“I notice that Autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Autumn is certainly one of the busiest times of the year. The kids are back to school, there’s more rich heavy food, caffeine, endless to-do lists, Halloween, Bonfire Night and maybe event Christmas and New Year plans begin popping up! Honour this by getting plenty of rest and taking time for yourself to slow down, relax and restore. You’ll feel so much more energised, balanced and content if you adjust accordingly throughout this beautiful changing season.
In Ayurveda, yoga’s ancient Indian sister science, Autumn is a time of year when the Vata dosha (wind, light, air and cold) is predominant. If your Vata dosha is out of balance you might notice that your mind is really busy, you can feel anxious, irritated, fearful and unsettled. You could also struggle to sleep and have digestive problems. Your energy levels might be lower as you move from the vibrant, high energy pace of summer into the colder Autumn season.
Try this Autumn yoga sequence to deeply nourish you from the inside out.
Set an intention (san kalpa)
Begin lying on your back with the knees bent, feet to the wide edges of the mat and the knees touching. Ground the spine into the mat and tuck the chin to the chest. Think back over the year so far. Contemplate what you’ve learned, and all your achievements. What’s worked for you and what can you let go of? Autumn is a season of letting go and taking stock.
Unlike summer where a lot of your energy and focus are directed outward, autumn is the season to turn inwards, to wonder and reflect. Just as the trees lose their leaves in autumn so we must let go of anything we no longer need. Visualise what you can let go of. You may like to imagine placing this onto an Autumn leaf. Watch the leaf float away down a beautiful stream departing from your life and making space to welcome in the new.
Lion’s Breath (Simhasana Pranayama)
“Prana” meaning “life force” or “energy” and “yama” meaning vow or observance, “pranayama” is often interpreted as “yogic breathing”. In Chinese Medicine the organ of the body associated with the autumn is the lungs. In Autumn, the air becomes more dry so to refresh, warm and nourish our lungs and bodies we can practice “lion’s breath” or “simhasana pranayama” to beat the dry and cold Autumn air:
Sit back on your heels. Breath in through the nose – use “Ujayi” breath (constrict the back of your throat making a wave like sound) then release out through the mouth with a loud “haaaaaah” sound.
Bonus: Have some fun… release stress by being silly (like me below!) Get into it by sticking your tongue out, crossing your eyes and roar with each exhalation. A few rounds will build heat and shake out tension in the body.
Sun Salutations (Namaskar)
Come up to stand. Stand tall and strong with your feet hip distance apart. Engage your pelvic floor and the low belly muscles. Interlace the fingers behind the lower back. Lift the heart and gaze to the sky, push the pelvis forwards and grip with your toes.
Bend over and draw the knuckles up and away from the body releasing tension in the shoulders. Bring the chest to the thighs bending the knees as much as you need to protect the lower back.
Take hold of your ankles, curl the forehead in towards the shins. Release the weight in your neck and head completely. Keep the bend in your knees to connect the chest to the thighs.
Plant the hands down, step back to plank pose. Keep the hips shoulder height, gaze over the top edge of your mat keeping the neck long. Press back into your heels and keep hugging the belly in tight.
Lower down to the mat either via knees, chest and chin or full press up down by keeping the body in a straight line. Make sure the elbows stay touching the side of the body as you press into the palms, draw your heart through the upper arms and lift the gaze for cobra back bend.
If you practice is more advanced, push up into up dog, lifting the thighs off the earth.
Push back into child’s pose or back up to plank to end the cycle in downward facing dog. In downward facing dog, relax the neck by looking towards your navel, press the weight back into the heels, lift the tail bone to the sky, sink the chest, rotate the upper arms back and around to create space across the upper back.
Repeat 5 times to really build some heat. Each time, deepen the breath, deepen the hold and get that inner digestive fire going!
Childs pose (Balasana)
From downward facing dog, lower the knees, draw the tail bone back down to the heels as you lengthen the arms long. Savour these moments of rest – breathe deeply as you surrender completely to the earth in this most nourishing, stable and grounding posture.
Make your way back to downward facing dog. Draw the right foot in between the hands. Sink the left knee down. Lift the arms and the gaze to the sky. Keep the pelvic floor engaged, hug the legs towards each other and feel a stretch up the front of the belly. Be very careful not to dump into the lower back. If your feeling strong, tuck the toes on the back foot lifting the knee off the ground coming into high lunge. Lower the arms down around the front foot and press back to downward facing dog.
Repeat on the other side.
Lower to the hands and knees. Knees hip distance apart, hide the feet behind the knees. Wrists under the shoulders, spread the fingertips. Inhale to hug the heart through the upper arms, dip the belly, lift the tail and lift the gaze.
Exhale to round the spine, hug the belly in tight, engage the pelvic floor and tuck the chin to the chest.
Repeat 5 times to completely warm up the spine.
Tree pose (Vrksasana)
Carefully come up to stand – curl up your spine and let your head come up last. Switch on your pelvic floor and hug like low ribs in. Stand tall, firm, strong and balanced on both feet with the inner thighs rotating in towards each other. Equalise your inhale and exhale. Shift the weight into your chosen standing leg and lift the other bringing the sole of the foot either to the ankle, calf or inner thigh (nowhere near the knee!)
Focus on how the body feels here, how you’re breathing, the dance of the muscles in the standing foot and all the incredible things working together in the body to get you here.
If the body wants to move in your balance, then try different variations and modifications. In tree pose, nice variations to try are placing the hands up above in prayer, using chin mudra (thumb to second finger) or swaying the arms side to side working into the side waist.
If you’ve found a place in your balance where you feel pretty solid, your body is working in harmony with your breath and your mind is still, try closing the eyes or moving the gaze, up, down and around. Keep the head still but move the eyes and perhaps even close them for the last few breaths of the balance.
Make sure to repeat on the other side!
Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)
Make your way back onto the hands and knees. Thread the right arm palm face up, underneath the left arm and lower the right shoulder to the mat. Hold for 5 deep breaths and breath space into your right shoulder blade. Inhale back to all 4’s. It might feel nice to even-out the spine with a few cat/cows or sway the hips side to side before repeating on the left side.
Eye of the Needle/Supine Pigeon (Sucirandhrasana)
Roll over to lie down on your back. Hug the knees into the chest to ground every part of the spine into the earth, just as you did at the beginning of the sequence. Open the arms wide and bring the right ankle over the left knee. Flex the right toes.
Hug the left thigh into the body. Keep drawing the right knee away and breathe deeply into the hips allowing them to open. Repeat on the other side and breathe nourishing space into your hips allowing them to gently open.
Corpse pose (Savasana)
Lie down flat on the mat. Bring the hands down by your sides with the palms facing up. Lengthen the arms down from your shoulders and lengthen the legs long. Close the eyes, relax every muscles, every bone, every ligament, every cell.
Listen to the natural sounds around you. Feel the earth supporting you. Remember your intention and what you would like to let go off to enter into this new season fresh, energized and restored. Stay here for at least 5 minutes allowing your body and mind to completely relax so that these postures and their warming, nourishing benefits can truly sink into the body.
I hope you enjoyed this sequence and remember Lao Tzu’s wise words: “Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished.” Say the same to yourself and know that it’s always ok to slow down and take time out for your ever-changing incredible body and mind.