What is Seasonal Yoga?
Seasonal yoga is usually a dynamic yoga practice designed to keep the practitioner in balance with the changing energies of nature. As the seasons change, so do we and this is reflected in our yoga practice both on and off the mat. You will notice that in the height of summer, we seem to have an abundance of energy that propels us out of bed early and helps us to stay up and be social into the wee hours of the morning but in the winter we need a little more TLC to fight the desire to hibernate. Our energy seems to mirror our surroundings and those devotees of seasonal yoga will adapt their yoga practice to reflect the seasonal changes.
Seasonal Yoga for Autumn
Autumn is the season of the metal element and the time of the year for gathering and consolidating energy. Nature is slowing down after a productive summer in preparation for winter's long sleep and our bodies have the tendency to do the same. Just as the leaves begin to turn color as nature's energy slows, our bodies begin to wind down in preparation for the long months ahead.
In your yoga practice
The fall is time to slow it down. Although breath is always a vital component in your asana practice, now is the time to consolidate this. Complicated Vinyasa sequences are fun, dynamic and challenging but often we sacrifice the breath to be able to concentrate on the next asana. There is no judgment here and, of course, this is not always the case for everyone, but if this applies to you (and you know who you are) then why not slow down and simplify? Introduce moon flows into your practice. There are several variations so do your research, but I personally practice a very simple flow of Child's Pose to Upward Facing Dog then to Downward Facing Dog, back to Upward Facing then to Child's Pose. In this version, your feet and hands remain in the same position and you try to keep the arms straight in the transitions (albeit with soft elbows). Think of your spine moving as if it were a wave, fluidly transitioning from posture to posture.
Pranayama and meditation are key practices in this season.
Pranayama and meditation are key practices in this season. Focus on simple pranayama techniques, such as full yogic breath and Maha pranayama. Both of these breathing techniques enocurage the practitioner to have a greater breath awareness while reaping the benefits on the increased oxygen levels and the calming effects often felt from pranayama. During autumn, I like to practice Chakra music meditation and guided yoga nidras, examples of both can be found online and even on YouTube and Spotify. As both of these practices are guided, it allows me to switch off my mind and focus on the task at hand. This works for some better than others, so give it a try and see how you react.
You don't need anyone to tell you about your food choices if you are naturally tuned with your body. In summer, we are instinctively drawn to colder, fresher foods like salads but as the weather cools, we begin to turn to warmer, more comforting foods. Fruit-heavy breakfasts are lovely in summer but you might start wanting to change this in autumn. Porridges are wonderful this time of year for filling and warming you up and giving you the energy to get you through the day
You don't need to be traditional here. Experiment! I personally LOVE quinoa and wild rice porridge made with almond or coconut milk. You can top this with whatever you fancy; I like adding a little apple sauce for sweetness but once again, be creative!
Think seasonally when it comes to food. We live in a consumer world where we can buy ingredients from across the globe, any time of the year. And while yes, this can be great (I love my avocados and still buy the odd one in the depths of a European winter), do try to buy foods that are in season. Root veggies are lovely this time of year and pumpkin is offically back! Go out and experiment with your local and seasonal produce: your body and the envoroment will thank you.
We have long been told that dairy products can be instrumental in causing mucus in the body. This may not be the case for all, but you can try to consume less dairy or substitute goat's or sheep's milk products which tend to affect the body less. We need to try and keep mucus at arms lengh this time of year while infection is always around the corner, because mucus is the best home for these nasties.
In the home
Your personal living space is very important this time of year. You want your home environment to be a supportive space so think about having a clearout of unwanted items around the home. I like to think along the lines of clutter in the home means clutter in the mind and vice versa; so, do yourself a favor and have a little clearout. This can also help you to create a safe and clear space for a meditation practice.
Aromatherapy oils are wonderful for creating a calm and safe space. There are plenty of choices you can choose from but, in autumn, our focus lies with the lungs so I like to introduce Eucalyptus and Tea Tree. Eucalyptus oil can help decongest and help with any seasonal sinus problems while Tea Tree is a fantastic anti-fungal and anti-viral.
Autumn is a beautifiul season, so enjoy the colourful beauty around you and take the time to appreciate your body and its desire to slow down. Find simplicity in your yoga practice and your food and make sure to take care of your temple, nourish your soul and prepare your home during this wonderful opportunity to consolidate and gather yourself before winter knocks on your door.
Image credit: Aneta Gäb