Yoga for navigating the seasons

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 By:
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BuddhaIt may not be completely obvious here in Texas, but the fall season is upon us. The breeze blows more freely during the day, and that reminiscent feeling of the first day of school is still lingering in the air. I love fall and it’s promise for new beginnings, but it also brings a sense of turbulence and uprootedness to our lives. We are entering the ever-mysterious realm of transition. And while it becomes easy to recognize the unfolding of the new season in the natural world, there is also a coinciding shift that takes place inside of us as those burnt orange leaves start to fall. This inner transition is easy to miss when we rush through our days just trying to get to the finish line, as if one exists. So this year I present a challenge to you. Rather than moving through this fall feeling as though your mind is as unkempt as the winds, drink in a few moments of presence and self-inquiry each day  in order to keep your roots intact.

I just moved to Austin from Chicago, so I can commiserate with you if there’s a fresh sense of newness unfolding in your life. Periods of change are exciting and unnerving all at once. In the weeks leading up to my move and the weeks following, my mood saw some crazy ups and downs. One day I felt motivated and buzzed from my new surroundings and sense of independence, and the next I was deflated, anxious, and absolutely fearful of what lies around the corner on my path. We all encounter uncertainty at times, and can often recognize it more potently at this time of the year. Sometimes this makes it harder to show up on the mat, and easier to curl up in a shell of doubt. In these moments I ask myself, how can I create beneficial space and openness in my life, rather than feeding the constrictive quality of fear? When we are suddenly caught in the middle of a storm, it can take us a moment to remember that we came prepared with an umbrella. These moments of change are what the practice has been preparing us for. So how can we use it’s lessons in real time?

I find it fascinating how my yoga practice mirrors my life, constantly evolving to keep up with the feeling-state of the seasons around me and within me. Once we become aware of the natural mirroring that happens between our outer and inner worlds, we are gifted the power to harness our own energy by using our practice to balance out the pull of the season. Many of the suggestions I give here are based on the beautiful art of life, Ayurveda, which invites us to sync the rhythms of our inner world with what is calling to us from the natural world. The rest is personal experience, and what I have noticed through observation of effects of my ever-changing physical and mental practices.

In fall or anytime your life feels hectic or you are having trouble focusing, rituals that invite comfort and stability to breath and body are quite medicinal. For your asana practice, think of poses that counter the high- vata nature of fall, or the predominance of the wind element. Forward folds, Warrior I with a focus on the rooting action underneath the feet, tree pose with hands at heart center, and moon salutations done with slow and focused breath help to call our attention downward to the supportive mother who nourishes our growth. A lower drishti,a or gazing point in asana, has a similar effect, calling us back to the stability of the earth. Lately I have been delving deeper into meditation, and it is making a noticeable difference in my ability to deal with all the chaos being thrown my way. I highly recommend taking a few minutes a day to sit silently with yourself, for will lead to more insightful observations of how fall effects you.  Note that sitting silently is often more challenging when high vata is present, which can be discouraging. If your mind can’t rest (I understand, I struggle a great deal with this!), it just means that there is more of a need for meditation to counter-balance the voice in your head. I suggest trying a guided meditation as an aide if you are new to meditation or just really feeling that vata right now! My personal favorite guide is Tara Brach, and she offers a variety of free meditations of varying lengths at tarabrach.com.

Don’t stress yourself out with lifestyle adjustments. In general, try avoid things will aggravate anxiety at this time of year. Things that you are in control of, at least.Some very simple rituals can really help, I invite you to try just one and note if it feels like a natural seasonal switch. One suggestion is to cut back on coffee, and avoid drinking it after noon. Try switching to warmer, oily, and slightly heavier foods and beverages, and use warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric to comfort you on busy days. A favorite fall ritual of mine is lighting a candle and giving myself a massage with sesame oil, which is warming and embodies the oily quality that soothes vata. Most importantly, take ample quality time with yourself when you can, write down what is working and what isn’t, and listen in for what you really need right now. Appreciate and savor the changing colors both inside and outside as you observe the waltz happening between yourself and nature.

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