As the leaves fall from the trees, we also are invited to shed, and let go of what no longer serves us. The Autumn allows us to turn more inwards, and take special care of ourselves and our beloved ones. Before the Winter will settle in for good, we can prepare our nest, and get ready for yin, quiet and more peaceful months. Less entertainment, more reflection. It's time to practice contentment, patience and self-care. It's time to stay home more often, grab a nice cosy blanket, and sip soothing cacao or warming ginger tea.
Yoga practice according to seasons
Since I have been studying and practicing Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for the past several years, I love making yoga practice a bit "seasonal". Just like fruits and veggies taste the best in their peak season - some practices make just more sense when they correspond to the weather and seasonal changes.
Being almost 40, and having an autoimmune disorder for the past 24 years, I guess I am just trying to help my body, my organs, and my mind to function optimally. Of course, there is nothing wrong with your 'normal' yoga practice, it can be quite universal and balanced, but since the details matter - combining our practice with the cycle of Nature and 5 Elements can be a game changer! It seems working for me really well.
Below I present you two perspectives:
• Ayurveda, which is a great paradigm rooted in ancient India and connected closely to Yoga;
• Traditional Chinese Medicine which came to yoga world mainly through Yin Yoga, and which truly changed my life.
Which one is better? I would say it depends... but certainly there is no harm in studying and trying both!
According to Ayurveda the Autumn is Vata predominant transitional time between Summer (Pitta predominant) and Winter (Kapha predominant). Autumn, just like Vata dosha itself, is cool, windy, erratic, rough, light, clear/empty and dry (*well, in Poland maybe not so dry, but the main concept still applies).
As the days are getting darker and colder we need to pay special attention in order to keep ourselves warm, protected and well nourished. Our principle is to support the immune system carefully. The wind seems to be our key challenge - actually from both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine perspectives. Wind can challenge our balance easily, and during the Autumn our body gets already new demands and tasks, including thermoregulation, changing the metabolism for the upcoming winter, trying to store the energy, fat and strength.
Ayurveda reminds us to - first and foremost - change our diet: warm soups, more grounding and oily veggies, a bit of spices in our meals - these all help us to keep the Fire and Earth in place, giving us more resilience and strength. We definitely should avoid raw food, cold salads, and cold drinks. In Yoga we can actually do similar adjustments: taking care of our Earth and Fire Elements helps us to counterbalance Vata dosha season.
As you will see in the recording of my Zoom class below, I like gentle and grounding warm-up that leads to a standing section, and then turns into a meditative yin with a component of a very subtle 'fire' shapes. In Autumn I prefer meditative slow flows or Qi Gong, but of course static Hatha Yoga or moderate Vinyasa Flow would be great as well! For balancing Vata dosha I tend to choose balances and poses that really grounds me and reminds me to stay connected and rooted. Please consider that I have a lot of fire in my natural constitution, so I don't need to stimulate my fire too much. Knowing your dosha can help you to adjust the proportion for yourself. A few twists and heart openers are always welcome! I also love having candles and blankets, it brightens up a bit dark and dull evenings.
Here is an example of a yoga sequence which I can recommend for the Autumn time, it is the recording of my real live class online, so forgive me a few technical imperfections :
* Nourishing Thursdays = my online classes every Thursday dedicated to self-care
Of course, if you like your own way - feel encouraged to build your own sequence, and please share it with our community! I will be happy to give you my own feedback, and work on your sequencing. If there is anything I really want to teach to people is that they know their bodies so well! Remember, you are in charge!
When it comes to Traditional Chinese Medicine - the Autumn is connected to the Metal Element. Metal governs the lungs and the large intestine, which are responsible for respiration and elimination. The lungs “grasp” Chi from the heaven, and draw it inward for our body's use. It also affects our immune system that protects us from pathogens in the air. The meridian line goes from the point under the collar bone, through the upper part of the inner arm, up to the thumb. We can work with this meridian line using poses like open wings, melting heart or chest openers. Of course, we can work on our breath, always!
The large intestine is responsible for "letting go" of what needs to be removed. The meridian line goes on the other side of the arm starting at the index finger, through the arm, shoulder, neck and part of our face. Focusing on eagle arms, bow tie pose or twisting and stretching the neck work with this meridian line.
When we want to support our body and mind in the Autumn time - according to Chinese Medicine - we can use meridian lines and acu-points dedicated to Metal Element. Obviously yoga will not replace acupuncture or a proper therapy, but it can organise our selection of what we want to work on, and stimulate similar functions. I like using also other points and poses (in my video you will find KD 1 and SP 6), as I use yoga in a very wide context, and adjust practice to our bio-individualities. Still just working with arms, shoulders and chest definitely feels super good for cold evenings, and that's a great starting point!
Metal Element is also about the structure and the boundaries. Maybe this season is a good opportunity to make a small revision of them. Boundaries are not my strongest point, so I keep myself silent here, and will write about it another time... but meanwhile, stay warm, stay cosy, and make sure you nourish your body, mind and soul as much as you can!