The Moonlit Tree Sequence is from the Pisces-inspired Yoga Practice in the Yoga by the Stars book. The Pisces glyph was my inspiration for this sequence, which is circular in nature, and echoes the Pisces glyph’s waxing and waning Moons, which represent the cyclical nature of life, where every ending is a new beginning. The sequence is relaxing and energizing, grounding and elevating, promoting an ability to go with the ebb and flow of life.
The Moonlit Tree Sequence Overview
Full instructions for the sequence can be found in the Pisces chapter of the Yoga by the Stars Book.
8a. Child’s Pose. Stay for a few breaths.
8b. Sitting kneeling to Standing Forward Bend.
8c. Standing Forward Bend. Bend knees and arch back × 4.
8d. Come back up to standing, raising the arms up above the head.
8e. Dynamic Mini Squat × 4.
8f. Standing knee to chest.
8g. Tree Pose into Swaying Tree.
8h. Standing knee to chest.
Repeat 8f, 8g, and 8h on the other side.
8i. Chair Pose. Stay for a few breaths.
8j. Standing Forward Bend. Bend knees and arch back × 4.
8k. Bend the knees and transition into Child’s Pose. Stay a few breaths.
Repeat sequence × 2–3.
The Pisces Page of this website.
Circular Breathing and Pisces Glyph
The Blossoming Feet Visualisation
Pisces is a mutable, negative water sign ruled by the planet Neptune. The rulership of Neptune gives a depth and mystery to the sign. Key words of this planet are nebulousness and impressionability. It has to do with what hides itself from view and veiled strength from behind the scenes; this is because it was only discovered because its pull altered the regular path of Uranus. It can be revealing to explore in our own lives what are the hidden influences exerting a gravitational pull upon us and perhaps distorting our trajectory. Are there hidden players pulling our strings? Yoga helps us gain access to our subconscious; for example, in meditation we dive deep into the ocean of our mind and this can shed light on what was previously hidden from view. Once we are aware of these nebulous influences, we can either accept them, if they are benevolent, or change them if they are pulling us in a direction we don’t want to go.
Below are some meditation questions to help you to explore and uncover hidden influences that might be exerting a pull upon your life:
Pisces Page of this website.
Circular Breath and Pisces Glyph
The Blossoming Feet Visualisation
The Pisces glyph represents two crescent moons: one waxing and one waning. Originally, the glyph meant the waxing and waning of each life in cycles defined by the Moon. The Sanskrit name for the constellation of Pisces was Mina, which means fish, and the glyph is sometimes interpreted as two fishes pulling in opposite directions, one representing the physical side of our nature and one representing the spiritual side. In yoga terms this would be the tension between prakriti (matter) and purusha (spirit). I prefer to see the thread that joins the two fishes as an umbilical cord that nourishes both spirit and matter, rather than the two working against each other.
The Pisces glyph was my inspiration for the Pisces-inspired yoga practice in the Yoga by the Stars book. The practice is relaxing and energizing, grounding and elevating. It promotes stability, resilience, and an ability to go with the ebb and flow of life. It provides an opportunity for a deep and profound healing to occur on both a physical and emotional level, and it helps promote a healthy breathing pattern.
The Pisces glyph encapsulates that just-before moment: the moment just before a flower opens, just before the New Moon is visible in the sky, just before sunrise, just before a baby opens its eyes and sees daylight for the first time. The glyph’s waxing and waning Moon represents the cyclical nature of life, where every ending is a new beginning. In the Pisces-inspired yoga practice, this led me to focus on the cycle of the breath, noticing where each part of the breath begins and ends, as well as observing the spaces between one breath ending and the next breath beginning. This focus gives a deeply meditative quality to the practice.
Below are instructions for Circular Breathing, Visualising the Pisces glyph, which is how we begin the Pisces-inspired yoga practice in the book.
Circular breathing and Pisces glyph visualization
Find yourself a comfortable position, lying down. In your mind’s eye visualize the Pisces glyph. Hold this image in your mind as you begin to follow the natural flow of your breath. As you observe the breath, notice where your inhalation begins and where it ends. Notice where your exhalation begins and where it ends. Be aware of the spaces between the breath. Notice the space between the end of the inhalation and the beginning of the exhalation, and the space between the end of the exhalation and the beginning of the next inhalation. Observe the circular nature of the breath, in which each ending is a new beginning. During the yoga practice, you keep coming back to this focus on circular breathing and picturing the Pisces glyph.
You can find the Pisces-inspired Yoga Practice in the Yoga by the Stars book.
The Pisces Page of this website.
The Blossoming Feet Visualisation
The feet are the part of the body assigned to Pisces. All over India the footprints of the Buddha are worshipped at holy shrines. In ancient times there were stones dedicated to Isis and Venus marked with footprints, meaning “I have been here.” Egyptians, Babylonians, and other ancient peoples considered it essential to step on sacred ground with bare feet in order to absorb the holy influences. Dedicating a yoga practice to focusing on the feet is always fruitful and can incorporate elements such as grounding, alignment, rootedness, connection to the earth, the pull of gravity, and finding support from the earth beneath our feet.
In this post I'll share with you the Blossoming Feet Visualisation. It's the go-to practice when you need grounding (and who doesn't at the moment!). It's also wonderfully relaxing as it induces a calming breathing pattern. You can find this exercise in the Pisces-inspired yoga practice, in the Yoga by the Stars book. In it we focus on the feet, beginning the practice with the Blossoming Feet Visualisation, and then we keep coming back to an awareness of the feet blossoming on the exhalation when holding each yoga pose.
Blossoming Feet Visualisation
Lying on your back, bend your knees, both feet on the floor and about hip width apart. Bring your awareness to the soles of your feet and picture a flower at the centre of the foot. Imagine that each of your exhalations travels all the way down to the feet, and at the end of the exhalation there is a sense of opening and blossoming at the soles of the feet. Then, silently repeat the affirmation a few times: A flower blossoms with each breath.
The rest of the Pisces-inspired Yoga Practice can be found in the Yoga by the Stars book.
See also the Pisces Page of this website.
There is a scientific side to yoga that is sometimes overlooked. The original yogis were scientists; they conducted experiments on their bodies and minds and then observed the results. Scientific observation requires an open mind, detachment, and letting go of preconceptions. Aquarius, which is the sign we are looking at this month, teaches us to combine science, creativity, and love to bring healing to ourselves and the world.
Key words for Aquarius are detachedly and scientifically. Louis MacNeice, in his book Astrology, refers to Aquarius as the awakener and “the sign of the yogi through the development of spiritual consciousness through contemplation.” The association of the sign with the third eye, or ajna chakra means it awakens the power of intuition. However, in Aquarius this intuitive insight is always backed up with rational, scientific knowledge. This Aquarian combination of a love for humanity, intuition, and evidence-based scientific knowledge could stand us in good stead as we grapple with modern dilemmas such as climate change, global warming, and vanquishing the virus.
When I was writing the Aquarius chapter of the Yoga by the Stars book, I gained an unexpected insight during a period of meditation, it was this:
Science will win the day if love takes it by the hand.
Science + creativity + love = hope for the world.
Currently, this insight seems particularly relevant as we struggle to find a way of emerging from a global pandemic.
The rulership of Uranus means that Aquarius is a rebel and likes to make waves. Aquarius is an idealistic sign that wants to change the world. If you had been granted three wishes to make the world a better place, what would you wish for? – What small steps could you take to make this ideal world become a reality?
Across the world many of us are living under restrictions that have been imposed to control the spread of the virus. Fortunately, although we may be confined by our circumstances, we can still find a sense of freedom through our practice of yoga. The Aquarius-inspired yoga practice, in the Yoga by the Stars book, is the perfect way to unlock your breath, your body, your mind, and your emotions, when they have become restricted during periods of lock down.
In the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice we use wavelike breathing combined with wavelike movements. We use the affirmation: The wave of the breath ripples through me.
Below is a section from the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice, the rest of the practice can be found in the Yoga by the Stars book.
Instructions for the rest of the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice can be found in the Yoga by the Stars book.
Here in the UK we are once again in Lock down. When you are living in lock down it is easy for your body, your mind, your emotions and your breathing to end up feeling, well, locked down. Today, I found it liberating to use the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice, from the Yoga by the Stars book, as my early morning yoga practice. By the end of the practice I felt open, at ease, and most importantly my breathing had freed up again.
In the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice, from the book, we use wavelike movements that ripple through the body. We use movements that flow into each other in a wavelike fashion, and there is an emphasis on observing the wavelike motion of the breath. Your breath is a wave, rising and falling, ebbing and flowing. The Sun, the Moon, the stars, and the Earth are all there in every breath you take. Wave upon wave, circles within circles, like a cosmic mandala.
The affirmation we use in the practice is: The wave of the breath ripples through me.
It can be coordinated with the breath:
Inhale: The wave of the breath
Exhale: Ripples through me
Find yourself a comfortable lying position. Bring your awareness to the natural rhythm of the flow of your breath. Over several breaths silently repeat this phrase: The wave of the breath ripples through me.
Now imagine that you are on the seashore, watching the waves rising and falling. Keep the image of the sea in your mind, and at the same time bring your awareness back to the natural flow of the breath. Notice the wavelike quality of the ebb and flow of your breath. Every so often return to the phrase: The wave of the breath ripples through me.
In the Aquarius-inspired yoga practice, featured in the Yoga by the Stars book, throughout the practice we keep bringing our awareness back to the wavelike quality of our breathing. At the end of the practice, you might, like me, still be living through lock down, but at least you will have experienced a taste of freedom!
There is a longer version of the Wavelike breathing practice in the Yoga by the Stars book.
The wisdom of Capricorn teaches us to work with our limitations and to rise above them. This in turn opens the door to transformation, and life comes alive again. In the Capricorn-inspired yoga practice in the Yoga by the Stars book, I have included asanas that restrict and bind the body, such as Eagle Pose (Garudasana), pictured above, and Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana). These restrictive poses give us the opportunity to relax into difficulty and so find the freedom inherent within the pose.
Below are some Capricorn-inspired meditation questions that will help you to explore your own attitude to approaching a challenging yoga pose:
The way we approach a challenging yoga pose often mirrors how we deal with life’s challenges generally. In a difficult yoga pose we come face to face with our habitual way of reacting to struggle; this opens the door to exiting a negative cycle of reaction and finding a new way of responding.
In asana practice we are continually exploring our boundaries. We discover how far we can push in a pose before we come up against our physical limitations. Then we must decide whether to push further to the point of pain or to back off and come back to our edge. The edge is the place where you feel a stretch, perhaps even mild discomfort, but you haven’t jumped off the cliff edge into pain.
For some people, a yoga asana becomes an enemy to be conquered. Pain is regarded as weakness and something to be pushed through to gain victory over the pose. However, if your experience of a pose is all push and no yield, then you miss out on the peace of yoga. Likewise, in life when challenges come up, if you react by telling yourself “get a grip” or “man up,” you miss out on the warmth of human connection that comes from revealing your softer, more vulnerable side.
Yoga teaches us how to discover the opportunities that lie dormant within our difficulties. When you attempt a challenging yoga pose, you are confronted with your physical, mental, and emotional limitations. If you listen, each asana will teach you how to respond rather than react to whatever arises. Then the skills we learn on the mat can be transferred to responding more skilfully when difficulties arise in life. In this way yoga can be a doorway to self-discovery.
Capricorn in Praise of the Pause
Capricorn: In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity
At those times in life when it feels as though every door has been shut in our face. We feel heavy, despondent, and lost. The wisdom of Capricorn teaches us to rest in the pause, which is especially relevant at present when the virus has paused so many aspects of our lives. Capricorn's wisdom teaches us to learn to trust that like the New Moon appearing in the night sky, new life will emerge from the darkness. This is the healing power of Capricorn, available to everyone, regardless of their Sun sign.
During the period of Capricorn, we leave behind the old year and walk through the doorway into a new year. The period between the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new one is an in-between time, a pause. Capricorn teaches us to learn to rest in that empty space between an ending and a new beginning. The pause can be a scary, bewildering place, especially if your default mode is keeping busy. The wisdom of Capricorn is that if you can allow yourself to fully experience emptiness, you create a space for new life, and new energy, to fill you up. It’s the medicine you need when you feel all used up, all energy spent, nothing more to give. If you can relax into this emptiness, if you can trust the pause, you will find that new ideas and fresh inspiration will come to fill you up again. The peace of the pause opens the door to rejuvenation and renewal.
Capricorn can be compared to the pause between the out-breath and the next inbreath. In yoga breathing, this pause between the breaths is the place where we find peace, rest, and renewal. It is the place where we allow our self to be emptied, creating the space for new life, new energy, to fill us up. We are literally inspired.
Try this: rest for a few breaths in a relaxing pose such as Child's Pose (Balasana) or Seated forward Bend (Pascimottanasana), and be particularly aware of the exhale, noticing the pause between each exhale and the next inhale. With each exhale feel yourself relaxing a little more deeply.
You will find more Capricorn-inspired yoga ideas in Chapter 13 of the Yoga by the Stars book.
See also: Capricorn: In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity
The zodiac-inspired yoga practices that I have created for the Yoga by the Stars book have the potential to bring healing and transformation into your life regardless of your own Sun sign. Consequently, you can use all the practices as spiritual medicine to help you to balance and retune your lunar and solar energies. The healing potential of the sign Capricorn is particularly appropriate for these challenging times we are living through.
Capricorn: Transcend limitations and find liberation. Find new ways of working with and overcoming restrictions in your life. Discover the opportunities that lie dormant within your difficulties and open the door to self-discovery.
The wisdom of Capricorn brings us face to face with our limitations and opens the door to exploring fresh ways of working with these restrictions. Our willingness to acknowledge our limitations opens new possibilities of freedom and liberation. We find that in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
The affirmation we use in the Capricorn practice is: I am open to new possibilities.
It can be coordinated with the breath:
Inhale: I am open
Exhale: To new possibilities
The wisdom of Capricorn is there for you at those times when life feels like a blank page and no words come. The ink has dried up, and you fear inspiration has run dry. At times when you are filled with self-doubt and feel all used up, it is there like the Sun appearing on the horizon at the start of a new day.
At those times in life when it feels as though every door has been shut in our face. We feel heavy, despondent, and lost. Yoga and the wisdom of Capricorn teach us to rest in the pause. We learn to trust that like the New Moon appearing in the night sky, new life will emerge from the darkness.
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.