07 Oct Autumn Yoga practice
Welcome to the season of Keats’ mists and mellow fruitfulness…
At this time of year, when the light and the dark make up equal parts of the day, and as the weather gets cooler, we begin to draw energy inwardly.
In Ayurvedic terms, autumn is the season where Vata is predominant, and Vata is the principle of movement. Its qualities are cold, light, dry, fast-moving and changeable.
And this is what we experience in autumn, as the winds pick up, leaves change colour and drop from the trees, and there’s a feeling in nature of change and movement.
This following restorative Yoga practice is especially beneficial in autumn. It will help to ground you, and offer you the opportunity to gain perspective, insight, and clarity after the growth phase of summer, and replenish your reservoir of energy.
You can begin by grounding yourself in a comfortable seat. Make sure that the spine is flat and extended. Close your eyes, and cultivate a sense of gratitude for your body on this day. Stay close to your breath and allow your mind to settle before starting your practice.
Draw your feet together, with your knees to bend widely. As you begin to release the spine forward, close your eyes and allow yourself to be led by sensation, rather than the image of the pose that you see in front of you. Once you’ve found a comfortable place to practice, see if you can find stillness for the next 20–30 cycles of breaths or so. To come out of Butterfly, slowly extend your spine back to upright and extend your legs. Move slowly and carefully as the sensations intensify in the legs and lower back.
From a Table position, come on to your forearms and soften your heart between your shoulders, while keeping your hips stacked above your knees. The arms can be extended forward or you can bend your elbows and take your palms together in prayer or reach them behind your shoulder blades.
This shape can be intense for the shoulders so please be mindful of your edge and adjust your arm position as needed.
From your belly, prop yourself up onto your forearms to open your chest. Stay for a few breaths before going any deeper. If it feels appropriate for you, press into your hands and straighten your arms. You can bow your head forward or alternatively keep the head upright so that your neck remains in line with the rest of the spine. Close your eyes and stay for another 20 breaths.
Bring your knees together and draw your hips back toward your heels, rounding the spine forward and relaxing the shoulders. Soften your entire body here and breathe into the back of your lungs. Consider either reaching your arms forward or bending one arm at a time and placing your hand to the opposite elbow. Find stillness for the next several minutes, making any adjustments you need to be comfortable.
Extend your legs wide apart, ground both sitting bones and lengthen your spine. Begin to turn your chest toward the right leg and walk your hands out, any amount, as you round the spine toward your right thigh. Only go as far as your first point of tension and use this as an opportunity to practice patience. Stay for 20–30 breaths and slowly make your way back up to centre, then repeat on the left side.
Supported Fish Variation
Roll up a blanket or towel and place it across your mat so that when you lie back, the blanket is beneath your breastbone. Make sure your shoulders are connected with the mat then find a comfortable position with your arms either reaching out overhead or out to the sides (elbows wide).
Step the feet wide, allowing bent knees to come toward each other, creating extra space in the sacrum. With the eyes closed, draw your breath into the front of your lungs. Stay another 4–5 minutes.
Next, return to your back, reaching your arms and legs over to the right corners or your mat. Adjust your head and shoulders but be mindful to keep the hip stationary to create maximum space on the left side, in the shape of a crescent
moon. Send your breath into your left waist. Allow the weight of the body to settle for the next few minutes. Make your way back to neutral between sides and repeat.
Before moving to Savasana, draw your knees to your chest and gently rock from side to side. Stay here as long as you need before making your way to Corpse Pose.
To end, lay back and surrender fully. Finish your practice with a sense of fullness from the season past, allowing that to sustain you in the season to come.
I hope that you enjoy this practice that will help you to breathe better, release deep-seated tension, experience calm and peace at the essence of your being.
The above practice was sourced from the Yoga Journal, “10 Yin Yoga Poses for Clarity this Fall” Sep 20, 2016, and inspired by Dani March a Toronto-based Registered Yoga Teacher and Master Lifestyle Coach. She is the visionary behind LivOn Purpose™, a modern yoga teacher training that combines the yin and yang aspects of yoga with the underlying current of transformational work.