Many Black people in the Western world struggle with the inability to know where we truly came from due to the effects of slavery. It’s a shared reality between Black Americans, Caribbeans and South Americans: even with the cultures and identities that evolved despite slavery, there isn’t much knowledge of where exactly our African ancestors came from.
This question of origin and heritage is what inspired artist and yogi, Juliana Luna, to investigate the powers of ancestral healing and the moon. Born in Brazil, her journey led her to realize the power of movement, to find her roots in the Nigerian Yoruba tribe and, eventually, to create the Aluna Method—a four-phase healing system guided by a lunar map.
I sat down with Juliana to learn about her evolution into becoming a yogi and teacher and what it means to be a student of the moon:
Juliana Luna: That was about 10 years ago. I had just ended an abusive relationship and I needed to heal from whatever was brought up in my body. I remember I felt so heavy and so sad; it was wearing on me. I felt like maybe I should do this hot yoga thing at this studio next door to my house. In my mind, I thought sweating would be good for me. I went to the class and, after I left, I thought, “Wow. It was like I just had an exorcism.” It wasn’t just the sweat; it was the ability to remember how good it feels to be in my body—and that brought me back. I needed to recover myself. In this abusive relationship, I was dissociated with my body and, in that class, I realized I need to reintegrate because this is what was going to heal me. That is when I started my journey with yoga. It was powerful because it taught me that the body keeps score, and I needed to come back to my body to heal.
KT: You teach that ancestry is key for being at peace. What influenced you to tap into your ancestry and Brazilian Yoruba perspective?
JL: My first understanding of Blackness was when I was a child. I’m from Brazil, but I lived in Bolivia. I realized there was something different about me. I would look at myself and my little colleagues and there was a difference, and I couldn’t understand what that difference was. My mom and my dad never had the language to teach me that, but I knew something was off with me—my hair was different and the way I felt music was different. I’ve known that movement is my language since I was very little. I was moving to this song and I felt so alive in my body. I had an experience because the indigenous Bolivian people believed it was good luck to see a Black person, so they would walk up to you and pinch your skin because that was a symbol of good luck for them. So, I would get home and I would have my arm bruised because all of these children were pinching me everywhere. I asked my mom, “Why are they doing this to me?” and my mom said, “Because you’re different.”
Finally, when I was a teenager, I decided to shave my head because I had this long permed hair and, every month, I had to do this heavy chemical treatment to straighten it. It was a nightmare because it was so painful. Afterward, I’d have this beautiful hair for a week, but, when I washed it, it went away. It was really sad because I’d miss the feeling of being pretty. I thought maybe what I had to do was shave my head. When I did it, my mom said, “What is wrong with you?” and I said, “I want to see myself and know who I am because it is driving me crazy.”
I feel like that was the beginning of my quest to understand my ancestry. I thought, “Who am I, where are my roots, where do I come from and why do I have such a curiosity to understand who I am even at such a young age?” The awareness of that led me to discover more about my ancestral wisdom. I felt more connected to spirit. I would just go into mediation and spirit would be present, and I felt so happy when I was there. I never wanted to leave. I wanted to be in my divine bubble forever.
I was in the church at the time because that was my way of talking to spirit; it was the Christian way. I was in their ministry of dance, but I didn't want to do the courses they had for leadership because they were just there to tell me that I couldn’t do things the way that I do. I eventually left the church and started my quest to connect to those forces through my mediums, and that’s how the ancestors came through—because they saw how open I was. They said, “We want to show you where you came from.” So, they took me on a trip to Nigeria. I ended up doing this documentary series called, Brazil DNA Africa. They tested a sample of my DNA and found out that my ancestors came from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. They chose me and four others out of 150 people to go on a trip to their motherland.
I went to Nigeria and it was miraculous, all of my senses were awakened, and I visited places and saw things and felt things that were so familiar. I thought: Why am I so impacted by this place I’ve never visited before? It made me so happy to be there. It felt like home and that is when the ancestors said, “This is your ancestral land and now you can connect to it and come back to it and find that piece of belonging you’ve always desired.”
To me, the answer to a lot of the suffering that we go through as Black people comes from that connection to ancestry. There are so many different ways of connecting, which is why I developed a whole methodology to help people connect to it. After all, through my own, I was able to map what that is and put it in a container that also helps other people in their process of remembering, coming together with spirit and finding out more about their ancestral connections.
KT: How would you describe your practice for someone who might not be familiar with the Brazilian Yoruba perspective or the power of the moon?
JL: My practice is one of making space. It is a framework for self-development based on lunar time because the moon is cyclical; it's not linear. It isn’t beginning, middle and end. It’s beginning, middle, end and beginning. There is a continuation to it that is very much a part of who we are as humans. We are material form, but we are also spirit form. Spirit is infinite and ever-living. So, how can we connect to that wisdom, live our material lives with that understanding and make space for that presence to manifest every day in our lives? It’s a practice of making space and coming home to oneself.
KT: What wisdom does the moon possess?
JL: She possesses the wisdom of integration. She helps us integrate past, present and future. She helps us to understand oneness and the relationship between light and dark, and how to make those two work perfectly well together, as one. That is the power of the moon.
KT: What does it mean to be a “student of the moon”?
JL: It means that I am in constant development. I am constantly curious about myself, my relationship with love, what making more space for love means. It means that I am love in motion and I must accept that and feel comfortable with that because the creative power within me is to continue to present love to humanity in everything that I do. Whatever I create from that is the legacy that I will leave in this world.
KT: What can students of the moon learn about themselves through this practice?
JL: They will learn that they are magic. Everything that you desire, whatever it is your heart desires, will show up by remembering your purpose on this Earth; spirit just provides. Everything that you need from the Earth is there. You will also learn that detachment is a quality for those who desire to go deeper. The more you create a relationship with detachment, the deeper you will go.
KT: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process”?
JL: It means to embody joy and pleasure because we have been taught that, to live the process, we have to suffer—“No pain no gain.” When, actually, pain is loss; it isn’t gain, at all. It is a loss of self because it’s consumed so much of our energy and it removes from us the ability to accept love, pleasure and joy. The more we give ourselves permission to receive love, pleasure and joy, the more we liberate ourselves from those narratives that keep us in pain and trauma.