes sense to take precautions to stay safe when facing a potentially deadly virus. However, all this airy, worry energy can leave us feeling disconnected from nature, ungrounded, cut off from our inner wisdom, and so less able to navigate the crisis. In this post we'll consider how to harness Virgo's earth energy, to help us to stay grounded and centred.
The Virgo symbol of a young woman, a babe in arms, and corn in her hand, gives us a few clues about how to stay grounded. Grounding activities include; spending time with children, pets, gardening, baking (especially kneading bread), and walks in nature. Whereas worry energy takes us up into our head and away from the present moment; grounding activities bring us back into our body, our feet firmly planted on the earth, and back to the present moment. When you are grounded you are reunited with a sense of hope, optimism, and a clarity of purpose.
Below are two meditations that you can use when you need to ground yourself. The first, the Mantra Lam Meditation, is from the Yoga by the Stars book. The great thing about chanting is that it releases tension and helps to restore a healthy breathing pattern; this in turn is calming and soothes worry energy. The second meditation, Standing Like a Tree, is from my first book, Yoga Through the Year.
Mantra Lam Meditation
Come to a sitting position and rest your hands on your belly. Notice the gentle rise and fall of the belly with each in and out-breath. Then with each out-breath, silently repeat the mantra Lam (pronounced lum). This is the bija (seed) mantra associated with the base chakra (muladhara), and it is very grounding. After a few silent repetitions, begin to sound the Lam mantra on each exhale. With each repetition of the mantra bring your awareness down to the belly and the lower half of the body. After a few repetitions, let go of chanting.
Spend a few more minutes here, quietly observing your breath and noticing the contact between your body and the earth. When you are ready, carry on with your day.
Standing Like a Tree
This exercise can be used at any time of year as a stand-alone exercise or as part of your yoga practice. It can be used as a way of centring and grounding yourself at the start of a yoga practice. In daily life it is particularly helpful for those times when you feel thrown off balance by a situation and need to regain your equilibrium and ground yourself.
Stand tall like a tree. Your feet are parallel and about hip width apart. Your knees are soft, your face relaxed, shoulders down away from the ears. Your tailbone feels heavy as though it is weighted, and the crown of your head feels light and floats skyward. Picture in your mind’s eye a tree that you love or feel a connection to.
Bring your awareness to your feet. Be aware of where your feet are in contact with the earth beneath you. Allow your toes to spread and your heels to drop down into the earth. Imagine that there are roots growing from the soles of your feet, going deep down into the earth below you, spreading in a wide circle, and giving you stability.
With each inhale imagine that you are drawing healing energy and nourishment up though your roots into the soles of your feet, up through the legs, torso, and to the lungs.
With each exhale imagine that the out-breath is travelling down both legs, through your feet, and back down into your roots. Imagine with each exhale that you are letting go of anything that you do not wish to hold on to, letting go of tension, worries, anxiety, persistent thoughts, discomfort, or pain. Imagine that any negativity that you let go of is then cleansed and purified by the soil.
Inhale: Healing energy
Exhale: Letting go
Repeat over several breaths until you feel centred and grounded.
See also: Virgo Pure Light Visualisation
The ancient yogis believed that within each of us there is a Divine spark. It is like a candle flame at the heart centre, that burns steadily unmoved by the winds of change. It is always there, constant, light and bright, guiding our way. Although sometimes, like a dusty lamp, the light can become obscured and dimmed. Our yoga practice helps us to clean up the lamp and to uncover this light within, bringing light into the darkness.
The Virgo-inspired yoga practice, in the Yoga by the Stars book, uses visualisation and affirmation to help us to reconnect with this guiding light within. Inspired by the zodiac sign Virgo, this practice has a devotional feel. It is deeply relaxing and grounding, and it will help you to access a deep source of strength and wisdom. It enables you to cultivate a sense of being comfortable in your own skin and to get in touch with the purity of your authentic self.
The affirmation we use in the practice is The light within guides my way. It can be shortened and coordinated with the breath:
Inhale: The light within
Exhale: Guides my way
During the practice we also coordinate the affirmation with movements in the asanas, and with the breath. Or you can repeat the affirmation, The light within guides my way, at the start of each round of a sequence, such as Salute to the Sun (Surya Namaskar).
Below is a simple meditation that we use to begin and conclude the Virgo practice. You can use it yourself at home to start or finish your own yoga practice. Also, during the practice, between poses, in a pose such as Mountain Pose (Tadasana), you might wish to place your hands at your heart and picture a candle flame burning steadily there.
Virgo Pure Light Visualisation
Find yourself a comfortable seated position. Draw an imaginary circle of light around yourself. If it feels right, silently say, I surround myself with love and light, and I am safe. Bring your hands to your heart and visualise a candle flame burning steadily at the heart space. Then silently repeat your affirmation 3 times: The light within guides my way.
Ask to be given an image that symbolises purity for you. If an image does not immediately come to mind, trust that at some point one will arise. If an image does arise, hold it in your heart as you do your yoga practice.
The above practice is from the Virgo chapter of the Yoga by the Stars book, to be published by Llewellyn in December 2020.
Hello, I am Jilly Shipway, the author of Yoga Through the Year, and my forthcoming book Yoga by the Stars. In this Yoga by the Stars blog I will share with you zodiac-inspired yoga insights and inspiration. I also have another blog on my Yoga Through the Year website.