One of the most amazing aspects of being part of a yoga kula (community) is meeting so many beautiful souls willing to share the wisdom they’ve gleaned from their own personal path. I feel incredibly fortunate to not only know many such beauties, but to also have the honor of calling them my friends.

I consider many of the people within my yoga community to be old souls; people who have a knowledge that is far deeper than what could possibly be gained in one lifetime. They’ve got something very special to offer and maybe “get it” in a way that I don’t. But the best part is – they’re more than willing to share that knowledge.

One such individual is a beautiful old soul named Nina Stanger. My dad once asked me what someone my age (an elderly 43) is doing hanging out with someone in their 20s. This strikes me as hysterical for many reasons, not the least of which is that, in many respects, Nina is far more mature and wise than I will ever be.

She is also a very talented and insightful student of astrology. And an amazing yoga teacher, but that’s a story for another day. Today, she’s schooling me on why astrology changed her life. And how it might just change yours, too.

How did you come to astrology? What compelled you to it?

I was at a yoga retreat in 2011 and had my birth chart read. It blew my mind. The things that the astrologer picked up on were so spot on. It was very freeing in a way; it made me feel like I could surrender. The things I like about myself, the things I don’t like – they are equally outside of my control. It is all based on something much bigger than me – the alignment of the planets.

From that moment on, I wanted to understand and learn more.  Luckily for me, the astrologer who so impressed me – Adam Elenbaas – moved to Maryland not long after that and I had the opportunity to study with him.

I want to believe. Why should I believe that the planets have any bearing on my life? Please convince me!

I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, but I’m not really interested in convincing anybody. I just know from my own experience that this is truth. And at this point, I’ve see hundreds of charts and any doubt I might have had was long ago wiped away. I think people have to come to the believing part on their own. But, my belief – my knowing – stems from having seen the presence of the planets in the birth charts I read. And the planets don’t lie.

If you practice and study yoga, than you are familiar with the idea that we all have energy bodies. In yoga, we refer to them as the chakras. Well, the planets, which are so much bigger than us, also have energy – fields that we, humans here on Earth, can feel and by which we are affected.

What are you actually looking at when you’re reading someone’s birth chart?

When I am looking at a birth chart, I am seeing a map of the sky at the moment a person is born. It shows where the planets were – what signs and what houses they were in. I am also looking at the angles (aspects) the planets are making to one another. I am looking at how the symbols – the meanings of the planets – are interacting and expressing themselves in the person’s life.

I get so confused: there are the signs and then the ruler of the signs, the houses, etc. It’s so much information! What are the most important things to know about for the lay person in interpreting their chart?

It is a lot of information. It took me about eight months of consistent studying to even try reading a chart. But I once heard an analogy that works really well. Think of astrology as a play. The planets are the actors. The signs are the story lines or the script. And the houses are the different sets used during the different acts of the play.

So, for example, imagine someone is a person who was born in March. And let’s say the sun was in Aries in the seventh house, the house of relationships. The actor, in this example is the sun, which represents the self, destiny, drive. The script here is determined by Aries; so this play might be about individuality, courage, a search for identity. And the set we’re looking at in this case – the house – is about relationships. So this person’s identity is very connected or concerned with how they are seen by others, or by how they fit into different social groups.

I always hear you say that you are a classic Virgo. What makes you so emblematic of your sign? Can you give other examples of how people’s signs show up in their personalities?

I have four planets in Virgo: the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars. So I’ve got a lot of it in my chart to begin with. Add to that there is a light and shadow side to every planet and sign. My chart embodies both sides of Virgo. The light is grounded, dedicated, disciplined, organized and likes to be of service to others. The shadow side is self-critical, perfectionist, controlled.

You can learn more about your own sign on a website I really like called Cosmic Navigator. On it, there are lectures about each sign.

Beyond reading my horoscope in the Express Paper every morning on the metro (which is obviously legitimate and all knowing) what is the best way to begin to incorporate astrology into one’s life?

In my opinion, most horoscopes in magazines and newspapers are pretty much bullshit. They typically only take into account the sun and no other planets, so they can’t possibly be accurate.

I think the best first step is to have birth chart read by a reputable astrologer. That way, you’re relating to the information through your own life. You’ll have a connection to it. And then you can build from there.

Astrology can be a tool to understand yourself and your relationship to the world just like yoga or even therapy. For me, it ended up being a lot more than that. It was life changing; it changed the way I see the world.

I imagine most people come to astrologers to know about relationships and career (or maybe I’m projecting…). What are the areas in life in which you think people could most use astrology beyond those issues?

My favorite part of chart reading is looking at the nodal axis, which is your past life story. It tells you about your karma and describes the things that make you uniquely you: the patterns that show up in your life again and again; the things and people you attract; what you’re comfortable with. It’s freeing to know that “this is me; this is what I am here to learn and I don’t have to try to change it.”

Has astrology proven itself to be useful in your life? Any cool examples that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

It is absolutely useful in my life. I pay attention to where the moon is every day and I notice patterns, which can be very helpful. For instance, I started to notice a pattern where every time the moon is in Taurus, I would feel this loss of self-control, particularly with respect to food. I would binge eat. This makes sense because Taurus is the sign of pleasure, the senses, the material world and the body. The way that showed up for me was eating in excess. Once I started to realize that, I started paying closer attention to the lunar calendar and, when I noticed that the moon was going to be in Taurus, I would get ahead of the issue.

In your mind, how do astrology and yoga complement one another?

Both yoga and astrology are tools to better understand yourself and to grow and evolve as a person. For me, yoga is a path to freedom and a path out of the mind. Astrology is different because it is an intellectual study; it requires you to use your mind. But both are both based on the cycles of the sun and moon. So I think they both are a means to the same end and work really well together.

How can you begin to align an asana and meditation practice with astrology?

The easiest way is to pay attention to the lunar cycle and create a practice that is resonant with the phases of the moon. For example, when the moon is building towards full, you might have a lot of energy and feel like you’re building momentum. As a result, it’s probably appropriate to have a more fiery, solar, vigorous practice, building heat, incorporating a lot of warrior and other standing poses, and maybe some inversions.

Conversely, when the moon is waning, it’s a time to go inwards with a more lunar practice; being more reflective, yin and quiet. This might include lots of forward folds, deep hip openers and shoulder stand.

Of course, this all depends on the rest of the planets. So it’s not a universal statement, just a general guidepost.

Where the planets are can also have an impact on meditation. For example, the moon in Pisces is all about sleep, dreams, mysticism and the unseen. I often have really good meditative experiences during a Pisces moon.

Can people get a reading with you? How do we find you? (I always know where you are because of the low jack I have on you, but for other people…)

People can absolutely get a reading with me. The best way to reach me is through email at ninastanger@gmail.com.

What’s the best sign? (Trick question! Everyone knows it’s Scorpio).

Yup – it’s totally Scorpio.

Resources Nina recommends for learning more about astrology include: