"The tree embodies all of yoga's teachings, and so trees make a wonderful guru...Where tree meets sky is the spaciousness of yoga. Where tree connects with earth is the groundedness of yoga. Where tree stands in space is the peaceful centredness of yoga. The tree stands at the centre of its own circle, and daily life rotates around it. Even within the frantic rush of city life we can always find a moment of peace when we rest our gaze upon a tree."
In autumn nature responds to diminishing hours of daylight by gradually withdrawing into dormancy; leaves fall from the trees, vegetation dies back, and some animals prepare to hibernate. We too can honour our connection to nature and respond with wisdom to the changing season by changing our focus from activity and outward action to contemplation and inner reflection. During the autumn and winter months our focus is on the inner journey. The more meditative side of yoga allows us to let go of mental clutter and creates a sense of blue-sky spaciousness.
The tree in autumn can provide the inspiration for our autumn yoga practice. The tree knows that to survive the dark, cold winter months it must conserve energy. 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.
Here are two ideas of how to integrate tree wisdom into your autumn yoga practice:
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Stand tall, feet hip width apart; hands in Prayer Position (Namaste). Picture a tree in all its autumn splendour. Imagine that like a tree you have roots going from the soles of your feet way down into the earth. Then bring the sole of your right foot to rest on your inner left thigh, rotating your right knee out to the side. Either keep your hands at the heart or take your arms above the head, hands in prayer position. Fix your gaze on a point that is not moving. Stay for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side. If you have balance problems, instead of bringing the foot onto the thigh, just rest the sole of the foot on the opposite inside ankle or be near a wall for support.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Sit tall, legs outstretched (bend the knees to ease the pose). Inhale and raise both arms. Exhale and fold forward over the legs. Inhale and return to starting position. Repeat 6 times. Then stay in the pose for a few breaths, and as you do so ask yourself this question:
In autumn, as the trees let go of their leaves, what do I wish to let go of?
The science behind why leaves fall from the trees in autumn is fascinating. How much do you know about this phenomenon? Use the resources available to you, either online, books, knowledgeable friend etc. to find out more. Once you have done this, observe whether your new-found knowledge adds or detract from your enjoyment and appreciation of trees. Share your knowledge with friends.
You can find more "Trees and Creativity during Autumn" ideas in my book Yoga Through the Year.
Announcement Coming soon: A Celtic Tree Wisdom page on this website.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
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.