The Power of Circles and Cycles

Guiding Theme | Issue #84

Dear Yoga Community,

A couple of days ago the rising sun greeted me with extra warmth. I had woken up that morning from a much-longed-for good night’s sleep, and my injured shoulder was feeling better than usual. While basking in this sense of celebration and gratitude a deeper wisdom emerged--I could not know this wonderful feeling without having just come out of a period of suffering. I saw myself in a very specific location on a circle or cycle of life, reminding me of this central theme in Yoga’s philosophy and practices, as well as in the natural world’s phases of the Moon, and the number Zero. Tapping into the archetype of the circle can bring powerful perspective, acceptance, faith and guidance on our spiritual journey.

Yoga’s most fundamental and useful teaching is the recognition that life is constantly changing, constantly cycling. In the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, only second to being welcomed on a magnificent journey, we find the teaching, Yoga chitta vritti nirodha, which means “Yoga is ceasing to identify with the fluctuations in consciousness”. In simpler terms, we are reminded not to cling to the very things that will inevitably change, including “feeling good” or “feeling bad”. Every experience of being human, including the body, energy, emotions and mind, are always changing. The one aspect or kosha that is not changing, according to Yoga, is purusha, our Spirit.

This idea is embodied in Yoga’s wheel pose. Called Chakrasana, we are reminded that each of our chakras, or energy centers, in the body are also understood to be swirling circles of power. When we do the Wheel pose our intention stays upon the hub or center of the wheel, which represents our unchanging spiritual nature.

It is from the spiritual aspect of our nature that we develop the witness perspective, allowing us to observe and enjoy the good times without attachment. I have found this teaching to be particularly challenging for students, clients, and myself! Why would we want to subdue the good times! Recognizing the impermanence of a good moment actually helps us be more present and appreciate that very moment. Yes, we are here to enjoy all the beauty and love that life has to offer. We can hold simultaneously the reality that what goes up must come down, that we are always on a certain point on the circle.

The breath is a wonderful metaphor for this cycle. The inhale has a beginning, middle and end as it moves toward fullness in the lungs. The exhale has a beginning, middle and end as it moves toward empty lungs. The inhale represents how we take in life, how we move towards illumination of our thoughts and dreams. The exhale symbolizes the way in which we release effort, riding upon the inspiration of the inhale, letting go and trusting the flow and eventual renewal of life. The pause in between the inhale and exhale allows a moment to witness, to exist in what yoga calls our “natural state” of purusha.

This cycle of breath is beautifully similar to the phases of the Moon and we will see how they can intertwine and truly support us. When the moon is Full and Illuminated, it is like the pause after the inhale. When the moon is New or invisible, it is like the pause after the exhale. Just like the breath, the phases between New moon to Full moon have three parts--Crescent, Half and Gibbous.

The current energy of the waning Half Moon matches the middle of our exhale. We might recognize that the cosmic energies, of which we are intricately connected, are supporting our own energies as we float upon the learnings and fruits of our most recent efforts, gliding and letting go as they begin to inform our next phase. It’s a good time to continue this release, letting go and trust in the Universe to integrate and manifest what is meant to be for the good of all.

To conclude this celebration of the Circle, let us consider the number Zero as another aspect of the natural world. This number represents the egg, the seed, the emptiness from which springs all creation. The circle of Zero represents the aspect of our experience that exists before we had an individuated mind. It is the great mystery from which we all emerge, and return, on our journey to wholeness. As you see yourself on this great circle of life, may the wholeness of Purusha in its center embrace and support you.

With Great Love,

Related Content:

Guiding Theme | Issue #84 | The Power of Circles and Cycles
Yoga Philosophy | Issue #85 | Harmony with Rhythms of Life
Our Yoga Nature | Issue #86 | Becoming a Harmonious Whole
Yoga Therapy | Issue #87 | Breathing for Well Being