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.
It’s springtime here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’re deep into Taurus season. Taurus season encompasses the pagan holiday of Beltane (May Day), the halfway mark between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. As such, this time of year is truly a bridge from the frenetic energy of the equinox—a time for setting intentions—and the blossoming of the summer.
Symbolized by the Bull, Taurus is associated with slow, steady, sensual energy that asks us to tap into all five senses. Just as the Earth begins to awaken to its most sensual season, characterized by the wet, muddy, rooting down of spring growth, so too is this a time for us to consider just what it means to root to rise; how we can harness the power of the fertile soil, and to nurture the seeds we planted in Aries season from a place of stable groundedness.
Ruled by the planet Venus, Taurus is also associated with the slow and steady pursuit of pleasure. In order to tap into true pleasure, of course, we must be coming from a place of non-attachment, innate joy, and intentional sensuality. This could look like slowing down to savor small moments, expressing gratitude for what you’re able to see, taste, touch, and smell, and being fully and completely present in the here and now.
The Pursuit of Pleasure in Yogic Philosophy
In Sutra 1.5, Patanjali posits that all thoughts lead to two outcomes—either pain or pleasure. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation, he suggests that these outcomes are determined by the intention behind the emotion; not necessarily the emotion itself. With selfless intention, a negative emotion like anger can cause pleasure (Swami Satchidananda gives the example of a schoolteacher reprimanding children, leading to personal growth); and that an emotion generally associated with pleasure, such as love, can lead to pain if approached from a place of selfishness (selfish love can lead to jealousy, or even loss).
Because the foundational philosophy of yoga is that we are all interconnected, it goes to reason that any selfless pursuit of pleasure would result in a positive outcome for all. But true pleasure, and true yogic living, insists on non-attachment to the outcome of any pursuit. It’s all about releasing expectation, right intention, and grounding into the truth of our interconnectivity.
Yoga Poses for Taurus Season
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree Pose is a physical metaphor for rooting to rise. The Buddha sat patiently beneath the Bodhi Tree to achieve enlightenment. In a Hindu myth, Bhagiratha stood on one foot for a thousand years to persuade the gods to allow the goddess Ganga to descend and release the souls of his ancestors. His steadfastness brought the River Ganges to Earth, her waters with powers to break the cycle of reincarnation.
Balancing is a practice, and it may take some time exploring the edges of the feet, shifting the weight from ball mounds to heels, before you gain a sense of your foundation. You can bring the sole of your foot above or below your knee. Engage your gluteal muscles to enhance your stability and activate your transverse abdominal muscles (the ones you feel when you cough). Maintain neutrality in your hips, as you lift your hands to your heart or extend your arms overhead like branches.
Tree Pose activates the foundational seat of the root (Muladhara) chakra. Opening the hip rouses the sacral (Svadhisthana) chakra, our center of relationships. Tree Pose also awakens the solar plexus (Manipura) chakra, our self-confidence and stability.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra Pose is an ideal substitute for Upward Facing Dog, and can be practiced high or low to the ground depending on spinal and shoulder mobility. If you have wrist issues, it’s not necessary to press your palms into the floor. Instead, breathe into your back and front body. As your belly fills with air, allow that buoyancy to lift your chest and forehead from the ground as you float your palms beside you, keeping your elbows bent by your sides. You can press into your pubic bone to generate spinal extension—the beginning of a backbend. If there is tension in your lower back, lower down slightly and engage your glutes to protect and strengthen that region.
Lying on the belly activates the root (Muladhara) and the solar plexus (Manipura) chakra, centers of ancestral memory and personal power. Cobra’s opening across the chest and throat also stimulates the heart (Anahata) and throat (Vishuddha) chakras. Taurus rules the throat and neck.
Seated Neck Stretch
There are 26 muscles in the neck that attach in and around the cervical spine. The neck holds the weight of the head, about 10 pounds on average. Our cervical spines tend to extend forward from their normal upright and neutral position as a byproduct of the digital evolution. The “tech neck” pandemic results from frequently looking down at handheld devices or hunched forward in front of a screen strains the surrounding muscles. A seated neck stretch helps counteract this stress and strengthen the region—and serves as a reminder to hold your head up high and be your own guru.
From a comfortable supported seat and relaxed neutral spine, lift from root to crown as you draw your ears back. With your chin parallel to the floor, turn your head from side to side. Then, drop one ear toward your shoulder without force and then repeat on the other side. To help relax the trapezius muscle, gently place the same side hand on your crown and tilt your chin slightly upward. These slight rotation and flexion movements in your cervical spine can assist in unblocking your throat (Vishuddha) 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, 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 Master 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.