Senior editor, Chris Kassar, of Elevation Outdoors wrote me a few months back to see if i would like to answer some questions regarding her upcoming article on Yoga for Fall. Always delighted to share my love and passion for Yoga, i happily consented. Below is the first part of what i wrote to her. May it be of help to you.
Chris: What happens in the body as we head into Fall? What about the mind?
Joy: The Practice and LifeStyle of Yoga is such a personal exploration and journey. The process is one of self-inquiry and self-participation. Therefore, i ask you… how does your body and mind ‘typically’ respond when the seasons shift from Summer into Fall? Taking time to investigate the question yourself is considered svadhyaya, Sanskrit for self reflection of inquiry.
Chris: Some say that in Fall, we need more grounding, stabilizing, warming asana and others say we need energizing poses (like twists, inversions for invigorating and keeping us lively). What do you think we need? Why? What’s going on with our body and mind in fall that requires this?
Joy: Ayurveda, ‘the knowledge for long life,’ views all of nature (Prakriti) – including a persons nature or constitution- as based on a particular relationship of three fundamental and vital energies. In Sanskrit this is known as Doshas. There are three: vata, pitta and kapha. From an Ayurvedic perspective, these three doshas determine our capacity for health and the way we respond to the world around us. Your dosha can suggest which Yoga asanas would be best for you.
According to Ayurvedic theory, by the time Fall arrives, we have accumulated a tremendous amount of heat in our tissues from Summer. Summer representing the busy, firey pitta dosha. As we transition to Fall, the sap of the trees begin to dry up and the leaves change color and wither. The wind begins to blow in change and instability. Thus vata dosha (which is limited in both water and warmth) begins to take over. Since our mental and physical selves mirror nature, this internal shift can lead to a stressing of our adrenals and nervous system. This can then slow down our natural detoxification process, from our skin drying out to digestive challenges and an overwhelmed liver.
Taking nature’s cue, this would be a wonderful time to tune into your own rhythm. “Give me beauty in the inward soul: May the outward and inward be at one.” From the graceful wisdom of Socrates, he points our senses inward, known in Yoga as Pratyahara. This may ask us to go against the grain, which can be challenging. Yet, how tired (literally) are you of feeling lethargic and unmotivated, susceptible to immunodeficiency?
Here’s my guidance: Be kind to yourself. If you are not able to follow the below practices daily then commit to what you can and build upon it. As Coach Steve Ilg of Wholistic Fitness™ reminds us, “Ripples makes Waves.” So let’s approach each new day with a sense of renewal, gratitude and an opportunity to ‘begin again and again and endlessly again.
- Wake up during Brahma-Muhurta. This is the time early in the morning, one and a half hours before sunrise.
- Wash your face, brush your teeth, scrape your tongue. Using a neti pot to help keep your sinuses clear, follow up by lubricating your nostrils with oil or ghee.
- Drink a herbal tea or hot lemon water with a pinch of salt to stimulate elimination.
- Practice slow, warming, rhythmic movements to set the intention of your day. Moving mindfully will grant
- you access to that inward, conscious space.
- Follow with safe and effective heating breaths, such as Kapalabhati and Surya Bhedana.
- Eat a healthy, seasonal diet of warming foods. Such as homemade soups which are both hot and liquid (the opposite of vata dosha, which is cold and dry). Heavy, earth rich foods such as root vegetables and grains, lean proteins and omega 3-rich nuts. Chewing our food slowly and completely will stimulate Agni and aid in digestion.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will keep both your skin moistened and assist in eliminating toxins (ama).
- Integrate a Wholistic Fitness™ Lifestyle Principle known as “Breath and Posture.” Periodically throughout your day, have your cell phone or computer alarm go off. Take the next moment or so to mindfully scan your body and notice your posture and breath. If you are out of alignment, physically and mentally, then sit with your shoulders aligned under your inner ears. Your hip bones under your shoulders. Your knees in line with your hips and your ankles under your knees. Maintaining an elegant spine, relax the muscles in your back and buttocks. Soften your face, hands and feet. Now begin to lengthen your breath. Inhaling for 3 counts, exhaling up to 6 counts. This will rejuvenate you and counter any stress induced symptoms.
- Get more rest, be it mental,physical, or both. Just as Bear prepares to hibernate during the Winter, so too are we preparing to regenerate ourselves through more rest. Aiming for up to 8 hours of sleep will help are bodies ward off any potential diseases.
Stay tuned for part two: “Yoga Asanas For Fall”
In Loving Breath,
Photo Credit: “Autumn Oak” by Sue Wookey