Autumn - a time for change and r
eflection, guest blogger Jackie Coleman talks about Seasonal Yoga and allowing the Season to inform your practice.
Autumn is now well and truly upon us and many changes started creeping in to our daily lives and within nature a few weeks before we turned our clocks back an hour. The leaves have changed colour and have fallen away from the trees. Woodlands are now a colourful palette of varying hues of yellows, oranges and reds. The nights are drawing in and turning cooler. Many birds have started their migrations to warmer climes. You've probably already altered some of your daily habits around these changes such as changes in eating patterns from salads to warmer foods such as soups and cooked dinners. Perhaps going to bed earlier and spending less time outside in the evening. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science and philosophy of natural healing, considers Autumn as a time of change and drawing in. It is a season when Vata dominates. Vata means air and this time is characterised by a windy, dry and cooler environment both in ourselves and in nature.
With this is mind maybe we should consider how we approach our yoga practice? Seasonal yoga encourages us to think about how we can adapt yoga to the change in seasons when our needs and energy levels will differ and how to work with these energies and qualities to support individual organs and systems, encouraging physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The principles of Ayurveda, Chinese philosophy and yoga all highlight the importance of making changes that keep us in sync with nature.
Autumn is seen as a time for reflection and being mindful. As the temperatures start to change and the days become shorter our bodies need extra care and attention. We need to look at nourishing the body to keep it healthy and for our immune system to fight off bugs and illness. Vata may cause the digestive system to slow down and become more sluggish. Physical symptoms such as bloating and constipation are more common. Mentally you may find your mind wandering making it more difficult to concentrate. Taking of note of the changes in nature as the happen around you helps you to become more present and mindful. Take time to experience nature in this period of change. When we get to winter you'll miss the lighter mornings. Autumn is the perfect time to start a mindfulness or meditation practice. Think of things, people and experiences that you are grateful for and compile a gratitude autumn harvest. Celebrate this, as you would a traditional autumn harvest, by keeping a note in a journal or diary. Allow yourself to smile and feel positive for these things that make up your life.
Yoga practice should be balanced and grounded. The muscles and joints will require more time to warm up so it's important to be mindful of stretching properly. Take time to warm up, stretching all muscle groups and ease any stiffness in the muscles and joints. Start with a slow, mindful yet rhythmic sun salutation. Standing asanas such as Tree, Eagle and Mountain help to maintain a sense of grounding and balance. Twists can encourage the digestive system to work more efficiently and to flush out toxins. Inversions such as shoulderstand can help to calm the nervous system and bring some mental clarity to a frazzled and distracted mind.
A regular pranayama practice is important to aid the respiratory system and ensure that vata is balanced within the energetic system of the body. Full yogic breath will help to bring physical and mental balance and vitality to the internal organs. Full Yogic Breath begins with a deep and fluid inhalation that fills three sections of the torso independently, but continuously. First, breathe into the lower abdomen. Then, breathe into the mid-section of the torso, expanding the diaphragm and the ribs as the inhalation continues. And finally, draw the breath into the upper chest and shoulders as the inhalation comes to a close. This slow and purposeful inhalation is then followed by a long, slow, gentle exhale, expelling the breath from these same three sections of the torso in reverse order, releasing the upper chest, then the diaphragm and ribs, and finally the lower abdomen.
Take time, take care and enjoy the changes as Autumn unfolds it's magical beauty.