Full moonFor years I have religiously observed moon days, which means I don’t practice asana on full or new moon. The yogic explanation is that the full moon corresponds to the top of the inhalation when the upward energy of prana is at it’s greatest. So around the full moon we can feel high, energised, emotional and ungrounded. The new moon corresponds to the bottom of the exhalation when the force of apana is greatest so we feel calm and grounded and low energy. At either extreme it’s not a good idea to practice and we are more likely to injure our self.

The explanations I’ve often heard, and in the past given myself, are that are we are composed of around 60% water we are affected by the moon in the same way as the ocean. I’ve also often heard it said that admissions to mental hospitals, arrests and accidents are higher around the full moon. But is there a scientific basis for this and is it true?

So the first idea is that we are made of mostly water and the gravitational pull of the moon causes the whole ocean to move so therefore it must affect us. Well, the idea that the moon causes the tides is only partly true, tides are mostly caused by the rotation of the earth, but more to the point, the moon doesn’t affect water in lakes or rivers or the water in our bathtub…. or the water in our body. The water in the human body is intercellular, that means it is contained in cells doesn’t exist in the body as pure water and is too small a volume to be affected by the moon. So the idea of the gravitational pull of the moon affecting us via the water in our body, on closer inspection starts to look a little thin.

The second idea is that the gravitational pull of the moon is greater when it’s full, and that this affects our body and mind. Well the moon and the earth both have elliptical orbits and the difference between the closest and furthest point between the earth and the moon is 225,622 miles, which isn’t significant in terms of gravitational pull. Also, there is no relationship between the moons distance from earth and whether the moon is new or full. And anyway as the late astronomer George Abell of the University of California, Los Angeles, noted, a mosquito sitting on our arm exerts a more powerful gravitational pull on us than the moon does. So that idea doesn’t hold much water either.

So what about the statistical evidence of higher admissions to mental hospitals, more people being arrested and having accidents at full moon – some police forces put on extra police to deal with it – so that must be true? Well according to every statistical study and meta analysis ever done there is in fact no correlation between anything, including crimes, suicides, psychiatric problems and crisis centre calls, and the moon, not even women’s menstrual cycle.

So on closer inspection all my beliefs and ideas about moon days turn out to have no foundation in fact. I can’t pretend that I didn’t find this disappointing. But on reflection, it doesn’t stop me. I think being in tune with the rhythm of the moon is very beautiful and especially living in a big city it keeps me in touch with nature. I love the symbolism of new beginnings and completed cycles. I love the ritual of it. I just love to look up and see the moon and observing moon days keeps me aware and connected on that level….and… it’s also very nice to have a lie in twice a month!