The tree in autumn provides the inspiration for the Autumn Equinox chapter's Yoga Practice, from the Yoga Through the Year book. We can imitate the wisdom of the tree by conserving energy over the coming autumn and winter months and letting go of unnecessary baggage. This process of letting go enables us to create a sense of physical and mental spaciousness in our lives. Letting go is about prioritising what’s important to us and clearing a space, both physical and psychic, to nurture and nourish the things that do matter to us.
Today, I used the Autumn Equinox yoga practice, from the book, as my early morning yoga practice. It felt the perfect way to connect with the change of the season from summer to autumn.
You begin the practice Standing Like a Tree, and picture a tree in all its autumn splendour. Then, later in the practice you evoke the image of the tree again as you hold Tree Pose (Vrksasana). Today, rather than picturing the beauty of autumn leaves, I pictured a tree in fruit. I've recently been walking in the Peak District, so my mind easily filled with images of wild apple and damson trees, and red-berried hawthorns; before I finally settled on the image of a rowan tree, with its rich orange berries, which grows nearer to home, in my back garden.
As autumn arrives and the year winds down, nature takes steps to conserve energy and let go of that which is unnecessary; this yoga practice will enable you to begin that same process of conserving energy and sensory withdrawal (pratyahara). This is reflected in the practice with vinyasas such as Child's Pose (Balasana) flowing into Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), which generates that sense of moving from the sunny openness of summer, to the more inward, contemplative focus of the autumn and winter months ahead.
In the practice we also use the Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), to help us imitate nature's autumn work of letting go. As you hold the forward bend you ask yourself the meditation question: In autumn, as the trees let go of their leaves, what do I wish to let go of?
Today, in preparation for the Seated Forward Bend, I moved dynamically a few times, from Staff Pose (Dandasana) with arms raised into the Seated Forward Bend. As I did so I found myself instinctively using some meditation phrases from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
Breathing in I smile,
breathing out I let go.
I then shortened the phrase to
Exhale: Letting go
Towards the end of the practice, we return to the fruitfulness of the season, repeating the affirmation, I welcome abundance into my life, as we rest in Supine Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana).
Then we conclude the practice in Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana), contemplating upon the meditation question: What do I wish to incubate over the winter, ready to send up green shoots next spring?
Below is an aide memoire for the Autumn Equinox Yoga Practice, full instructions for the practice can be found in the Yoga Through the Year book.
Autumn Equinox Yoga Practice
Autumn Equinox Yoga Practice Overview
1. Standing Like a Tree. Picture a tree in all its autumn splendour.
2. Bend and Straighten Warm-Up. Exhale: bend both knees and lower arms. Inhale: return to starting position. Repeat × 8.
3. Tree Pose. Picture a tree in autumn. Stay for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
4. Cat Pose to Cow Pose. Repeat × 8.
5. Child’s Pose into Upward-Facing Dog Pose. Inhale: move from Child’s Pose into Upward-Facing Dog pose; stay one breath. Exhale: sit back into Child’s Pose; stay one breath. Repeat × 6.
6. Seated Forward Bend. Ask: In autumn, as the trees let go of their leaves, what do I wish to let go of?
7. Supine Tree Pose. Stay for a few breaths, picturing a tree in autumn. Repeat on other side.
8. Full-Body Stretch into Curl-Up. Inhale: lengthen tall along the floor. Exhale: curl up. Inhale: return to stretch. Repeat × 4.
9. Supine Butterfly Pose. Affirmation: I welcome abundance into my life.
10. Full-Body Stretch. Lengthen tall along the floor.
11. Knees-to-Chest Pose. Ask: What do I wish to incubate over the winter, ready to send up green shoots next spring?
The Autumn Equinox chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book is packed full of ideas for yoga in autumn, including yoga practices, visualisations, tree wisdom, and meditations.
The Autumn Art of Letting Go
The Placing Thoughts on a Leaf Visualisation
Autumn Equinox Page
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.