Autumn is the season of transformation. We can see this all around us in nature—the leaves fall, the air becomes crisp, and a harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables arrives.
Ironically, it is only through change that we can stay grounded during this season of shifts. It is important that we change with the seasons, just as nature does, by adapting a positive outlook and seasonal daily habits, yoga practice and food choices.
Each season offers pearls of wisdom that can help our spiritual growth. Fall is a season for accepting change and the impermanence of things, balancing light and dark, and finally, letting go.
For each reflection, we look at some fall yoga practices that can help us embody this wisdom. There are links for practice details.
Accepting Change, Acknowledging Impermanence
“When you can appreciate beauty in every inch of the creation that is yoga.” —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Every autumn is a chance to revel in the beauty of the fall colors. The changing fall foliage never fails to surprise and delight us. Autumn is a season of transition, reminding us that change is the nature of life and change is beautiful. When we are open to change, it makes the transformation appear with even greater elegance and magnificence.
Essentially, this openness means being open to the surprises the Divine offers throughout our life; being open to change. It means trusting that the Divine takes care of us through all the transitions of life, and there will always be more blessed areas for us to explore and discover.
Autumn also reminds us of the impermanence of everything. The falling leaves and bare branches remind us that the nature of things is fleeting. When we contemplate fall’s changes, we grow more appreciative of all the beauty that surround us. This season also brings back home to our consciousness the inevitable process of death—this awareness in turn challenges us to live every day to its fullest.
The breath of joy pranayama (breathing technique) teaches us to embrace changes happily and with a smile. It energizes our body and uplifts our spirit. The breathing technique Kapalbhati (Shining Skull) helps to purify the entire system by releasing all the stored and unwanted toxins, whether chemical or emotional!
Balancing Dark and Light
“Being Equanimous is Yoga.” —Bhagavad Gita
On the autumn equinox, day and night are of equal length. This signals the need to balance light and darkness within us. Far too often, we fear the dark and adore only the light. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Samatvam Yoga Uchayate” which translates to “being equanimous is Yoga.” Being in balance and open to light as well as dark is yoga. Not only is light a welcome part of life, but we also gratefully acknowledge the darkness as a place of silent nurturing and slow and steady growth.
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose) and Veerabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) are wonderful poses to find this balance, accepting challenges and change with grace and dignity. The winds of change blow strong in the fall, but if we can learn to be steady like a tree and yet also sway with the wind, we will be resilient like a warrior. While the tree pose teaches us to find the right balance between steadiness and swaying, the warrior pose teaches us to be ready for anything.
Letting go of all effort and relaxing to experience the infinite. —Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
The equal division of day and night also reflects two complementary sides to autumn, the invitation to relinquish and to harvest. Autumn is a season that invites us to release and surrender—to let go of what no longer serves us or what gets in the way of being present to the sacredness of each moment. This is a great time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives.
As we know, the green color of the leaves is due to a pigment called chlorophyll. As the trees begin to draw energy inward for the coming winter hibernation, the chlorophyll in the leaves decreases, leaving the vibrant shades we witness in autumn, the tree’s true colors. As we watch leaves changing shades and then fluttering to the ground in fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives.
As autumn begins, it is a chance to reflect and surrender our masks and become more truly ourselves. As the leaves unfold their true colors, let us consider changing the things, habits, beliefs and attitudes that hide our true nature. This fall, let us surrender, let go and harvest our true nature of joy, peace and love. As Patanjali indicates in the yoga sutras, “Prayatna shaithilya anantasamaapatibhyam,” which means, “Let go of all the efforts and relax to experience the infinite.”
Paschimottasana (seated forward bend) and Shishusana (Child’s pose) are the perfect poses to teach surrender and letting go. During the transition to fall, we take on new rhythms so it’s important to take a moment to be internal, bow our heads and get close to the Mother Earth. The chattering mind starts slowing down all its mental gymnastics, and we become restful and peaceful. These two poses offer us that opportunity to go inward and to let go to Mother Nature to unfold our true nature.