“What’s your sign?”
It is a question that floats around society—friends ask it, newspapers print it, and movies script it. You might not remember when you first learned about your sign—or how—but chances are that you not only know it, but also the basic attributes associated with it. For instance, Leos are known to be charismatic and courageous, while Aries are active and headstrong. Leo, Aries, Aquarius... whatever your ‘sign,’ the reference is usually to your sun sign—the zodiac sign the sun was rotating through during the month of your birth (e.g. individuals born July 23 – August 22 are of the sun sign Leo).
As with most fields of study, there is more than meets the eye and this is true, as well, for the stars. While you may be more familiar with astrology as a popcultural phenomenon featuring pithy horoscopes in popular media, it is actually a complex system of study. Astrology’s origins date back to Babylonian records, and its connection to health includes Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates (considered the father of modern medicine), all the way through the academic institutions of the Middle Ages. Its foundational tool is your natal chart, a schematic of the position of all the stars and planets (including the sun and moon), at the exact date, time and location of your birth. Which means that every zodiac sign is in your chart, not just the sun sign. And so the chart is a heavenly blueprint of who you are and what you came here to do, like a personalized manual for your body-emotion-mind-spirit connection.
This may be a new concept to you, but civilizations throughout history have looked to the stars to empower our understanding of ourselves and our world. For eons, our ancestors saw no distinction between earth and heaven, the natural and the divine. The stars were reflected within the regions of the body and, correspondingly, offered an insightful guide to life’s inner workings. Let’s look at our hands as an example: You likely see two functional appendages, while our ancient Greek predecessors looked at their hands and saw a gift from the gods—a gift from Zeus, ruler of the gods, to be exact. This gift was in the form of twin sons, known in Latin as Gemini, and represented as a constellation of stars the sun passes through every year (May 21–June 20).
According to the ancient Greeks, your two hands represent the Gemini connection to realms both mortal and divine, and the communication between one and the other. When you consciously attune to your hands (using them enough but not too much, engaging them in proper alignment, and keeping them strong yet supple), you evoke the best of your own Gemini characteristics no matter when you were born, such as adaptability, intellect, and communication. And likewise, if you are not in balance, then Gemini’s susceptibilities—such as feeling scattered—may predominate. So whether or not your sun sign is Gemini, these traits live within you.
How does it help you to know this? Well, if you are an apple, you are always going to be an apple—never an orange—whether you want to be, or not. And to be the best darn apple you can be, means being aware of and living according to your true, apple nature. Similarly, if you are a Leo, and you know that you are tailored to the spotlight, then choosing a career as a subway conductor is likely not a long-term recipe for success. Conversely, are you a Leo who won’t budge from center stage? Then you might find that the courage and charisma it took you to get there has since morphed into pride.
Mind you, none of this means that you cannot choose to either shy from the spotlight or be an attention hog. Of course you can, because you have free will! It is just that your life may be that much harder if you choose to work against your grain. Which is the opposite message from that of astrology: for the happiest and healthiest life, you should work with your true nature, developing your strengths, learning from your susceptibilities, and finding the balance in between.
To reiterate: all of us possess the Leo nature within us, even if it’s not our sun sign. And we can access this courageous and charismatic part of us—a part that asks us to stand tall and shine— through our upper backs and hearts, the related regions of the body. That’s the great thing about the relationship between the stars and your body – you can access it in very practical ways. For example, the yoga Sphinx pose is an exercise that you can do to strengthen your innate Leo power. Like the lion that forms its constellation, Leos are regal creatures and you can use this pose whenever you feel the need to re-establish your reign:
The Sphinx Pose
In ancient Egypt, the sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It is believed to symbolize the pharaoh and his rule—one of power and reason. The lion’s body represents great strength, while the human visage symbolizes intelligence and control. The sphinx pose will bring these parts up and out, as you open and align the entire expanse that surrounds your heart—chest, upper back, and even your shoulder blades (scapulae):
- Lie on your belly on the floor, legs extended side by side. The tops of your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Place your elbows under your shoulders so that your forearms rest on the floor in front of you, parallel to each other.
- Engage your feet and reach your toes toward the wall behind you.
- On an inhale, lift your torso up and away from the floor into a mild back extension.
- You are now in sphinx pose. To fine-tune the position, drop your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your forearms alive and alert all the way through your fingers. Feel your pubic bone (the front of your pelvis) push gently into the floor, while your lower back relaxes. Release your buttocks if they are clenched. Your neck should be positioned as a natural extension of your spine, not overextended. Hold for five deep breaths.
- To exit the position, slowly lower your torso to the floor.
- Repeat one or two more times.
While this pose is relatively still, you can infuse it with a dynamic energy that befits the regal history of the sphinx; for instance, even though your arms and legs are not moving, you can keep them engaged and extended. And if you are looking for long-term results, perform the pose regularly, as well as properly and purposefully. There is no rush on this journey. In fact, you have a lifetime to be your own expert on you. To explore a new chapter of your story. A story of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, and you, the individual who resides in between.