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.
It’s spring here in the northern hemisphere and we are well into the bull season. The bull season includes the pagan holiday of Beltane (May 1st), the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. As such, this time of year really is a bridge between the frenetic energy of the equinox – a time to set intentions – and the bloom of summer.
Taurus is symbolized by the Taurus and is associated with slow, steady, sensual energy that prompts us to tap into all five senses. Just as the earth is awakening to its most sensual season, marked by the damp, muddy rooting of spring growth, this is also a time for us to ponder what it means to put down roots in order to rise. how we can harness the power of fertile soil and cultivate the seeds that we planted during the Aries season from a place of stable grounding.
Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus and is also associated with the slow and steady pursuit of pleasure. Of course, to tap into true pleasure, we must come from a place of non-attachment, innate joy, and deliberate sensuality. This might seem like slowing down to enjoy little moments, to say thank you for what you can see, taste, touch, and smell, and to be fully and fully present in the here and now.
The pursuit of pleasure in yoga philosophy
In Sutra 1.5, Patanjali assumes that all thoughts lead to two results – either pain or pleasure. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation, he suggests that these results are determined by the intention behind the emotion; not necessarily the emotion itself. With selfless intent, a negative emotion such as anger can cause pleasure (Swami Satchidananda gives the example of a school teacher reprimanding children, which leads to personal growth); and that an emotion generally associated with pleasure, such as love, can lead to pain when approached from a place of selfishness (selfish love can lead to jealousy or even loss).
Since the basic philosophy of yoga is that we are all connected, it stands to reason that any selfless pursuit of pleasure would lead to a positive outcome for all. But true pleasure and true yogic life insist on not being bound by the outcome of persecution. It’s about unleashing expectations, right intentions, and the truth of our interconnectivity.
Yoga poses for the bull season
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Image from YogaPedia
Tree pose is a physical metaphor for ascending roots. The Buddha sat patiently under the Bodhi tree to gain enlightenment. In a Hindu myth, Bhagiratha stood on one foot for a thousand years to convince the gods to allow the goddess Ganga to descend and release the souls of his ancestors. His steadfastness brought the river Ganges to earth, its waters with the power to break the cycle of reincarnation.
Balancing is an exercise, and it can take some time to explore the edges of your feet and shift your weight off the ball mounds to your heels before you get a feel for your foundation. You can bring the sole of your foot above or below your knee. Activate your glutes to improve your stability and activate your transverse abs (the ones you feel when you cough). Maintain neutrality in your hips as you raise your hands to your heart or stretch your arms above your head like branches.
Tree Pose activates the basic seat of the root chakra (Muladhara). Opening the hips awakens the sacral chakra (Svadhisthana), our relationship center. Tree Pose also awakens the chakra of the solar plexus (manipura), our self-confidence and our stability.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Image from YogaPedia
Cobra Pose is an ideal substitute for upward-facing dogs and can be practiced high or low on the floor, depending on the mobility of the spine and shoulder. If you have wrist problems, there is no need to press your palms into the ground. Instead, inhale into your back and front body. As your stomach fills with air, let that buoyancy lift your chest and forehead off the floor while floating your palms next to you and keeping your elbows bent at your sides. You can press into your pubic bone to create a spinal extension – the beginning of a back bend. If your lower back is tight, lower it slightly and reach into your glutes to protect and strengthen this region.
Lying on the stomach activates the chakra of the root (Muladhara) and the solar plexus (Manipura), centers of ancestral memory and personal strength. The opening of the cobra via the chest and throat also stimulates the chakras of the heart (Anahata) and the throat (Vishuddha). Taurus rules the neck and neck.
Sitting neck stretch
There are 26 muscles in the neck that lodge in and around the cervical spine. The neck holds the weight of the head, averaging about 10 pounds. Our cervical spines tend to extend forward from their normal upright and neutral position as a by-product of digital evolution. The “Tech Neck” pandemic results from the fact that handheld devices are often looked down on or the muscles around them are strained when they are bent forward in front of a screen. A seated neck stretch helps counteract this stress and strengthens the region – and reminds you to keep your head high and be your own guru.
From a comfortable, supported seat and relaxed neutral spine, lift from root to crown as you pull your ears back. Rotate your head from side to side with your chin parallel to the floor. Then, drop one ear on your shoulder with no force and repeat on the other side. To relax the trapezius, gently place the same side hand on your crown and tilt your chin up slightly. These slight rotation and flexion movements in your cervical spine can help release your throat chakra (Vishuddha).
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.
Andrea Rice is a health and wellness writer and editor. Her work has been published in the Yoga Journal, Wanderlust Journal, Mindbodygreen, Astrostyle, SONIMA and New York Yoga + Life. She has also worked as a journalist for the New York Times and INDY Week. As a yoga teacher with a decade of experience, Andrea completed her 200 hour training in New York, NY; and continued her education with Elena Brower and Alexandria Crow. She has also studied astrology extensively with The AstroTwins, Ophira and Tali Edut. Andrea has taught yoga, meditation, journaling, and creativity workshops in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York, NY. and was a moderator at Wanderlust. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband and cat, where she teaches yoga at Blue Lotus and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
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