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Moonstruck: A Closer Look at our Lunar Fascination

Photo credit: JV Noriega
Photo credit: JV Noriega

Throughout history, mankind has been fascinated with the Moon. In the field of arts alone, the Moon is a constant inspiration, sparking the creation of poems and fantasy stories, love songs, and mythology.

Its symbolism is as rich and varied as its phases—a howling wolf’s shadow cast against a looming full Moon heralds terror, while a sliver of a Moon against a backdrop of brilliant stars spells romance.
But the ultimate proof of our lunar enchantment was when the United States ambitiously sent humans on a mission all the way to the Moon. On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin held the honor and distinction of being the first men to walk on the Moon.

To the Moon and Back

The Moon is the sole natural satellite of our planet. Second to the sun, it is the brightest thing in our sky. With its diameter of almost 3,500 kilometers, the Moon rotates in time with the Earth, facing our planet with always the same side of its surface, filled with craters and dark plains formed by prehistoric volcanic eruptions.

Once a month, it orbits around the Earth, altering the angle between our planet, the Moon and the Sun. Visually, this translates into the cycle of the Moon’s phases.

Phases of the Moon

In local mythology, the most popular Moon-related figure is Bakunawa, the god of the underworld that comes in the form of a winged giant sea serpent. When a lunar eclipse occurs, Bakunawa is said to have swallowed the Moon with its humongous mouth, the size of a lake. To prevent the creature from devouring the satellite, townsfolk would bang their pots and pans beneath the night sky to scare Bakunawa into spitting out the Moon.

Mad about the Moon

It’s scientifically proven that the Moon affects our planet through the gravitational pull between them. From the vantage point of the Earth’s surface, one can see two bulges created mostly by our oceans (and a bit of the earth’s crust)—the outward bulge in areas nearest to the Moon, and the inward one in areas farthest from the satellite. This is how the Moon generally affects ocean tides.

Still, some believe that the Moon’s influence extends beyond pulling on the ocean’s surface. In connection with how the word lunatic got its name (from the Latin word luna, which means Moon), there are groups that argue that the Moon, particularly its full phase, causes behavioral changes in humans. This is based on the reason that since our bodies are 75% water, the Moon’s gravitational forces also hold influence over us.
Everything from suicides, births, epileptic and heart attacks, to crimes and injuries are said to be Moon-related. But according to livescience.com, there are no conclusive studies that indicate a definite link between such occurrences and the Moon. It even suggests that when strange events happen during the Full Moon, people tend to pay special attention to them, chalking them up to this particular lunar phase. But when the same events occur during the other Moon- phases, they are dismissed or forgotten.

A Salute to the Moon

Photo credit: Heinz Orais
Photo credit: Heinz Orais

In Hatha Yoga, which emphasizes the physical practice of yoga, the Sun represents masculine impulses, shown in sweat-inducing, active yoga poses called asanas.

Meanwhile, the Moon symbolizes our cooler, feminine side—the primary focus of the Moon Salutation or Chandra Namaskara, a fifteen-step sequence that is both gentle and introspective. Here are the slow, mindful steps to achieve the yoga sequence:
1. Stand tall and allow your jaw to relax. Maintain a soft gaze while picturing the Full Moon in your mouth like a soft, soothing lozenge. Allow the sensation of the Moon to drift towards the back of your head and hold it there.
2. Slowly inhale while raising arms overhead.
3. During a long exhalation, gently touch your brow center, heart center then finally fold forward, your palms touching the ground. Step back your left foot and drop your left knee to the ground.
4. Bend your right leg into a forward lunge and raise your arms while inhaling, palms in prayer position overhead.
5. Slowly exhale while lowering your arms, touching your brow center, heart center then the ground. Step back into downward-facing dog pose.
6. Inhale and drop both knees on the floor into table pose. Look up.
7. Exhale and go into child’s pose.
8. Inhale, go up onto your knees, lift your hips and spread your arms. While looking up, allow yourself to be filled with gratitude.
9. Exhale. After bringing your palms in prayer position overhead, touch the back of your neck with your thumbs. Settle back on your heels. Bring your chest toward your thighs and elbows on the floor. Extend arms in front of you and press palms on the ground.
10. Inhale and slide your chest forward, going into upward-facing dog.
11. Exhale and go into downward-facing dog. Bring your left foot between your palms and drop your right knee.
12. Bend your left knee while inhaling and raise your arms in prayer position overhead.
13. Exhale and touch your brow center, heart center. Step your right foot in front of you and fold forward.
14. Inhale and stand up tall. Raise your arms and press palms overhead to salute the Moon.
15. Exhale, allow your palms to touch your brow center, and let them end in prayer position over your heart center.
Upon finishing the sequence, close your eyes and picture the Full Moon resting at the back of your mind. Let its brightness fill your mind, its beam reflecting out through the point between your eyebrows. This sequence aims to calm, and is said to be safe for women undergoing menstruation and pregnancy.
In another yoga system called Ashtanga, asanas are not practiced during the New and Full Moon days. Practitioners believe that these days are “dangerous” because the Sun and Moon’s combined gravitational forces are on an all-time high, creating conflict. Yogis welcome these days to rest from doing their asanas.

The Trending Moon

The Moon has even gone as far as shaping fashion. According to skwirk.com, the first Moon landing influenced 1960s fashion, inspiring designers to use new and exciting materials such as plastic, vinyl and even PVC, a type of resin used in manufacturing garden hoses and floor tiles. Just imagine the creations crafted from these materials!

Fast-forward to today and the Moon is still making waves in the fashion industry, this time, in high-end watches. These days, watches don’t just tell the time, they’re also beefed up with other features that show different time zones and—you guessed it—Moon-phases.
These complications are usually a hit with women, the Moon-phase feature appealing to their eye for beauty.

Audemars Piguet Moon-phase, encased in 18-carat pink gold, indicates the day and current phase of the Moon. (image from watchalyzer.com)
Audemars Piguet Moon-phase, encased in 18-carat pink gold, indicates the day and current phase of the Moon.
(image from watchalyzer.com)

Meanwhile, Maurice Lacroix, a luxury brand of Swiss watches, boasts of pioneering Moon-phase watches in the 1980s—the reason for which was that some of the company’s clients based decisions on whether the Moon is full, waning or waxing.

Its modern version displays not only the Moon-phase, but also the day, the month, and of course, the time. Timepiece connoisseurs are sure to appreciate its built-in jewels such as sapphire crystal and silver gold.

The Masterpiece Phases de Lune showcases the silver Moon against the deep-blue night sky. (image from hodinkee.com)
The Masterpiece Phases de Lune showcases the silver Moon against the deep-blue night sky.
(image from hodinkee.com)

So the next time you find yourself gazing at the Moon, take a moment and marvel at how this celestial body has shaped our culture, and continues to inspire us in ways both whimsical and scientific.
And if the Big Cheese could tell you how it feels about all this attention, it would probably say that it’s simply over the Moon about it.

Sources: Yogainternational.com, Joyisyoga.com, Nytimes.com, Mauricelacroix.com, Pinoy-culture.tumblr.com