Align your energy with the earth’s season for dreams and transformation through your yoga practice.
The suggestions in this article could be used as a list of resources for how to care for yourself in the outer autumn or inner autumn phase of the menstrual cycle. If you’re a cycling human, the inner autumn is the luteal phase, or roughly days 19-28 of your cycle.
So, grab a cup of tea and settle in!
In Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, autumn is known as Vata season — a season dominated by air and space elements. Air and space are said to be related to our mental capacity. This makes autumn a great season for bringing attention to our mind, and our thoughts, but it also means that an over-active mind is quite likely if we are not properly grounded.
This article will help you reap the benefits of this airy season and create better balance and ground through autumn winds.
Tip #1: Include More Meditation in Your practice
Meditation is a complete practice in and of itself.
Practicing meditation daily has enormous benefits for our mind, the body, and nervous system, and how we relate to others. Meditation practice cultivates greater space within us to be able to meet with the world — and our changing selves — with grace and ease.
Autumn is a great time for starting or deepening meditation practice because the airy and dynamic energies of the season mean we can more readily connect to our thoughts and mental patterns.
Think of meditation (whether sitting or walking) as a way to give the winds of your mind freedom to move and blow off the ‘dust,’ clearing and refreshing your mental space. Remember, as you sit or walk in meditation, there is nothing special that you need to do; just being there, allowing and witnessing the activity going on in your mind is enough. But if you enjoy having something to settle your attention onto, you can always watch the breath coming in and going out through your nostrils, and let this steady movement of breath help to steady the movements of your mind.
Autumn is the season of simplification and returning, or turning within. As plant life dies and returns to the earth, and the animals return to their burrows, we humans can connect with autumn’s grace through meditation and self-reflection. Rather than planning and meditating on future intentions, autumn is a great season for reflecting backward and reminiscing on seasons that have come to pass and who we have become as a result.
Tip #2: Practice Discernment (+ Letting Go)
Discernment is one of the core principles of yoga; it is the courage to see ourselves through the lens of honesty and make clear decisions in favor of our highest ideals. And with all of the reflective and dynamic air energy, autumn is a perfect season for sharpening our discernment. Just as the plants shed what is no longer needed for the winter seasons, we too can practice non-attachment and letting go of what is no longer useful and what cannot come with us in the new year to come.
How do we use our discernment to know what is ready to go?
Again, self-reflection is called for here. We might ask ourselves questions like: does the energy of this project/relationship/situation feel dull or vibrant? When I reflect on this project/relationship/situation does my body feel calm or agitated? Does this project/relationship/situation align with my current values, desires, and needs?
Discernment is a practice like any other — it takes time to develop. And like a knife, as we sharpen our discernment through practice, reflection, and taking action, we become better equipped to cut through thicker and denser areas in our minds and our lives. Eventually, we’ll be able to cut through dense forests of overgrowth that have confused and overwhelmed us for years, with the sharp double-sided blade of clarity coupled with courageous action to create positive change in our lives. Discernment is only functional when we are willing, to be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our path. Even if what we see is difficult to behold, the challenge of staying with it is the rough stone we get to sharpen our discerning minds against.
Tip #3: Incorporate more foot-focused and forward-bending poses
Now that we’ve touched on engaging some of the benefits of this airy season, let’s talk about how we might bring ourselves back into balance if all of this air has gotten us swept up in a sense of anxiousness and un-groundedness.
In autumn, there is more space above the ground as the leaves fall and flowers die away, but as we know, plant life remains rooted and activity travels beneath the surface. In autumn, growth happens underground, or in the roots. The physical roots of humans include the toes, ankles, knees, legs, hips, and the base of the pelvis. These are the areas we want to bring a greater focus to in autumn. Asanas like standing or seated forward bend, head-of-knee-down pose, the yogi squat, and toe balance are all excellent for stimulating our roots and increasing energy flow.
On a physical level, this translates as increased strength and mobility in the lower body, and enjoying increased circulation and decreased tension. On an energetic level, this will translate as feeling grounded — that beautiful blend of feeling both calm and energized — and having a better relationship to our ancestral connection and the wisdom of the earth at large. On an emotional level, connecting to ancestral lines and earth wisdom soothes the heart that grieves through cyclical turnings.
Yin Yoga is the perfect autumnal practice. Almost all of the Yin postures are slow and near to the ground, making them excellent root nourishment. The slow and meditative pace of a Yin practice is also conducive to connecting with the reflective and meditative mind we mentioned above.
Tip #4: Dream
Speaking of that which is below the surface, bringing more attention to our subconscious mind is an excellent idea in autumn because this season is very conducive to this exploration. With all of the darkness and the turning in, the atmosphere is supportive of our dream states and practice of conscious dreaming. This can look like dream rituals such as recording your dreams and their symbols, feelings, and recurring instances. This might look like engaging in a dream yoga practice, also known as Yoga Nidra, which is a practice to support our connection to the dreaming mind in a wakeful, meditative state.
Whatever this looks like for you, embracing your subconscious dream world is connecting to a rich repository of insight and symbolism that only you can interpret as guidance for your personal life. Developing awareness of our subconscious mind matures us mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, as we learn to inhabit and move through different states of consciousness with grace and wonder. In addition, embracing the subconscious mind means growing more familiar, and therefore comfortable, with the ‘darker’ side of the psyche — the side we tend to ignore, yet which is the source of our conscious, thinking mind. Ultimately, engaging with the subconscious mind through dream rituals and Yoga Nidra is to surrender to the great mysteries of life and grow familiar with, and inhabit, the unknown.
#5: Welcome warmth
As the weather grows colder, nights longer, and the landscape barren, it’s a good idea to stay warm. There are few things as unsettling as being chilled to the bone.
Staying warm might mean practicing yoga with your socks on or engaging in warming breath practices such as the Ujjayi breath. Perhaps you’ll engage with dynamic practices, like Hatha or hot yoga, if your circulation or body temperature has fallen. It could be as simple as welcoming more blankets and pillows and creating a cozy yoga nest space, or enjoying a cup of warm tea just before you practice. Whatever the case, staying warm is wise! And it will help you find more ease in the colder months to come as you learn to ignite and kindle your inner light.
I’m wishing you a beautiful autumn season. Stay warm, stay rooted, and enjoy navigating the winds of change through the dark season. Trust that wherever you find yourself at the end of this season is where you are meant to be. Until then, lighten your load and welcome the turn within.
Thank you for reading. I hope that this has been helpful to you. If it has, share it with a fellow yogi or yogini!