This is the time of first harvest. Whether we are gardeners or not, we all have a harvest, and now is a good time to consider what you are harvesting. You can use seasonal meditation questions to help you look back over the past year and consider where you have been putting your energy and whether this has been fruitful or not. Below are some meditation questions around the theme of recognising and celebrating your own personal harvest:
This year, under such trying circumstances, it's more important than ever to acknowledge your achievements and not to play them down. During lock-down maybe you've acquired new technological skills, managed to juggle work and child care, or cared for a vulnerable person. Your harvest may (or may not) be the fruition of a project that is dear to your heart. Or perhaps it's the blossoming of a relationship that you've been nurturing. It might be the peacefulness that you have felt since you have established a regular home yoga practice. Or perhaps it is literally vegetables and fruit that you’ve grown in your garden. Give yourself credit for whatever you've managed to achieve, however small. Be generous and be kind to yourself. Tough times require tender care- so give yourself a hug and say well done!
The reaping of the harvest is associated with the theme of sacrifice. The grain harvest, in its passage from sheaf of corn to loaf of bread, is threshed, sifted, grounded, kneaded, and then assigned to the “sacred fire.” In many traditions there are variations on the story of the God of Fire and Light being sacrificed to Mother Harvest. This is a good time to consider what needs to be sacrificed to ensure the success of your harvest. Sometimes to say yes to your passion, you must say no to something else that is less important to you.
Understandably many of us feel fear and anxiety around the future and how the virus will impact upon our lives. We can offset some of that by taking some time to envision the future we want to create. Now is a good time to consider how we can make the new "normal" better than before. At this harvest time let us gather up seeds of hope for the future and build a better world. With this in mind, here are some meditation questions that will help you to consider what you wish to preserve from your harvest, and which seeds you wish to store over the autumn and winter, ready for planting out next spring. The autumn and winter aren’t the best time for action, but they are the perfect time to dream and make plans about what you wish to make manifest during next year’s growing season.
The seasonal meditation questions are a key component of the Seasonal Yoga approach. They help you to learn how to align your own energy with the prevalent energy of the season.The above meditation questions come from chapter 5 of the Yoga Through the Year book.
See also: First Harvest Yoga Practice
Bow to the Earth Sequence
Summer to Autumn Page
Listen to the news at the moment and it's very easy to feel overwhelmed by what sometimes seems to be the insurmountable problem of the current pandemic. So it was refreshing to start my early morning yoga practice by remembering three things I feel grateful for today. It reminded me of the beauty in my life, even as I am aware of the challenges that we all face at present. The yoga practice I was using is from the Yoga Through the Year book, and it's designed to be used around the time of first harvest. The practice focuses on cultivating contentment, gratitude, and happiness.
The inspiration for this practice came from Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.42, which states, “Perfect happiness is attained through contentment.” I found it uplifting to affirm "perfect happiness" on the inhale, and "contentment" on the exhale. The affirmation is coordinated with the breathing and simple dynamic (repeated) yoga movements. At a time when the world is so troubled it was lovely to get back in touch with my joy again. Try it now. Close your eyes, and then as you inhale silently affirm "perfect happiness", and as you exhale affirm "contentment". Relax into your bliss!
When we cultivate gratitude as a spiritual practice, contentment (samtosa) naturally follows, and from contentment happiness blooms. Whereas happiness can be elusive, the path of gratitude and contentment is always available to us. The season of first harvest is the perfect time to establish a gratitude practice. It's well documented that cultivating an attitude of gratitude has many health benefits, and research shows that gratitude improves our relationships: people who practice gratitude are more committed and responsive to their partners and are better listeners. Practising gratitude before you go off to sleep helps you get a better night’s sleep.
The contentment we find in our yoga practice energises us to take the actions that will help us find happiness in our lives. Yoga postures, breathing, and relaxation induce states of calm and serenity; this in turn prepares the ground for meditation. With mind and body calm and at ease, during meditation we slip into a state of deep contentment. In this contented state we are neither pushed nor pulled by whatever arises; we neither grasp for happiness nor push away unhappiness; we allow things to be as they are. This meditative, contented state is truly a healthy, wholesome, healing place to be.
First Harvest Yoga Practice
First Harvest Yoga Practice Overview
1. Cultivating Gratitude Exercise, standing. Name three things you are grateful for today.
2. Albatross Sequence 1. Repeat × 4–6.
3. Warrior variation into Intense Side Stretch Pose variation. Inhale: Perfect happiness. Exhale: Contentment. Repeat × 3 and then repeat on other side.
4. Bow to the Earth. Say, I thank the earth for supporting me. Repeat × 3.
5. Lunge Pose with arm movements. Repeat × 4 and then stay in open chest position for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
6. Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Stay for a few breaths.
7. Half-Locust Pose. Repeat × 4 on each side, alternating sides.
8. Locust Pose. Repeat × 4 and on final time stay for a few breaths.
9. Cat Pose into Child’s Pose. Inhale: Perfect happiness. Exhale: Contentment. Repeat × 6.
10a. Supine Twist. Repeat × 6, alternating sides.
10b. Stay here for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
11. Knees-to-Chest Pose into Leg Raises. Repeat × 6.
12. Cultivating Gratitude Exercise, standing. Name three things you are grateful for today.
Full instructions for the First Harvest Yoga Practice can be found in the Summer to Autumn chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book.
See Also: The Bow to the Earth Sequence, The Summer to Autumn Page, The Lammas Page
It can be a nerve wracking time for those of us emerging from a few months of lock-down as we weigh up risks and benefits and try to establish what the new normal looks like. Naturally, all of us are in a heightened state of alert as we work out what's safe to do and what's not. This constant turning over of worries can create a low-level background anxiety, which isn't very helpful when you're trying to relax into your yoga practice! This was certainly true for me today, as for the first ten minutes or so of my early morning yoga practice my mind just went over and over all the things I might need to do as we come out of lock-down and resume normal life again. Fortunately, the Bow to the Earth yoga sequence came to my rescue, and after a few rounds of it I felt much calmer, more grounded, and centred. It helped me to let go and relax into the support of the earth beneath my feet, and to remember all that I have to be grateful to the earth for.
Traditionally, Bow to the Earth Bhumi Pranam, is done before and after every performance of Indian classical dance. The translation of pranam is "to bow before or make an offering to" bhumi, the Earth.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are approaching the period of first harvest, and it's a good time to remember to say thank you to Mother Earth, as without her there is no harvest. The Bow to the Earth sequence is a beautiful way to show our appreciation and gratitude to the Earth for all the bounty and beauty that she spreads before us at harvest.
Bow to the Earth (Bhumi Pranam)
Stand tall, feet hip width apart, hands in Prayer Pose (Namaste). Stay here for a few breaths focusing on the heart chakra (anahata). Keeping hands together raise arms above the head: stay here a few breaths, focusing on the space above the crown of the head, the crown chakra (sahasrara). Lower the prayer hands to the third eye Chakra (ajna) and then the throat chakra (vishuddha). Bend the knees deeply (thighs parallel to the floor) and bring the prayer hands to touch the floor. Stay here for a few breaths, silently repeating, “I thank the earth for supporting me”. Inhale: come back up to standing, taking prayer hands above the head. Exhale: lower prayer hands back to heart. Repeat 4 times.
The Bow to Earth Sequence can be found in the Summer Turns to Autumn chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Coronavirus: Finding Peace in Troubled Times
The next few weeks look set to be a challenging time as the world tries to find a way through and out of this coronavirus crisis.
Many of you will be self-isolating at home, so over the next few weeks I will regularly post simple, accessible yoga and mindfulness techniques to help you find your calm place in the midst of the storm. I will also post short, simple yoga practices for you to do at home.
Please consult the expert advice in your own country on keeping yourself safe and well during the pandemic.
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
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.