Thursday, 7 November 2013

YOGA FOR AUTUMN

"Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss'd cottage--rees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells."

So summer has passed and we are moving into autumn, the season of "mists and mellow fruitfulness…"

As a long term sufferer of seasonal depression Autumn is a season I admit to struggle with.  Somehow the beauty of the changing colour of the trees, clear bright crisp days and the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot leave me with a mixed bag of emotions. More often it is a season that overwhelmingly fills me with the sinking feeling of dread.

Darker mornings, cold winds making it vital to wrap up against the cold, rain, knowing that the darkness and cold of winter is on its way can leave many of us feeling anxious or down. Particularly with the experience of the past few seemingly endless winters we have been experiencing here in the United Kingdom - my central heating was still on during June!

Despite a lovely summer behind me and the promise of two weeks teaching yoga in Turkey to look forward to again is October - sensibly timed to stave off the inevitability of winter, I have noticed that I have been experiencing that familiar unsettled feeling these past few days.

I've found it challenging to put my mind to making plans.  Worrying about whether my all of my Autumn term yoga classes will fill and whether I'll continue be able to eek an income from my teaching alone. Doubts flooding my brain and restless nights.
But perhaps this is not so unusual. As in nature when the weather can fluctuate at this time of the year between Indian summer and mornings distinct for their damp misty chill, these unsettled emotions, feelings of restlessness and apprehension about change are quite possibly linked to the inevitable arrival of autumn.

According to Yoga's twin Ayurveda, autumn is the season where Vata dominates. Vata is the principle of movement and its qualities are cold, light, dry, fast-moving and changeable. 

This is our experience of autumnal weather.  We are more likely to experience gusty days and nights. Evenings and mornings become much cooler. The leaves change colour and eventually drop from the trees, to dry and be crunched underfoot before they are whisked away by the wind. The predominant feeling in nature is of change and movement. As we begin to feel the chill in our homes and turn on the central heating on, the air inside becomes drier.

Once we have recognised this restlessness in ourselves it is a really good idea to take steps to balance out these qualities and this  is something we can do with yoga as it can help us to slow things down and enable us to become more grounde

CHILL OUT & RELAX

Autumn is also a great time to simply let go and relax. Taking our lead from nature as we observe the trees as they let go of their leaves to conserve energy over winter to allow for renewal and rejuvenation in spring.

We should concentrate on letting go of negative thoughts, set patterns of behaviour which don't serve us well. Stop doing things we feel we ought to do but don't really want to. Perhaps a little de-cluttering at home and parting company with anything we no longer need. 

Importantly its time to grant ourselves permission to nurture ourselves.

AUTUMN YOGA SUGGESTIONS

Below are some yoga poses and practices that you may find particularly beneficial to this autumn. They should help you in your quest to let go, to ground your body and your energy, and to nurture yourself both mentally  and physically:

When practicing yoga at this time of the year try and move more slowly,deepening breath help us to flow mindfully through the movements as we slow down our body and our brain.

Continue to practice sun salutations but more slowly than usual - we need to feel our feet grounding us as we aspire to connect with the energies of the earth and the sky.

Practicing tree pose help us to  ground our body and still our mind as we come into balance. Grow tree pose into wide branches and advance into swaying into lateral stretches - similar to a tree swaying in the autumn breeze as balance improves.

Restful and restorative poses help us to relax into stillness and feel supported by the ground beneath us.  For example child's pose (balasana) and seated poses like hero's pose (virasana).

To this end all of the family of forward bends are particularly appropriate at this time of the year. Both the seated and standing variety as they help us to let go of tension from our body particularly stiffness in the lower back.

Supported restorative inverted postures like 'legs up the wall pose' (viparita karani) which is deeply restful. The pose enables us to release tension and let go of those thoughts and emotions that drag us into gloomy moods.

Similarly Corpse pose (savasana) helps to promote stillness and a time of conscious relaxation as we give ourself time and space to let 

TURN INWARD

It is helpful to become observant of when we become restless but at the same time we must encourage ourselves not to worry when we do. Reinforce the idea that it is simply our body, mind and emotions adjusting to the change in the season.  Slow down and nurture
We must try to go outdoors in nature more often. Even getting out and about on a bicycle or walking the city streets will help us to connect more with the changing season and to be more observant of the show that this season displays. Even if that show is a change in what the local council has decide to put in the autumn flowerbeds now the summer annuals have died away!

Take leisurely walks in the country or a local park - somewhere where you can listen to the wind in the trees, collect conkers and fallen leaves and notice the changes in the quality of the light. Really appreciate the beautiful colours of the leaves as they change as the season progresses.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of visiting New York at this time of the year and Central Park was simply stunning - but so can a park in Watford seem exquisite at this time of the year!

So for all the restlessness and gloom that I alluded to experiencing when I first sat down to write this posting - autumn is a beautiful season, so relax, let go and enjoy it!