Much like yoga and meditation, astrology is a powerful tool for self-study. The Yoga Almanac is a seasonal practice book that integrates the teachings and science of yoga into our daily lives, helping us feel more deeply integrated with the world around us. The following is an excerpt from The Yoga Almanac (New Harbinger), taken from the “Birth” chapter of the Spring section to help you align with the new beginnings and fresh starts synonymous with Aries season—the astrological new year.
Though spring encompasses the beginning of the astrological calendar, this season is a transitional one. It’s a phase of renewal, apt for planting the seeds of intention from the start of a new calendar year that we wish to nurture and watch blossom. As tree branches return to life and buds burst forth, the soil thaws and fields are sown. The lively energy of spring inspires us to seek new beginnings, launch new endeavors, and lay the foundation for what we seek or desire to cultivate in our lives. We find ourselves pulled to clear out the clutter and fling open windows. As the days become longer and, in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth’s axis turns closer toward the sun, we integrate the introspective wisdom of winter’s contemplation. Spring marries that darkness with rays of light that illuminate the very landscape of the soul.
The vernal equinox, on March 19 or 20 each year, corresponds with the start of Aries season. As the first sign of the zodiac symbolized by the Ram, Aries is considered the astrological baby and is synonymous with fresh starts. Ruled by Mars, the impassioned love planet, Aries is symbolized by the initiative-driven Ram and is associated with the head.The action-oriented energy of this phase rekindles any forward-moving momentum that may have stalled since the start of the new year.
Coming off the heavy heels of Piscean energy, Aries season tends to be more singularly focused on personal ambition and drive. It is a time of curiosity—some animals emerge from hibernation, others hatch and emerge into the world. Spring is a season for considering our own metaphorical rebirth, as we shed our winter layers and find equilibrium between the shadows of colder months behind us and the blazing spirit of what is yet to come.
BIRTH: Mastering Unconscious Inheritances
Illustration by Ryan LeMere
As sentient beings with a prefrontal cortex, the gift of human life comes with a great paradox: we are born with the blessing of infinite potential and the curse of primal ignorance. We unconsciously default to our primary nature of karmic inheritance: the unique patterning we bring into this world. How we’re conditioned by society throughout our upbringing reinforces these patterns, for better or worse. We can choose a lifetime of unconscious repetition, or practice the process of illumination by acknowledging our patterns and eventually breaking free. Each time we do, we experience a metaphorical death and are born again.
These psychic “scars” are known in Hindu philosophy by their Sanskrit name, samskaras, and hinder our capacity to know ourselves. They are the heavy burdens we carry, the negative inner critic that holds us back, the unhealthy behaviors we repeat. Ignorance is false bliss; it is separate from the pure bliss awareness of knowing ourselves. It is easier to stay in the dark—where it is comfortable, safe, and easy—than it is to navigate the emotional and psychological challenges of stepping fully into the light. We must traverse the shadows and witness what has been previously hidden from view. We may not always like what we see.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe the five kleshas as the collective obstacles that keep us from understanding our real nature. The first, avidya (ignorance), is described as one’s inability to discern between permanence and impermanence, pure and impure, bliss and suffering, the true self and the non-self. Avidya sets the stage for the four hindrances that follow: asmita (egoism), raga (attachments), dvesha (aversions), and abhinivesha (fear of death). Through practice, we reestablish a lifeline back to the true self and may spend a lifetime working through the other obstacles.
For many yoga and meditation practitioners, the first opportunity to break through the barrier of ignorance may occur on the mat or cushion. Through the practice of presence, we witness our own prana, qi, or life force pulsating within. In sutra 1.1, Patanjali directs that yoga is happening now; it is a birth into the present moment as the inherited, false parts of ourselves unravel and fall away.
PRACTICE: Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is symbolic for entering into the world in a vulnerable position. When we begin practice in this shape of being born, we nurture our connection to source. It is a pose we revisit throughout practice, a shape in which we feel at home in our bodies.
Child’s Pose may be practiced with knees together or wide, arms released by your sides. This relieves tension in the upper body to invite natural flexion in your thoracic spine. To support your knees and hips, place a blanket between your seat and the backs of your knees. Extended Child’s Pose is practiced with arms reaching overhead, facilitating shoulder extension. You can also stack your palms beneath your forehead, with your elbows out to the side, to support your head and neck.Child’s Pose grounds us into our root (muladhara) chakra and activates the third-eye (ajna) chakra by pressing forehead to the ground.
RITUAL: What Are You Inviting In?
Spring is an opportunity for renewal and rebirth—for planting seeds to nurture and for witnessing the unending cycle of growth and change. It is also a reminder that we cannot be born again until we experience a death—a shedding of old layers, habits, and outmoded beliefs. Springtime is ripe with new possibilities.
Make a list of all that you’re ready to bring into your life, along with what must be released in order to make space for these opportunities. Then organize them into Yes or No columns. The Yes column includes everything that you’re saying a resounding yes to—what you want more of in your life. The No column includes everything that needs to be released so that each item on your Yes list may be made manifest. An ideal time for this exercise is on or near a new moon, which heralds the beginning of a new lunar cycle.
This piece appears in The Yoga Almanac, March 2020, New Harbinger Publications. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2020 Lisette Cheresson & Andrea Rice
Andrea Rice is a writer and editor covering health and wellness. Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, The 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 furthered her training with Elena Brower and Alexandria Crow. She has also studied astrology extensively with The AstroTwins, Ophira and Tali Edut. Andrea has offered yoga, meditation, journaling, and creativity workshops in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York, NY; and has been a presenter at Wanderlust Festivals in Vermont. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband and their cat, where she teaches yoga at Blue Lotus and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Lisette Cheresson is a writer, editorial director, and content consultant specializing in wellness, sustainability, and women’s empowerment. She has made short films with leaders such as Eddie Stern, Eoin Finn, and Elena Brower; and is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Wanderlust Journal, Quilt, Matador, The New York Times reference books Off Track Planet, and others. She completed her 200-hour yoga training in New York, NY; and her Reiki attunement in India. She also studied with Leslie Kaminoff of The Breathing Project, and attended a three-day intensive discourse with the Dalai Lama. She has offered workshops with Wanderlust Festivals and Manifest Station, and completed her end-of-life doula training in 2019. She lives with her husband and animals in the Hudson Valley in New York.