Sections of this article appear in The Yoga Almanac: 52 Practices and Rituals for Staying Grounded Through the Astrological Seasons, March 2020, New Harbinger Publications. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2020 Lisette Cheresson & Andrea Rice.
While the summer gets warmer in August, we strut with our things on the beach, around the campfire and in lively city parks. It’s a time of self-expression and confidence – astrologically known as Leo season. Leo season begins on July 20th or 21st of each year and is marked by that feeling of “stepping out”, of shaking off the shell of Cancer introspection and nourishment, our faces forward toward the mighty sun. Just as nature is in full bloom, we also step into our personal strength, as the seasons of care and nutrition that we have passed through offer fertile ground for self-development.
Leo is symbolized by the lion and as such is associated with topics of self-expression, self-confidence and pride and rules the heart, upper back and spine.
It is fitting that Leo, combined with the inner stability necessary to make great movements and confidently pursue one’s goals, also rules our spine. Only when we have this stable foundation to bend, twist and adjust can we fully exploit the power of our dream.
Leo’s ruling planet is the sun, which can serve as a cute metaphor for the lion and depicts the sun’s rays as a mane of glistening light that drives us to grow. We all have the ability to create life; to nourish and nourish. Other than that, the sun is actually associated with the divine masculine. However, just as the moon-ruled Cancer last month is linked to the divine feminine, this divine masculinity is not gender specific. It refers to the tendencies of action, of advancement that most of us carry within.
How Leo themes appear on the mat
Leo season is the best time for the ego to push forward and into the center. We can turn to the teachings of yoga which encourage us to approach the traps of the ego with careful introspection and a willingness to change. So, self-confidence is balanced by vulnerability. Pride is tempered by humility. When it comes to self-expression, we can turn to Yama Satya or Truthfulness. Finding our own expression is not an invitation to lie or exaggerate. It’s about expressing ourselves in the context of integrity in everything we think, do, and say. If we integrate the energetic themes of Leo with the principles of yoga philosophy, we can safely step into the glistening light of our own personal sun and embody the strength of a Leo.
Poses for the lion season
Low or Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Image from Yogapedia
Anjaneyasana is named after the mother of the monkey god Lord Hanuman, Anjani, and has the shape of a small child who stretches out devotedly towards the sun.
By stabilizing the pelvis and targeted treatment of the deep core muscles, the transverse abdomen is activated to enable a slight back bend. This helps stimulate the flow of prana in an upward motion along the spinal cord. Crescent Lung stretches the hip flexors while working the quadriceps and glutes. To avoid overstretching the psoas and “dumping” into shape, emphasize the rootedness of this pose from the waist down by lifting it up and out of the lumbar spine. Extend both sides of the body, creating more space between the ribs. Pressing your front foot into the ground will help stabilize your hip.
Leo is ruled by the sun and corresponds to the heart, chest, thoracic spine, and upper back. By strengthening the core and hips, this pose accesses the third (manipura) chakra, our energetic power center, and strengthens the self-confidence to lead a life of vulnerability. The natural back bend encourages the opening of the heart chakra (anahata) to embrace vulnerability from a place of compassion.
Humble or devoted warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana)
Image from YogaPedia
Humble Warrior stretches the shoulders, strengthens the back muscles, mobilizes the thoracic spine and opens the chest and heart chakra (anahata). In order not to put strain on the knees, you should adopt a shorter and wider posture to improve the strength of the legs. Maintain the optimal range of motion of the shoulder extensors (latissimus dorsi, also called “lats”) by bending your elbows to stabilize the triceps. The shape tightens the abdominal muscles and activates the solar plexus (manipura) chakra, which improves digestion. This energy center receives the intent, humor and wit as the ego is forged in these proverbial fires.
Humble warrior is a bow to the divine. Any yoga posture that puts the head under the heart can help fire the heart-brain neurotransmitters. This regulates the function of the pineal gland (opening the chakra of the third eye (Ajna)) – the small endocrine gland that balances hormones and produces melatonin to control circadian rhythms located between the two cerebral hemispheres in the brain.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Image from YogaPedia
The name for this posture is derived from the Sanskrit words ūrdhva. away, which translated means “high” and mukha, means “face”. in the Mahabharata, there is a story of the Pandava brothers. Upon arrival in heaven, Indra Yudhisthira said that his dog could not come with him. Citing the dog’s loyalty, Yudhisthira refused to abandon him; The dog was revealed as the godfather of Yudhishtira and Yudhishthira was rewarded. Upward-Facing Dog is a reminder of devotion to expressing personal truth.
Leo rules the heart, spine, and upper back. Upward facing dog stretches the trapezius muscles, which are responsible for moving and stabilizing the shoulder blades. With this slight back bend, the neck (the cervical spine) elongates to open the neck and chest. Keep the space between your ears and shoulders upright by bending your elbows slightly. Use caution as you collapse into your lower back, span your neck, or let your head fall back, compressing your cervical spine.
The upturned dog opens the heart chakra (anahata) while the shoulder blades pull apart, the back body widen and the collarbone widen. The stimulation of the throat chakra (Vishuddha) enables us to speak this truth with confidence. By focusing on the third eye (Ajna) chakra – connected to the sun, the ruling planet of Leo – we can learn to draw from silent intuition and wisdom. That is the seat and the expression of our satya.
Reverse Warrior, Exalted Warrior, or Peaceful Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Image from YogaPedia
Reverse Warrior is a gesture of opening up to all that comes; a sacrifice of the heart as love is radiated inwardly and outwardly. This posture stretches the chest, shoulders and upper arms, mobilizes the thoracic spine, elongates the trunk and strengthens the abdominal wall. The ankles, quadriceps, and glutes work together to stabilize the hips. By creating a microbend in the back knee, the weight can be more evenly distributed between the front and back legs.
The gaze or drishti is focused on the fingertips that reach above the head and awaken the third eye (Ajna) chakra. The heart chakra (anahata) is opened so that messages can flow from the heart to the pineal gland. The solar plexus chakra (manipura) is also activated and enables the practitioner to use his innate gifts in connection with the desires of the heart.
Wild Thing Pose or Rock Star; “Turning your dog around” (Camatkarasana)
Image from YogaPedia
Camatkarasana has been described as “the ecstatic unfolding of the raptured heart”. It is an invigorating, invigorating attitude that opens our hearts to unlimited joy. It is rare to see a frown or frown on a yogi who is actively exploring this pose; Even the name Wild Thing brings out a smile.
The shape mobilizes the thoracic spine by opening the chest and upper back and stretching the shoulder girdle. The hip flexors elongate as the quadriceps strengthens, and there is a sense of playfulness as the whole world is turned upside down. Entering the shape between Downward Dog and Plank Pose makes turning around easier, more stable, and more confident. By extending the neck (cervical spine) and reaching through the crown of the head, the gaze naturally follows the palm of the hand, which extends over the head.
Wild Thing facilitates the transmission of information from the heart to the head and activates the pineal gland to awaken the third eye (Ajna) chakra. The pose helps to release the throat chakra (Vishuddha) and promotes unabashed self-expression from a place of truth. Wild Thing is a huge heart opener and creates space to make room for joy.
Lisette is an author, yoga teacher and content director. She is a member of the founding team of Yoga Unify, a new nonprofit yoga organization, director of marketing at the Mammoth Yoga Festival, and co-author of The Yoga Almanac. Lisette completed her 200-hour training in Brooklyn and her Reiki attunement in India and deepened her studies with Leslie Kaminoff from the Breathing Project, Tiffany Cruikshank and Andrew Holecek. She is also a grief coach and death doula whose work focuses on integrating the tools of mindfulness and asanas for grief healing and end-of-life anxiety. As a previous 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 appeared in the Yoga Journal, The Wanderlust Journal, mindbodygreen, Astrostyle, SONIMA and New York Yoga + Life. She 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 promoted her training 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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