Sections of this article appear in The Yoga Almanac: 52 Practices and Rituals to Stay Grounded Through the Astrological Seasons, March 2020, New Harbinger Publications. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2020 Lisette Cheresson & Andrea Rice.
Ahh, Gemini season: When everything feels ripe for partnership, communication, and craziness. Running from about May 21 to the summer solstice, Gemini, the first Air sign of the zodiac, is associated with doing and creating—particularly in a social setting. As the last transit of spring, connecting the Earthy grounded-ness of Taurus season with the blossoming luxuriousness of Cancer season and summer, Gemini is akin to the playful preteen of the astrological calendar. It’s a time to get curious, examine your relationships, and explore exactly what communication means to you.
Symbolized by the chatty Twins, Gemini is also a season of dichotomy. It’s an apt time for frenzied play—for learning how to let go, and to turn on the charm, even in difficult situations. As gardens begin to flourish and fruits begin to ripen, this time of year begets a desire to get outside, connect with people, and make plans. This last stage of the vernal cycle prepares us for the abundance of the coming months, teaching us to enjoy working with others as we look toward the levity and playfulness of summer.
Gemini is ruled by the communication planet Mercury. Mercury, most known for its bad reputation when retrograde, is a powerhouse when it comes to providing solid energy to say what you mean, and be effective in the conversations of your heart.
How Communication and Partnership Show Up On the Mat
Yoga is a deep internal journey—more than a physical practice, it’s a philosophy and a guide to living. That doesn’t mean, however, that communication and partnership don’t have a place on the mat. When we practice, we’re entering into body-mind communication, and developing a partnership with ourselves. In yoga philosophy, the rising of Kundalini unites the Shakti (feminine) with the Shiva (masculine) energies. As symbolized by the Twins, it’s the dichotomy of life that truly brings us into alignment.
Though yoga IS a life philosophy—and an ancient spiritual practice—that doesn’t mean it always needs to be a serious pursuit. Bringing an attitude of playfulness to practice can only deepen your connection to yourself, and allow for the communication of body and mind to be rooted in exploratory kindness. Adaptation is another key attribute of Gemini, making this season a good one to try some playful adaptations of the practice. Bonus if you’re communicating in partnership… Acro yoga, anyone?
Poses for Gemini Season
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Warrior poses are named for the evolution of the thousand-eyed, thousand-limbed monster Virabhadra, formed from a tuft of Shiva’s hair. When Shiva was not invited to his wife Sati’s father’s sacrifice, Sati threw herself in the fire. Despite his being the supreme deity, Shiva’s exclusion from the event created a monster. Even deities need community.
Warrior II is a foundational pose, often used as a transition in vinyasa classes. Keep a shortened stance to protect your SI joints, which connect your hips to your spine, and ground into the outer edge of your back heel while keeping a slight bend in your back knee to prevent hyperextension. It is not necessary to square your hips. As your chest opens, your gaze (or drishti) can focus just past your front extended arm—but only if this does not cause strain in your neck. This pose strengthens leg muscles and stretches the groins.
Warrior II activates the sacral (Svadhisthana) chakra. The seat of relationships, an open sacral chakra is essential for the development of meaningful connection. The slight stretch across the chest engages the heart (Anahata) chakra, allowing us to plug into an ego-syntonic community that supports our personal truths.
Supported Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Supported Shoulder Stand can reap the same benefits as any inversion when practiced against a wall. This shape helps to circulate lymph fluid, bolstering the immune system.
Place a blanket about a foot from the wall. Walk your feet up the wall, and begin to gently roll onto your shoulder girdle—the foundation for the pose is the shoulder girdle, not the neck. Press into your triceps and bring your hands to your lower back for support as you tilt your pelvis to lift your hips. Extend your legs as your shoulders can readily support. You can also practice the shape from a supported Bridge Pose by placing a block underneath the back of your pelvis, and then lifting your feet to extend your legs upward.
Shoulder Stand stimulates the throat (Vishuddha) chakra, the seat of expression. An open throat chakra ensures that we are able to communicate what we desire—with our partners or otherwise. The throat is the energetic bridge of our heart, the center of love and relationships, and our upper chakras, the seats of intuition and divine union.
Modified Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
The hypnotic element of a vinyasa class often leads to escapism. The predictability of common cues (ie: “take a vinyasa”) causes more tuning out than in, as we fall into familiar habits and patterning. Chaturanga is especially precarious, because it’s an anticipated transition that links sequences together. Understanding what the body is communicating is key—adapting a pose can be a great way to pull the mind-body into partnership.
To adapt Chaturanga, lower your knees and place your palms just wide of your elbows, maintaining a neutral spine. Begin by lowering a third of the way down without collapsing your chest or shoulders. Press back up, then lower again, maybe halfway down. Either press back up and transition back to Downward Dog, or shift forward to lower all the way to the ground. From here, a Baby Cobra is an option to facilitate a gentle opening of the chest to activate the heart (Anahata) chakra, or, you can opt out and press into your palms and knees to return to your starting position.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Forward Folds activate the rest-and-digest function of the nervous system. As the mind enters a relaxed state, we experience relief from anxiety, stress, and even mild depression—allowing the body to find playfulness even in discomfort. Wide-Legged Forward Fold strengthens the hamstrings, calves, and ankles, as the lower back releases and hips open. There are many ways to explore the shape to stretch the shoulders and upper back and strengthen the wrists. You may interlace hands behind your sacrum and stretch overhead, clasp hands behind your skull, or place palms to the ground and reach for opposite feet or ankles.
Rooting the hands and feet into the earth sends the sensation of prana or qi throughout the circuitry of your body like an electrical current. By softening your knees to hinge forward with a neutral spine, a gentle rush of blood flows to your head and relieves tension in your neck and shoulders, creating a chain reaction to open the throat (Vishuddha), third eye (Ajna) and crown (Sahasrara) chakras. The groundedness of the shape can also balance the root (Muladhara) chakra.
Lisette is a writer, yoga teacher, and content director. She’s a member of the founding leadership team for Yoga Unify, a new yoga non-profit, the Director of Marketing at Mammoth Yoga Festival, and the co-author of The Yoga Almanac. Lisette completed her 200-hour training in Brooklyn and her Reiki attunement in India, and furthered her studies with Leslie Kaminoff of the Breathing Project, Tiffany Cruikshank, and Andrew Holecek. She’s also a Grief Coach and Death Doula, whose work is focused on integrating the tools of mindfulness and asana for grief healing and end-of-life anxiety. A filmmaker in a past life, Lisette has made videos with community leaders such as Dharma Mittra, Eddie Stern, and Eoin Finn. She lives with her husband and animals in the Hudson Valley, NY..
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. 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.