Late Summer Yoga Practice.
Moving from summer to fall elicits a deep feeling of playful nostalgia. It reminds me of riding my bike through the University district in Missoula, giant Norway maple trees covering the streets shedding their colorful kaleidoscope of leaves. It’s such a spectacular time of year, a gentle closing to the busy summer months.
As the seasons transition it’s normal to feel a bit scattered, thoughts becoming more flighty than usual and focusing on a single project or task can seem impossible.
Practicing during seasonal transitions is essentially a fusion of each season with a particular focus on longer pranayama (breathing) exercises and lengthened meditation.
Sama Vritti Pranayama is grounding physically and emotionally during this time of year. In a seated position, cross legged, propping your hips up on a block or bolster— whatever position you feel the most supported, place your hands to your thighs and close your eyes. If being seated is too uncomfortable for you, simply lay onto your back. Maybe laying your spine the long ways on a bolster can feel lovely, plus it has the added bonus of gently opening your heart center. For the first couple minutes bring attention to the rhythm of your breath, notice any thoughts, sensations, emotions that are bubbling up and allow them to be there— simply observe whatever is surfacing. Gradually begin to lengthen and deepen your inhales and exhales, starting with 5 counts in, 5 counts out, repeat twice before inhaling for 6 counts, exhaling 6 counts, again do two rounds. Keep increasing the intervals, progressively working your way up to inhaling for 15 counts, exhaling for 15 counts. As you breath, bring awareness to the space between your eyes. Throughout the whole practice you will drift and get lost in stories, once you notice you’ve gone down a rabbit hole, simply move your attention back to the center point. Let this practice ease you into deep meditation.
Think about alternating your practice depending on the weather that day. Late summer is notorious for swinging between the polarities of hot summer weather and crisp fall temperatures Cooler mornings are an invitation to bring a little more fire into your physical practice. In the early hours when its chilly integrating heat building exercises like surya namaskar B, pistol squats, core exercises or holding high plank/forearm plank are all great ways to warm up your muscles
On hotter days, focus more on a summer yoga practice. Think of it this way, when you make a cup of tea you simply place the herbs in hot water and allow it them to steep, there is no poking or prodding necessary. You can look at practicing in hot weather the same way, arrive in a position and allow yourself to be saturated in the moment, steeping your muscles and fibers in the naturally occurring external and internal heat.
During the transition from summer to fall, I do a lot of inversions. The benefit of being inverted is that it absolutely forces you to be in the moment, it’s almost like a physical expression of the Sama Vritti Pranayama. It doesn’t need to be fancy, simplicity is key— go upside down and focus on a still point, allow your mind to steady and internal dialogue to dissipate.
Other benefits of inverting include:
reverse the gravitational pull on blood flow and improve circulation
provides the brain with more oxygen
increases mental function
boosts immunity allowing lymph to flush easily and pick up toxins for elimination
improved core strength
If inversions aren’t in your practice, you can do balancing postures to achieve similar benefits.
In Ayurvedic medicine Vata Dosha is the element of air and ether and it governs the season of fall. The qualities of vata and fall are similar – dry, light, cold, subtle, fleeting and free. When these qualities are in balance, we experience a heightened sense of creativity, connection, stability, and peacefulness. When vata is unstable, we tend to become overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, insecurity, constipation, dry skin and stiff joints. It’s a critical time to commit to a meditation practice, to stay grounded and balanced through the seasonal transition. Keep in mind, there are at least 112 different ways to meditate, you don’t necessarily need to be sitting cross legged on a pillow to be in meditation, nor is meditation the complete absence of thoughts, rather, it’s an awareness, an observation on the habitual patterns of your mind. Try at least 5 minutes of meditation a day, if you can meditate for 20 minutes— even better.