"There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."
Chandogya Upanishad 3. 13. 7
Sagittarius is a mutable, positive, fire sign, ruled by Jupiter. The poet, Louis MacNeice, writes that the fire of Sagittarius is the purifying blue fire at the heart of the flame, and this can be a beautiful image to explore and seek out in your yoga practice. In the Northern Hemisphere the Sagittarian dates correspond with our entering into the depths of winter, so this blue flame image, when introduced into a yoga practice or meditation, can be a way of bringing light into the darkness.
Over the autumn I’ve really enjoyed seeing Jupiter, the ruling planet of Sagittarius, bright and jewel like in the night sky. Our ancestors looked up at the stars and saw them as sacred. They perceived divinity within the stars and felt that same spark of divinity within themselves. To them, the cosmos was a soulful place that they were part of and at one with. You can engender that same sense of reverence and wonder by regularly taking time to be mindful of the night sky. Take a few minutes each day to mindfully connect with the night sky. This can be as simple as looking up at the sky out of your window or stopping your car (when it’s safe to do so) and parking somewhere to look up at the sky.
A great way to promote a good night’s sleep is to take a mindful walk an hour or so before bedtime. This is an enjoyable exercise to do with a companion. Every so often stop and look up at the sky. What do you see? Some nights you will see a splendid Moon; other nights it will be cloudy and no stars in sight; and on a clear night the stars will stretch out before you.
Whether you live in the city or the country, the sky is always there for you, and it provides the perfect way to connect with the cosmos. At any time, looking up at the sky and being mindful of it creates a sense of spaciousness and freedom. It gives us a sense of perspective, and our problems shrink back down to size. It provides a canvas for our creativity, and we find our ideas flow more freely. Gazing mindfully at the sky allows us to connect with a universe that is constantly changing. In the day you’ll see clouds passing by, and at night you’ll be treated to a changing starscape. It also engenders a sense of union and oneness with the world around you.
In the Yoga by the Stars book you will find a Mindfulness of the Night Sky Meditation and a Sagittarius-inspired yoga practice.
The Power of Clear Intention
Expand Your Horizons
The symbol for Sagittarius is the centaur with bow and arrow. In Rome the constellation of Sagittarius was associated with Diana, the goddess of the bow. In the Sagittarius-inspired yoga practice, in the Yoga by the Stars book, we use asanas inspired by archery imagery. We combine the arm movements of drawing your bow and releasing an arrow with familiar poses such as the Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) and Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana). We also explore the tautness of the archer’s bow through poses such as a Lunge Pose variation and Bow Pose (Dhanurasana). The practice is calming, grounding, centring, energizing and improves focus.
Warrior Archer Pose (Virabhadrasana variation)
It can be enriching for the yoga practitioner to find out more about the skills and discipline of archery, some of which are very similar to those we cultivate in yoga, such as balancing effort (sthira) and relaxation (sukha).
The affirmation we use in the Sagittarius-inspired yoga practice is:
My intention is clear, and opportunities arise.
It can be coordinated with the breath:
Inhale: Clear intention
Exhale: Opportunities arise
Intention is a powerful force that can work miracles when combined with wisdom. The Scottish mountaineer, William Hutchison Murray, wrote, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
Like an archer drawing back the string of her bow, eye fixed upon the target, yoga teaches us to set our intention. When we practice yoga, we consciously direct our intention to a chosen object. Even though our mind might be flitting all over the place, we continue to draw our attention back to a fixed point, such as the flow of the breath, sensations in the body, or whatever we have chosen to focus on during that session. This concentrated narrowing of our attention leads to an expansive, spacious, state of consciousness.
Expand Your Horizons
Expansion is one of the key words associated with the sign Sagittarius, other key words are widely, deeply, and free-ranging. The symbol for the sign is a centaur, which is half-horse and half-human. The power of the hips and thighs are said to be Sagittarian, and this correlates with the desire to travel far and wide. The sign conjures up images of freedom, wide open spaces, blue skies, and wild horses roaming free across moorland. At a time when the virus has imposed many restrictions on our lives, regardless of what our own sign is, we can look to Sagittarius to inspire us to expand our sense of what is possible.
There are many obstacles that prevent us from travelling far and wide at present. Here in the UK we are just beginning a month long lock down. However, although we are limited in where we can physically travel, there is no limit to where we can go in our imagination! We can visualise beautiful places without all the hassle of airport security! We can also practice mindfulness so that we fully enjoy the beauty of where we are now. We can be present to and savour the sound of autumn leaves underfoot, clouds rushing across a blue sky, wind on our face, a child's smile, the sun setting, the moon rising, or stars in the night sky.
A few years ago I heard an interview with a blind man who had climbed Kilimanjaro and he was making a tough expedition to the South Pole. He said, "Whatever your disability, think about what you can do, not your limitations." At the time I heard those words I was struggling with anxiety, and it was causing me to avoid certain situations, which was creating limitations in my life. I decided to adopt the mantra, "Think about what you can do, and not your limitations", and this enabled me to stop being so focussed on what anxiety was preventing me from doing, and to start doing the things I was able to do. In turn, once I was doing more, my confidence increased and I was more able to tolerate the inevitable anxiety that comes from taking on new challenges. I've also found this positive can-do approach has helped during the current Coronavirus crisis. Although I think it is important to acknowledge our sadness and sense of loss over the things we are no longer able to do because of the virus restrictions, at the same time I think it's good to be on the lookout for those activities that we are safely able to do, and so expand our horizons.
Our yoga practice can also help to stop our world from shrinking, and help us to maintain an expansive, open attitude. With all the uncertainty in the world it's easy to develop a pattern of anxiously holding your breath in anticipation of events to come. Your yoga practice will remind you to breathe. You will feel yourself expanding and drawing in life energy as you inhale, and relaxing a you exhale. Life comes alive again.
Our meditation practice can also help us to cultivate an attitude of joyfulness, even in the face of difficulties, and bring light into the darkness. The Breathe and Smile Meditation, included in the Sagittarius chapter of the Yoga by the Stars book, encourages you to maintain a clear, focused attention while at the same time joyfully lightening up. The meditation fits in with the cheerful optimism and joviality that is associated with the Sagittarius sign.
The Breathe and Smile Meditation
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.