The Leo-inspired practice, from my forthcoming book Yoga by the Stars, is the perfect antidote to all the covid-related fear and anxiety that is swirling around at the moment. Due to the virus we're all having to be hyper-vigilant as we try to avoid catching or giving others the virus. This makes life very stressful and many of us are finding it harder than usual to relax. We can also feel dis-empowered and overwhelmed when faced with what can feel like an insurmountable problem. I was certainly feeling like that when I stepped onto my yoga mat early on this morning. However, I found the Leo practice did it's magic and I felt stronger, calmer and more courageous by the end of it.
The Ram-Yam-Lam sequence is part of the Leo-inspired yoga practice, and I just loved doing it this morning! The chanting helps you to release tension and find your lion's roar! The mantra RAM is associated with the solar plexus chakra and helps you to access your personal power. The mantra YAM connects you to your compassionate heart centre. And the mantra LAM is associated with your base chakra and so is grounding.
Stand tall, feet parallel and about hip-width apart, with hands resting on the solar plexus. Inhale and take the arms out to the sides. On the exhale, chant Ram (pronounced rum), as you bring your hands back to the solar plexus. Inhale taking the arms overhead. Exhale, lowering the arms and crossing the hands to the heart, as you chant Yam (pronounced yum). Inhale taking the arms overhead. Exhale, coming into a Standing Forward bend (Uttanasana), chanting Lam (pronounced lum). Inhale, come back up to standing, taking both arms up above the head. Exhale lower the hands back to the solar plexus. Repeat the sequence 3 more times.
See also the Leo Page of this website, and the Strength Powered by Love post
Yoga helps you stand tall and find the courage in your heart to follow your true path in life. Sometimes yoga is quiet and reflective, and at other times it prompts you to roar like a lion and to defend what you believe in. The reflective side of your yoga practice puts you in touch with what is true for you, whereas the active side of your practice requires you to give voice to that truth—and this is your lion’s roar.
We look to the zodiac sign Leo for the gift of fierce confidence. Regardless of your own Sun sign, working with Leo's energy will help you to connect with your powerful Sun self and to radiate your light out into the world. As we emerge from the pandemic and try to establish a "new normal" we really need people who are empowered to speak up and speak out, to ensure that we make the new normal better than before.
Although we don't know what the long term effects of the covid virus will be, we do know that it will have a massive impact on the way we live our lives. Understandably there is a lot of fear and anxiety about the future, and we can offset some of that by envisioning what we want the future to look like. One positive step we can take, as we begin to emerge from the virus, is to consider how we can go about rebuilding a better world? If you are in touch with your "lion's roar" then you stand a better chance of making your voice heard in this debate!
Here in the UK one of the criticisms of the government's covid policy is that women have been absent from the table, and consequently important issues impacting on our daily lives have been overlooked. So right now it is vitally important that women's voices, worldwide, are heard loud and clear in the debate about what the new post-covid world should look like. As Ursula K Le Guin said in her Bryn Mawr Commencement Address, "When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains."
So how are you going to go about getting in touch with your lion's roar? How are you going to make sure your voice is heard and helps to shape this new and better world? Perhaps being in quarantine you've lost some of your confidence and can't quite imagine yourself roaring like a lion. That's understandable, however, you can harness Leo's energy to help you to regain confidence and to empower you to give voice to your opinions and preferences. And remember, you don’t have to go it alone. At the heart of a lion pride is a closed sisterhood of female adults; they work cooperatively together, both in hunting and looking after their young. When we work collectively with others, we are stronger and can achieve more than when we work alone. So get together with other like minds and roar together in orchestrated chorus!
The gentle discipline that you cultivate through your yoga practice will stand you in good stead in life. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the judgement that something else is more important. What you say and what you do will shape the new world that is emerging. You can help to rebuild better. So let me hear you roar!
In the Leo-inspired yoga practice in the Yoga by the Stars book, we aim to build fierce, unshakeable confidence, in tandem with a compassionate, loving, heart. The book will be published in December 2020 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
See also: the Leo Page on this website, the Leo Ram-Yam-Lam Sequence, and the Strength Powered by Love post
The Leo-inspired yoga practice, from my book Yoga by the Stars, is the go-to yoga practice whenever you need to be nurtured and empowered. It is centring, energising, uplifting, and creates stability, releasing tension and blocked energy. It's a grounding, sunny, strengthening practice that increases confidence and courage. So, the perfect practice for those of us tentatively coming out of lock-down and bracing ourselves to face the world again! I used it as my early morning yoga practice today, and by the end of it I felt less of the quivering, small, nervous animal coming out of hibernation, and more in touch with the brave lion within!
In the Leo-inspired yoga practice, we aim to build fierce, unshakeable confidence in tandem with a compassionate, loving heart. We draw our inspiration in this practice from the strength and courage of a lion as well as the lioness’s ability to cooperate lovingly with other lionesses in her pride. Our intention to build a strength that is tempered by love is encapsulated in our affirmation for the practice, which is: My strength is powered by love.
The affirmation My strength is powered by love,felt perfect for me this morning. I really enjoyed coordinating a shortened version with the breath. Inhale: strength. Exhale: love. This works really well if you coordinate it with movement, for example inhale and affirm "strength" as you raise your arms, exhale and affirm "love" as you lower them. You can try it out with dynamic, moving versions of the postures, such as Child’s Pose (Balasana) into Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
Of course, no Leo-inspired yoga practice would be complete without the playfully fierce Lion Pose (Simhasana). In the Leo practice we use it dynamically as part of the warm-up for the practice.
The Leo-inspired practice, begins and ends with a seated Sun Visualisation. This is wonderfully centring and guaranteed to calm the emerging from lock-down jitters and the still in lock-down blues!
Seated Sun Visualisation
Find yourself a comfortable, erect seated position. Picture in your mind’s eye the Sun symbol, which is a dot within a circle. Then imagine that you are drawing a circle of light around yourself. Picture yourself as the Sun at the centre of this circle. Now picture a sun, at your solar plexus, radiating light and warmth around your body. Silently repeat this affirmation three times: My strength is powered by love.
The above Leo-inspired yoga practice ideas are from the Yoga by the Stars book, which will be published early December 2020, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
The zodiac sign Cancer, the crab, is a watery sign, ruled by the Moon. Following on from my last few blog posts, themed around the zodiac sign Cancer, in this post we'll look at how you can introduce a Moon theme into your yoga practice.
In astrology the key words associated with the Moon are response and fluctuation. In older texts the Sun represented spirit, the Moon represented soul, and the ascendant represented body. The Moon represents the pull of matter (subconscious), and the Sun the pull of spirit (superconscious). The Moon’s connection with health has always made her prominent in astrological medicine.
The Moon is the Earth’s natural satellite that shines by reflecting the Sun’s light. The Moon speaks to us of time passing, and its waxing and waning connects us to the ebb and flow of life. The phases of the Moon teach us about the cycles of life, death, rebirth, and renewal. Out of the darkness, the New Moon arises in the night sky and speaks to us of hope reborn. The Full Moon is pregnant with possibilities. The Dark Moon reminds us to pause, rest, and recuperate.
The Earth and the Moon are in a symbiotic relationship. The gravitational pull of the Moon, and to a lesser degree the Sun, creates the ocean tides. Many people believe that the Moon’s gravitational force also affects humans, as our bodies are made up of approximately 60 percent water.
Some of us notice that the phases of the Moon elicit a response in us. Of course, our response to the phases of the Moon is a very personal thing. Some love the flurry of energy, activity, and creativity during the waxing phase of the Moon up to when it reaches its fullness. Others prefer the more serene, contemplative, reflective energy of the waning phase of the Moon. If you regularly observe the response that the moon’s cycle elicits in you, it will help you find a rhythm of activity and rest that is uniquely healthful and energising for you.
There are many ways you can introduce a Moon theme into your yoga practice. You can include circular sequences that mirror the phases of the Moon, such as Chandra Namaskar (Salute to the Moon). Or you could try including flowing, fluid, watery movements into your yoga session.
All pranayama practices are a way of bringing both Sun (ha) and Moon (tha) into your practice. We are also connecting with the ebb and flow, waxing and waning, rhythm of the Moon, when we consciously attend to balancing sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) in our yoga practice. Off the mat, meditative, circular walks also have a satisfyingly Moon-like quality to them.
You could try visualising the Moon during a yoga practice or ask the Moon to guide your intuitive practice. However, whenever you introduce a Moon focus into your yoga, it’s important to remember to stay grounded. Working with a Moon theme and forgetting to ground yourself can be disorientating, so always keep an awareness of your connection with the earth beneath you and a sense of roots connecting you to the earth, giving you support and stability.
You'll find lots more moon-inspired yoga ideas in my forthcoming book, Yoga by the Stars.
The zodiac sign Cancer is known as the mother sign, with a strong desire to nurture and nourish others. In my last post, Tough Times Require Tender Care, we explored how the zodiac sign Cancer can be a wonderful source of self-care, nurturing, and nourishment for us. In this post we'll continue developing that theme, looking at how we can become our own best friend. This skill is invaluable as we look for ways of navigating our way through the unprecedented uncertainty of the current pandemic.
How do you talk to yourself when you mess up or life takes a wrong turn? Often at these difficult times our inner critic takes over, and many of us speak to ourselves in a manner that we would never dream of speaking to a friend. Even though many of the events that occur in life are beyond our control, we can still consciously decide to cultivate a loving and compassionate attitude toward ourselves and others.
If you are interested in finding out more about developing the skill of self-compassion, you could check out Christopher Germer's The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, or Paul Gilbert's The Compassionate Mind.
In the Zodiac sign Cancer chapter of the Yoga by the Stars book, I include a Become Your Own Best Friend Meditation, which teaches you how to connect with your own inner loving, nurturing self, and how to show the same compassion to yourself that you would show to a friend in need. By cultivating good self-care in this way, you build up self-confidence and the resilience to cope with life's ups and downs. Although I am not including that meditation in this blog post, however, I am including an audio link to Mark Williams The Befriending Meditation. As Mark says, "When life really begins to get you down…. When you feel angry, lost or alone… When you feel close to despair… When you feel that you are your own worst enemy… The Befriending Meditation is here for you." The meditation below comes from the Finding Peace in a Frantic World website, where you will find many other mindfulness resources and free meditations.
We are all living through tough times, with this pandemic, and more than ever at this turbulent time we need to show ourselves and each other tender care. Regardless of your own Sun sign, the sign that can nurture and nourish you through these challenging times is the zodiac sign Cancer.
Cancer, the crab, is a watery sign, ruled by the Moon. It is known as the mother sign, with a strong desire to care for, to nourish, and to protect others. At times of crisis self-care is so important, and now is a great time to practice the skill of parenting yourself. Learning how to “mother” ourselves well is an essential part of our spiritual practice. Of course, we must also remember that nurturing, nourishing, and caring skills are not exclusive to one gender.
Along with the theme of mother-love, the zodiac sign Cancer is also concerned with creating a peaceful place of sanctuary, where we may retreat to and take time to heal away from the fray of life. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that when life seems like a turbulent ocean, we have to remember we have an island of peace inside. Life has ups and downs, coming and going, gain and loss. Dwelling in the island of self, you are safe. The poem below, The Island of Self, illustrates this beautifully.
The Island of Self
The path of yoga is a path that will lead you home to yourself. When the world feels hostile and unwelcoming, yoga is a place of sanctuary. When you feel unwanted, unloved, or un-cared for, it provides a place of refuge. Step onto your yoga mat and you are stepping into sacred space. Here you are loved; you can let the public mask slip and simply be yourself.
You are held in the circle of yoga. The circle is strong enough to hold whatever burdens you are carrying. Yoga teaches us to relax into the support that life can offer. We are held, nurtured, and nourished. The water on the surface of your life might be turbulent, but underneath the pool is deep, calm, and still.
You will find more ideas for nurturing yoga practices on my Yoga Through the Year blog:
Mother Yourself with the Mantra Ma
Soothing Summer Yoga Practice
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.