Guru Purnima, also called Vyasa Purnima, is a significant holiday originally from India and celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Yogis.
It celebrates the importance of spiritual gurus, teachers, and mentors that guide us on the path to Guru Tattva, which is the universal energy of spiritual growth.
The name Guru Purnima literally means “full moon day of the gurus” and it falls on the first full moon after the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere.
In 2023, it falls on the 3rd of July.
It is a day to show gratitude to your guru and respect for the work that gurus do, as well as a day to turn inwards, work on yourself, clear blockages, and open yourself to spiritual inspiration.
Keep reading to explore:
- The history and traditions behind Guru Purnima
- How Guru Purnima is traditionally celebrated
- Ideas for how you can celebrate Guru Purnima
- 4 yoga poses to include in your Guru Purnima practice
What Is Guru Purnima?
Some yogis do not consider the Hindu deity Shiva to be a god, but rather the divine source of yoga, also called Adiyogi.
Around 15,000 years ago, on the day of Guru Purnima, Shiva decided to start sharing the wisdom of yoga with the seven sages.
These sages became the arms of Shiva and also the first gurus, as they continued to transmit knowledge of yoga to others. This is why gurus who work to spread knowledge of yoga are celebrated on Guru Purnima.Today, the day is used to celebrate a wider range of teachers, including gurus, that help others on their journey toward enlightenment.
Guru Purnima is also called Vyasa Purnima because it is believed that the revered sage, Maharishi Veda Vyasa, was not only born on this day but that it was on this day that he began to compile the Vedas.
He was inspired to start this work because the alignment of the physical and spiritual realms on this day allows us greater access to the universal principle of spiritual enlightenment, called Guru Tattva.
This is also why many sages and saints, including the Buddha himself, are recorded as having done great things on Guru Purnima.
Guru Purnima is considered a day to focus on your personal spiritual growth for these reasons too.
It is recommended to engage in practices that clear blockages that you have accumulated over the past year and open yourself up to new learning.
“What is the purpose of Guru Poornima? Is it only to celebrate our link and our association with our guru and our master? Is it just another day which society celebrates as guru’s day, as there are Father’s Day and Mother’s Day?
There is a specific reason for celebration of Guru Poornima – connection with the Guru Tattva or element. And this Guru Tattva is power, not a person; guru is power.”Swami Niranjanananda
How Is Guru Purnima Traditionally Celebrated?
Guru Purnima is traditionally celebrated in a number of ways. Devotees usually start their day with meditation and a purifying bath, both of which help clear blockages and heighten their connection with the guru element.
They will then visit temples and ashrams to pay homage to the gurus there. They might bring a thoughtful gift for their personal guru and seek a blessing from them. They will also bring flowers, incense, fruits, sweets, and candles to show gratitude to all gurus.
Many spiritual centers will hold gatherings on Guru Purnima with seminars and spiritual discourses. This is an opportunity to have contact with the gurus, and the receptiveness of the day means that it is also an ideal time to absorb new spiritual knowledge.
Yogis will also mark Guru Purnima with yoga and meditation sessions specifically designed to clear blockages and connect with the guru element.
They will also often chant mantras from the Vedas to honor Veda Vyasa.
In India, in the evening, devotees will stay outside in the moonlight for as long as possible to bask in its inspirational energy.
The entire night is often spent in meditation, song, dance, and just general partying.
While Guru Purnima is considered a time of reverence and gratitude, it is also a joyous occasion on which those on the spiritual path can celebrate their progress and commit to continuing to walk the path over the coming year.
How Can You Celebrate Guru Purnima?
Today, Guru Purnima has become an important day for yogis and others on a spiritual path who are not necessarily part of the ashrams and temple communities where traditional Guru Purnima celebrations take place.
This has led to the rise of more individualistic practices for marking the day. Below are some things you could do to celebrate Guru Purnima.
1. Connect With Your Gurus
We all have many people in our lives that teach us and assist us on our path to learning and spiritual growth. Guru Purnima is a day to show them that you are grateful for everything they have done.
You could give them a present, but just a phone call or a message telling them how you feel can be an important way to show gratitude.
If you connect with a guru from a distance, spend time reading or rereading things that they have said or written to fortify your connection with them.
Gurus often give a lot of themselves while expecting very little in return. In a way, they are “paying it forward”.
They share knowledge in anticipation that their disciples will teach others. Show gratitude and respect for this element of the guru calling by performing acts of service. Volunteer your time, or help someone in need just because you can.
2. Meditate and Reflect
It is important to clear spiritual blockages on Guru Purnima to open the line of communication between you and the guru element.
One of the best ways to do this is through self-reflection. Review and celebrate your progress and growth from the last 12 months, but also be honest with yourself about issues and consider things that you can do to resolve them.
Guru Purnima is a good time to commit to new habits and important changes.
3. Study and Learn
Because Guru Purnima is a day when spiritual inspiration is strong in the air, it is an excellent day to study and learn.
You may find that new insights appear to come suddenly from things you have been studying for a while.
It is also an auspicious day to commit to a new period of study or spiritual work.
4. Practice Yoga
Our mind affects our body and our body affects our mind. Yoga can be an effective way to clear blockages and open yourself up to spiritual growth.
Commit to a Guru Purnima yoga practice that focuses on postures ideal for cleansing, release, and acceptance.
4 Yoga Poses to celebrate Guru Purnima
Try these yoga poses on Guru Purnima to clear spiritual blockages, express gratitude to your spiritual teachers, and open yourself up to the energy of the day.
1. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana)
The warrior Virabhadra is said to have been made from a lock of Shiva’s hair which the guru tore out in grief over the death of his wife.
It is imbued with the power of Shiva, which accounts for its strength. But the name means “hero-friend” because the fire of the hero is there to help, not hurt.
- Standing at the bottom of your mat, step your right foot four feet in front of you and place your right foot parallel with the long side of your mat and your left foot at a 45-degree angle.
- Lunge into your right leg keeping your knee, ankle, and heel stacked, and keep the left leg straight.
- Raise both arms above your head while keeping your shoulder blades down.
- Stay here for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
2. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Vashistha is one of the seven sages that learned yoga from Shiva.
His name means most excellent and most blessed, and he was renowned for owning a magical cow called Nandi that could give its owner whatever they wished for.
This pose can help clear blockages so you can obtain your heart’s desire.
- Starting in downward facing dog, move into a high plank pose and then shift your weight to the outer side of your left foot so that you can stack your right foot on top.
- Raise your right hand directly to the sky and open your torso to the left, maintaining a single diagonal line with your body.
- Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
3. Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)
This pose represents Shiva engaged in the cosmic dance of the universe.
It is joyous and opens a person to possibilities offered by the dynamism of life and the cycles of nature.
We often fluctuate in this posture as we look for balance, while our minds must remain calm and focused.
- Standing at the top of your mat, transfer your weight to your right foot and bend your left knee behind you to take hold of your left ankle with your left hand.
- Keeping your hips square, extend your right arm out in front of you for balance and extend your left foot behind you, pushing it away from your body.
- Hold for five breaths before repeating on the other side.
4. Front Splits (Hanumanasana)
The front split pose requires a lot of patience and dedication to master, which are both qualities required on any spiritual journey.
The posture also physically represents the ability to leap great distances as in the battle between Rama and Ravana, which required Hanuman to jump between India and Sri Lanka.
This reflects the mental agility often needed to make important steps forward on the path of learning.
- Starting in a kneeling position, extend your right leg out straight in front of you.
- Place your right fingertips on the floor for stability and then slide your right foot forward with flexed toes to enter as deeply into the full pose as possible.
- Hold for up to a minute before repeating on the other side.
Guru Purnima is an important day for Hindus and yogis alike.
The day is dedicated to gurus, and it is an excellent time to take a moment and show gratitude to your personal gurus, and all the gurus on whose shoulders we stand.
Guru Purnima is also a day on which the guru element is strong and we can be highly receptive to its inspiration.
Engage in personal rituals to clear blockages and invite new knowledge and learning in.