Seasonal meditation questions are a series of open inquiries that help you to reflect on how you wish to use your energy and set your intentions for the coming season. In seasonal yoga we use them every six weeks or so to correspond with the solstices, equinoxes, and seasonal transition points. By working with them you can become your own year-round life coach. The questions combined with a meditative approach give you access to the deep wisdom of your subconscious mind and help you to align your own energy to the prevalent energy of the season. Throughout the year they give you the opportunity to review progress in all areas of your life, and if you’ve gone off track, you can correct yourself and get back on course again.
Here are some examples of meditation questions for the Summer Solstice when there is a gradual shift in energy from outward action to inner reflection and contemplation:
Many of us spend too much time sitting down, so the last thing we want to do is spend more time sitting and meditating. The good news is that you can walk and meditate! You can walk meditatively along a corridor at work; or in your room or garden; in the park; or anywhere else. As you walk, gently turn the meditation question over in your mind. If your mind wanders off, gently bring your awareness back to focusing on the question.
Or during a yoga session you could try holding a meditation question in your mind as you stay in a yoga pose; or incorporate it into a sitting meditation, or yoga relaxation.
In my book, Yoga Through the Year: A Seasonal Approach to Your Practice, you’ll find the full set of meditation questions for each season; as well as mindfulness exercises, visualisations, meditations, yoga poses and sequences that are specially designed for each season, and you’ll also learn how to personalise the practices to fit your needs all year long.
Jilly Shipway, author of Yoga Through the Year is interviewed by Anna Levine, from Llewellyn Worldwide Publishers, read time 4 minutes:
1. Your new book is Yoga Through the Year, which teaches how to connect your yoga practice to the changing seasons. What inspired you to write the book?
I was spurred on to write the book because I’d been studying how to relate yoga to the changing seasons for over ten years, and I really wanted to share this transformative way of working with others. I knew from my own experience, and reports back from my students and website followers, how beneficial this way of working is.
My route into a seasonal yoga approach was unusual, I was spurred on by my curiosity about an unanswered question, which was: “If, over the millennia, yoga had been handed down from mother to daughter through a female lineage, what would an authentic women’s Yoga be like?”
Patanjali is considered to be the “Father” of yoga and over the millennia yoga has been handed down from father to son, through a male lineage. I asked myself if Patanjali had had a sister, what is the yoga she would have handed down to us? And if her wisdom had been included in the yoga canon, how would we be different, both on and off our yoga mats? During a period of meditation, I asked (an imaginary) Patanjali’s sister for guidance on creating an authentic united yoga. This is the answer that came back to me: “Listen to the Earth- that’s all. Listen to the Earth.” Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is divided into four Padas, and this gave me the idea to divide my inquiry into one pada for each season of the year: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. And that’s how the seed of Seasonal Yoga was born.
2. Why are the Earth’s cycles so important and empowering?
They are so important because through connecting with nature and the cycle of the seasons we can find balance in our yoga practice and in our life. When we learn how to work with the prevalent energy of each season, we can develop an authentic practice that makes us healthier and happier. I’ve found this way of working has transformed my yoga practice and my life.
Modern technology has many benefits; it connects us to friends and family, and we can communicate with like-minded people all over the globe. At the same time, we can become ungrounded when we’re always turned-on and tuned-in to our devices. When we disconnect from our own and the Earth’s natural rhythms our health can suffer. The seasonal yoga approach can provide a counterbalance to this, and when we marry seasonal awareness with our yoga practice a path is revealed that leads to a saner, healthier, more balanced, and harmonious way of living.
3. In what ways can we adapt our yoga practices to connect with the seasons?
As we become more experienced at recognising the prevalent pushing or yielding energy of the season, we can fine-tune our ability to choose yoga practices that balance our own energy flow. For example, during the autumn and the winter there’s a natural tendency to want to hibernate, so we might honour this by choosing restful, restorative yoga poses. On the other hand, we might also want to choose energising poses to boost our happy hormones and ward off the winter blues. Whereas in spring to summer, during the busy growing period, our yoga practice can help us to stay grounded, and help us to stay connected to our inner wisdom whilst we take action in the world.
4. Do you need to be a seasoned yogi to use the practices in Yoga Through the Year? Or are beginners able to use the book, as well?
The Seasonal Yoga approach is for everybody! The practices are easy to follow and accessible. You don’t need to be super-fit or hyper-flexible to do them. You won’t be asked to tie yourself in knots or to get into impossible pretzel-like positions. Of course, if you want more information about a yoga pose it’s easy to find with a quick internet search using the pose name. Although if you are new to yoga and unfamiliar with the poses described, you might want to think about attending a class to allow you to learn the positions correctly.
5. What do you hope readers will take away from Yoga Through the Year?
I hope that readers will gain the confidence to bring a seasonal approach into their yoga practice and their life, and in turn this will empower them to become their own life coach. When you align your energy and intentions with the season, you no longer feel that you are swimming against the tide; you’re able to go with the flow of life more.
In my book Yoga Through the Year: A Seasonal Approach to Your Practice, the reader will find yoga practices that will give them a way of keeping fit, flexible, calm, and energized all year round.; as well as mindfulness exercises, visualizations, meditations, yoga poses and sequences that are specially designed for each season, and they’ll also learn how to personalize the practices to fit their needs all year long.
I also hope that their seasonal exploration will help them to feel a deep sense of connection to the earth and to themselves; allowing them to access a deep source of wisdom that empowers them to act in a loving and compassionate way towards themselves and this beautiful planet that spins us through the seasons.
There is an ebb and flow to our lives; the sun rises, the sun sets; tides rise and fall; the moon waxes and wanes. We can find balance in our yoga practice and in our life by connecting with nature and the cycle of the seasons. This article will show you some simple ways how to work with the prevalent energy of each season and develop an authentic practice that makes you happier and healthier. An awareness of the ebb and flow of the year can help us to know when it’s a good time to push forward and take action; and when it’s better to take a more contemplative approach. When you combine yoga with an awareness of the changing seasons you connect with the rhythm of the year and align your energy to that rhythm; promoting happiness, health, and harmony in every season.
Of course, modern technology has many benefits, including connecting us with communities of like-minded people all over the globe. At the same time, we can become ungrounded when we’re always turned-on and tuned-in to our devices. When we disconnect from our own and the Earth’s natural rhythms our health can suffer. The seasonal yoga approach can provide a counterbalance to this, and when we marry seasonal awareness with our yoga practice a path is revealed that leads to a saner, healthier, more balanced, and harmonious way of living.
Below are seven ways to help you to gain the confidence to bring a seasonal approach into your yoga practice and your life:
1. Tune into the Season’s Energy
Your first steps on the path of honing your seasonal awareness might be to simply work with the Wheel of the Year to develop an awareness of where you are energy-wise in the year. Then you can pinpoint whether you are in the lighter or darker half of the year, and whether the sun’s energy is waxing or waning. Generally speaking, the light-half of the year, between the Winter and Summer Solstice favours an outward focus, with an emphasis on action and outward achievements. We use the season’s fiery, expansive energy to make things happen and to get things done, remembering to stay in touch with our inner wisdom as we take action in the world. Broadly speaking the dark-half of the year, between the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice favours an inward focus, with an emphasis on contemplation and rest. We use the watery energy of the season to incubate ideas, to find rest and renewal, and to dream and plan.
2. Set Your Intention for the Season
In seasonal yoga every six weeks or so, to correspond with the solstices, equinoxes, and seasonal transition points, you are encouraged to reflect on how you wish to use your energy and set your intentions for the coming season. By working in this way, you can become your own year-round life coach. We use seasonal meditation questions combined with a meditative approach to access the deep wisdom of the subconscious mind and align our energy to the prevalent energy of the season. Throughout the year this gives you the opportunity to review progress in all areas of your life, and if you’ve gone off track, you can correct yourself and get back on course again.
3. Appreciate the Beauty of Each Season
We can get so caught up in the minutiae and busyness of our lives that we forget to look around us and appreciate the beauty of the season. To counteract this tendency, when you encounter something beautiful, stop and take time to enjoy it. Instead of habitually getting your phone out to capture the image digitally, occasionally just allow yourself the space to look and absorb the image into your mind’s eye. At the end of the day a great way to prepare for sleep is to recall anything beautiful in nature you’ve noticed that day, it’s really relaxing and sets a positive tone for bedtime and sweet dreams. Or when you are on your yoga mat you can recall that beautiful flower, dappled light in a forest, the sun rising or setting, white clouds on a blue sky, or apples ripening on a tree, and let the image uplift you as you do your yoga. It will also help you to strengthen your connection to the natural world around you.
4. Tap into Tree Wisdom
Trees connect us to the changing seasons and to life itself. Spending time around them is healing and they help us to recover from illness and reduce our stress levels. Even within the frantic rush of city life we can always find a moment of peace when we rest our gaze upon a tree. Yoga is union and trees are a living, breathing embodiment of this union. The tree embodies all of Yoga’s teachings and so trees make a wonderful guru. The aim of yoga is to create a state of balanced perfection by uniting complimentary opposites in a harmonious union. The tree marries earth to sky and stands perfectly balanced between the two.
5. Walk Your Way to Happiness
Walking meditation can be done any time of year and is a great way of connecting with nature and the changing seasons. It’s ideal at those times when you want to meditate but don’t want to spend more time sitting. It gets you out of your head and into your body; calming and clearing the mind, relieving and releasing stress. It grounds you, strengthening your connection to your surroundings and the earth. It boosts circulation and lifts your mood. When out walking be aware of the contact your feet make with the earth, and, remember to breathe. Whether you are walking in an urban or rural setting, try to find beauty and tranquillity wherever you are.
6. Send Love and Healing to the Earth
The Earth supports and nourishes us, giving us a home, air, food, water, and shelter. At this time of environmental crisis, it’s essential that we all take action to protect and conserve the Earth to ensure our survival on this planet. Alongside this activism we can also make sending love, healing and compassion to the Earth a part of our spiritual practice. Send out a heart-felt wish that all of us might care and look after the Earth, our home, with wisdom. Recall all that you love and find beautiful about the Earth: the trees, forests, plants, animals, birds, sea, sky, rivers, and mountains. See if you can picture a world where the Earth is healed and whole again. Imagine that the planet has healed itself. Its ecosystems are healthy and well balanced again. Earth, air, and water are clean and pure. Allow yourself to enjoy this image of a world where human beings live in harmony with the environment. Choose one small action you could take today to help make this dream become a reality. The practice of sending compassion to yourself and the planet also helps to prevent burn-out for environmental activists.
7. Grow Your Yoga Garden
Like a garden, your yoga practice needs to be tended and cultivated if it is to grow and blossom. Put some time and thought into planning what you would like to grow in your yoga garden, so that it will give you pleasure all year round. Small is beautiful! When you spend five minutes a day weeding your garden you can soon clear a space for planting flowers; and the same is true of your yoga practice. Look for small ways to integrate yoga into your daily life. For example, every time you check your phone, take a mindful breath in and out. Or spend a few minutes each day reading a yoga book or checking out yoga videos for ideas. Commit to five minutes practice a day and watch your home yoga practice grow and blossom!
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how you can find balance in your yoga practice and in your life by connecting with nature and the cycle of the seasons. The beauty of the seasonal yoga approach is that it can easily be fitted into even the busiest of lifestyles. In my book, Yoga Through the Year: A Seasonal Approach to Your Practice, you’ll find mindfulness exercises, visualisations, meditations, yoga poses and sequences that are specially designed for each season, and you’ll also learn how to personalise the practices to fit your needs all year long.
This article is by Jilly Shipway and was first published on the Llewellyn Worldwide website
Sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
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Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.