Have You Noticed This?

Dr Rishi Vivekananda Saraswati

About thirty years ago, when I was working as a general practitioner, I noticed something mysterious. A lot of my practice was spinal adjustments, using techniques I had learnt from two other doctors who were experts in the field. It dawned on me one day that almost all of the people in that session had come with neck problems. Days later, the people at that time were nearly all there for lumbago and sciatica, and the ones with the neck troubles had settled down.

As the weeks went by I realized that this was no coincidence, and that there was a rhythm to it. First the people with upper neck problems would come in, then a couple of days later a different group of people with lower neck and arms, then thoracic spine and chest, then upper lumbar, then lower lumbar and legs. Then it would go back the other way: upper lumbar, thoracic, lower neck, then upper neck. What was the cause? I thought of all sorts of things, from the weather to the television news, then it dawned – the rhythm was the phases of the moon.

Prior to that, I had known about the influence of the moon when I lived and worked in psychiatric hospitals as I trained to be a psychiatrist. The nursing staff were convinced that the patients were more disturbed around the full moon, and as time went on I realized it was true. In fact, later when I was Deputy Superintendent of a hospital and responsible for the medical staff after-hours roster, I always had myself working on the nights of the new moon, and slept undisturbed.

The appearance of spinal problems at different levels was something new though. The upper cervical troubles with their headaches came at the time of the full moon, then as the moon waned, in came the people with lower cervical and arm troubles, then thoracic, then upper lumbar, then the lower lumbar and sciatica at new moon. Then as the moon waxed, it occurred the other way. Not only that, as I was also conducting a normal family practice, I began to notice a predominance of people with all sorts of head problems at the time of the full moon. Then as the moon waned, the chronic arm problems would flare up, then the chests, then the abdominal troubles such as peptic ulcers, irritable bowel, etc. then the urinary tract, and finally the legs at new moon.

Sometimes it was a new condition, at others it was an ongoing chronic one 'flaring up', but in each case its location was usually in time with its phase of the moon. I thought it was rather funny that I was getting credit (and payment) for relieving those people of their symptoms within a few days, when the moon should have received most of the credit. It also suggested something else too: maybe people who are having ongoing treatment, only need it at their 'flare up' phase of the moon cycle. It is something to think about in the healing professions.

In later years, as I travelled around the world teaching yoga and learning all sorts of things, I noticed other effects from the moon phases. People in general were more impulsive and agitated in the two days or so before the full moon, and I see it nowadays in my psychiatric patients. I realized it first when I was driving a car in the United States of America, both in other people on the road and in myself. We were more impatient, would push into small spaces, pedestrians would hurry in front of the car, everybody seemed in a hurry. Then like a miracle, as soon as the moon started to wane, we all settled down. I still see it now.

However, some people experienced the opposite effect. At one time, in a place where I stayed, one woman, who had been born in early July, was (not surprisingly) the cook. Every month (not related to her menstruation) at new moon she was depressed, surly and withdrawn; she used to hide in a cupboard and we had to coax her out to cook the dinner, which usually turned out to be awful. Then as the moon waxed, so did she. She started to exude vitality, she became friendly and loving, and the food became better and better. Then at the full moon she absolutely glowed and the food was cordon bleu.

It occurred in the yoga classes, too. The joints at the level of the moon phase would stiffen up and had to be given extra gentle stretching to avoid straining them. It was obvious especially in the pawanmuktasana series 1 practices, in which all the joints of the body are stretched in turn. It is best to give extra stretches to the stiffer ones. In the major asanas people in the class would say, “It's funny, I could do this asana easily during the week, now I can't get into the position.” It was usually an asana for the chakra area which was being 'lit up' at its phase of the moon.

Maybe in meditation, and in daily life, the mental material we are working on is predominantly that of the chakra activated by its phase of the moon. Such as intellect and intuition at full moon, communication as the moon starts to wane, love, hate and hurt as anahata becomes active, power and self-esteem at middle moon, sexuality when it is swadhisthana's turn, and security at the new moon. My observations over the three decades lead me to believe it is true.

Of course, the events around us will help to determine our mindset, but maybe they also are influenced by the moon's phases because the people around us are similarly influenced, and they trigger most of our joys and sorrows. Moreover, no matter what is impinging on us, maybe we react to it differently according to the phase of the moon and which of our 'buttons' can be pressed most easily at that time.

Paramahamsaji has said that we are all slowly evolving anyway, yoga hurries it up. In yoga we practise techniques to activate and awaken the chakras and empty ourselves of the personality blockages associated with them. Maybe the moon as it passes through its phases is one of the instruments that is driving our natural evolution, by activating the chakras and forcing us to confront the pains and pleasures of our expanding personalities.