The Big Picture

It’s hard to condense  5000+ years of astrological knowledge.  On this page we’ll begin to organize and condense this knowledge bank down to some of the fundamental concepts that have relevance for our study. The important thing to remember is that we’re going for the kind of information that can be translated into behavior and action.

When working one on one as in yoga therapy, we want to first get a big picture view of the individual. For that there’s nothing as detailed or informative as the natal horoscope. It’s interesting to note that for many, many years astrology did not concern itself with the individual. Ancient astrologers spent their time studying the sky in order to intuit information regarding weather, war, and the state of the land. Then, somewhere along the way, the astrologers realized that all that they have learned could indeed be applied to individuals. It was a renaissance for sure!

THE NATAL HOROSCOPE is calculated for the date/time/place of the individual. The computer has revolutionized this process and now it’s easy for anyone to obtain a chart as long as you have the correct information. It’s important, however, to have a basic understanding of the mathematical mechanics of the process. Computer programs vary and not all of them are accurate. Please consult a reputable, professional astrologer to make sure that your chart is accurate. ( I will be happy to provide you with charts for a small fee. Email me with your request.) (personal note. While attending college I was required to write a manual for a biz-writing course and I chose to write out in words How To Calculate a Natal Chart. I found it the other day and it’s clear as a bell. So, if/when you decide you want to ‘understand’ the mathematics of chart calculation let me know.)

For now, begin by simply looking at the picture of the chart. Notice what you notice. Look at the distribution of planets around the wheel and see what stands out. A majority of planets above the horizon (horizontal line) usually indicate a person who is extroverted and spends most of his energy interacting with the world-at-large. A majorit of planets below the horizon usually shows a more introverted person who’s world is more centered around the home. A majority of planets on the left side is someone who enjoys taking the lead, and on the right side someone who prefers to be a follower. Planets scattered around the entire wheel describes someone…….scattered, lacking a definite focus. There are many good astrology books out there that will go into more detail regarding these planetary pictures. It all depends on how detailed you want to get. From my experience, unless you want to get into astrological counseling, it’s not necessary to go any further than this………………..for now.


Western astrology recognizes four elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water. Each element has a propensity for a different kind of spiritual or yogic practice. For instance, Earth people will benefit most from the physicality of asana practices particularly the detail and precision of the Iyengar methodology. They have patience and will work hard to achieve concrete results. Diet, nutrition, and issues around food are also earthy concerns. Air people obviously would benefit from pranayama & meditation. Relationships are important with them and they’ll really appreciate your ability to communicate clearly and engage them in dialogue about their spiritual path & practices. Water people are very intuitive and their primary source of information lies in their emotional body. Kripalu yoga methodologies are particularly helpful with these sensitive souls. Encouraging them to become more aware of where various emotions land in their body will be most helpful. Techniques like Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy are also most beneficial for water types. Fire people usually have an abundance of energy and are quite ‘spirited’ individuals. High intensity, high impact, and physically challenging practices would suit them just fine. They usually lack the patience for slow, restorative, practices. Power yoga, hot yoga, and Ashtanga type practices appeal to them. They need something to conquer! Heating asana’s, kapallabhati pranayama’s suit firey personalities just fine.

Fire & Air are masculine elements. Think heating, energizing, and practices which require willful effort.

Water & Earth are the feminine elements. Think cooling, restorative, and practices of surrender.

Looking at the distribution of elements in a chart can provide plenty of information for a yoga therapist. Immediately you will get a sense of how balanced the person is. Few of us have a chart with the elements in perfect balance. (For those who are well studied in ayurveda, you will note that the dosha’s are very explicit in their references to the elements. However, regardless as to whether you determine elemental make-up from a pulse or from a horoscope the end result is the same) Helping the individual acheive balance is a key goal in yoga therapy. Once you have determined what the elemental imbalances are it’s easy to create a practice to compensate.

To establish the balance of elements in a chart begin by looking at the planets and the zodiac sign each planet is located in. Just count and see what you come up with. Here on this page you will find a chart that will help you to figure it out. Look for that which is most out of balance….too much or too little. Pull together a session which creates balance. As my teacher, Joseph La Page of Integrative Yoga Therapy reminds us, “Give them a little bit of what they want, and a lot of what they need.”

Go here for more information on choosing practices for each element.


After looking at the elements, take a look at the qualities in the chart. This is another way of categorizing the zodiac signs. The three modes/qualities are as follows along with suggestions of what to include in a session to create balance.

The Cardinal quality is action-oriented. They like to start things and they like to stay busy. Rarely will you find these types sitting around doing nothing. They like to assert themselves and frequently you will find them in leadership roles.

The Fixed quality is represented by persistence and patience. Others find them to be stubborn and possibly rigid. They are happy to maintain status quo and are somewhat resistance to change. Creating a well-rounded practice and then sticking to it will satisfy them. An asana practice with long holdings will be more beneficial than a fast paced vinyasa.

Mutable is the remaining quality. Here you’ll find those who are quite flexible. They are adaptable and adjust well to changing circumstances. You’ll find them constantly moving with some difficulty in finding stillness. Their minds are frequently as busy as their bodies.

Each zodiac sign has an element and a quality creating 12 different, individual sets of characteristics. It’s important to understand that the combination of 10 planets in 12 zodiac signs (along with all the other astrological details of a chart) is the beginning of what makes each of us one-of-a-kind.