Sections of this article appear in The Yoga Almanac: 52 Practices and Rituals for Staying on Ground During the Astrological Seasons, March 2020, New Harbinger Publications. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2020 Lisette Cheresson & Andrea Rice.
After a global pandemic and tumultuous political winter, the blossoms that emerge, longer days, and warmer evenings have never felt so good. Spring is the time both metaphorically and literally when seeds are planted for what we want to harvest in the fall. As we enjoy those longer days and warmer evenings, we are forced to open the windows and clear out the cobwebs. Spring is a good time to consider what a fresh start can mean, how we want to grow into it, and what we need to do to harness the power of this often frenetic fresh start.
The spring equinox on March 20 or 21 of each year corresponds to the start of the Aries season. The equinox – when day and night are the same – is characterized as a spiritual rebirth or a new beginning. Just as the leaves begin to emerge and the buds begin to bloom, so do we emerge from the introspective winter season armed with the lessons we learned from that long, dark journey within. It’s no surprise this feels more relevant than ever, given last winter’s actual physical hibernation triggered by Covid lockdowns.
Rebirth + Awakening in Yoga Philosophy
The idea of rebirth is fundamental to yoga philosophy. Reincarnation is of course an element of most of the religions in the Sanatana Dharma tradition, including yoga, one of the six schools of Hinduism. Reincarnation is the awakening after death into the next life, described by karma. Yoga itself is at its core a practice of awakening. In Hinduism, Shakti is the primal energy of the universe. This is related to the divine feminine and the goddess Shakti or Devi, Lord Shiva’s almighty consort, but not gender specific.
When we practice yoga, we want to awaken this Shakti energy, which is represented as a coiled serpent that has curled up in our root chakra (Muladhara) and through our sushumna (central column, similar to the spinal cord) towards our crown (Sahasara ) migrates. Chakra. Patanjali’s eight limbs are instructions to live a life to pursue this awakening as we continue the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara) – until we reach reunification with the divine.
Practice asks us to examine the internal blockages that keep us from knowing ourselves. This requires not only determination but also joyful willingness. By accepting our physical limitations and celebrating our personal progress, we become active participants in our lives. Anchored in this foundation, we plant potent seeds from which contentment and freedom from our own inhibitions can grow. Just as the root systems of plants and forests are interconnected, so are we. Yoga theory assumes that there is no freedom from suffering – no awakening to ultimate truth – unless all beings are free.
What does this have to do with the Aries season?
As the first sign of the zodiac to be symbolized by Aries, Aries is considered an astrological baby and is a synonym for a new beginning. The energy we feel and share during the Aries season has the awe and wonder of childhood – a new journey is often circumscribed by feelings of excitement, healthy fear, and courage. Aries is a fire sign and is ruled by the sky warrior Mars. This ensures that our awakening does not resemble that of childhood, but rather a driving force that is forcing us into the new astrological year.
The ram symbolizes this type of pioneering leadership that helps us summarize the season’s forward movement. Aries is associated with action and, just like the trees in bloom, grows into the intentions we established in winter. Aries rules the head, face and brain. a physical representation of the charging energy caused by the ram. Aries pushes hard and fast rather than taking a measured approach. A warning this time of year to be wary of burnout – give the seeds you are planting ample time to take root.
Poses for the Aries season
Child Pose (Balasana)
Photo by YogaPedia
The children’s pose is a symbol of entering the world in a vulnerable position. When we begin to practice in this form of birth, we cultivate our connection to the Source. It is a pose that we repeat throughout the practice. A form in which we feel at home in our body. The child pose can be practiced with the knees squeezed together or knees wide, with the arms released from your sides. This relieves tension in the upper body and invites the thoracic spine to flex naturally. To support your knees and hips, place a blanket between your seat and the back of your knees. Extended Child’s Pose is practiced with arms reaching over the head to facilitate shoulder lengthening. You can also stack your palms under them with wide elbows to support your head and neck.
The child pose grounds us in our root chakra (Muladhara) and activates the chakra of the third eye (Ajna) by pressing the forehead on the ground.
Forward fold (Uttanasana)
Photo by YogaPedia
Translated from Sanskrit, Ut means intense; Tan is to be stretched or lengthened. Logical Aries rules the brain, face and head. Forward Fold is a gentle reversal and places the head under the heart, which increases blood flow to the face. The forward fold stretches the fascia of the back, the connective tissue that includes muscles and bones. The plantar fascia of the feet is also manipulated when the soles of the feet are anchored in the ground. Practicing forward folding doesn’t mean touching your toes or the floor, or keeping your legs perfectly straight. Keep your knees gently bent to stabilize and strengthen your hamstrings, which in turn supports a healthy and functional lower back and a neutral spine.
When you hang on your hips, the sacral chakra (Svadhisthana) is activated, our center for passion and sexuality. By stabilizing the spine by engaging the abdominal muscles, the Chakura-Solar-Chakra (Manipura) is activated, the fiery center of the proactive vitality of the Aries and seat of the digestive organs. Forward folding is said to improve digestion and relieve menstrual cramps.
Arrow Lung (Variant of Anjaneyasana)
Photo by YogaPedia
This adapted version of a crescent lung activates the muscles of the back (posterior chain). The dynamic shape can be examined with either the knees lowered and raised, the arms extended overhead or behind, or with the palms crossed. Arrow Lunge strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, lats, shoulder girdle and lower back. You can explore the movement from a low lunge to arrow with your arms above your head and knee down, then lift your back knee, pivot forward and reach your arms back at your sides.
When you focus on your “goal” by extending yourself through your head, you maintain a strong and neutral spine and make it easier to open the crown chakra (sahasrara). Think about what you are targeting in a targeted manner. Embody the qualities of the unstoppable Aries in the brave pursuit of your dreams!
Lisette is an author, yoga teacher and content director. She is a member of the founding leadership team of Yoga Unify, a new nonprofit yoga organization, and a co-author of The Yoga Almanac. Lisette completed her 200 hour training in Brooklyn and her Reiki attunement in India and continued her studies with Leslie Kaminoff of the Breathing Project, Tiffany Cruikshank and Andrew Holecek. She is also a Master Grief Coach and Death Doula whose work focuses on integrating the tools of mindfulness and asana for grief healing and end-of-life anxiety. As a past life filmmaker, Lisette has made videos with community leaders such as Dharma Mittra, Eddie Stern, and Eoin Finn. She lives in the Hudson Valley, NY with her husband and animals.