Time to grab a sweater and a pair of long pants—autumn has arrived! Pumpkins and apples have replaced berries and melons, and the morning sun is rising a little later … but wait, what does this have to do with yoga?!
With a new season upon us, yoga can be a fantastic tool to help our bodies adapt to the cooler weather and shorter days. The word “detox” gets thrown around a lot in the wellness community, but it’s not necessarily about eschewing solid foods in favor of trendy juices and hunger pangs. In the Ayurvedic tradition, cleansing and detoxing during the changing of the seasons is an essential practice that keeps our bodies healthy and aligned with nature. Since autumn is all about slowing down, we can take a cue from the season and “detox” the busy, full energy of summer. This doesn’t mean doing anything extreme, but rather intentionally slowing down the mind and nourishing the body through simple meditation practices, pranayama and gentle asanas.
The following list outlines some ways you can begin to detoxify the body and align with the fall season. By simply incorporating some simple asanas and breathing techniques, you can support your physical, mental and spiritual health as we transition into the next part of the year.
1. Support your digestive system. During your asana practice, integrate some twisting postures to wake up the digestive organs and eliminate waste from the body. In the Ayurvedic tradition, seasonal shifts are prime time for detoxing, which can simply mean improving your digestive function as the foods we eat change in accordance with the weather. This can involve dietary changes, like eating more grounding, warm, easy-to-digest foods. It can also mean incorporating yoga poses that aid digestion—that’s where twisting comes in. (Be sure to wait at least one hour after eating before beginning your yoga practice.)
Try this: After a few gentle warm up poses, move into some standing postures and add some standing twists like Parivritta Utkatasana (Chair Twist) or Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose). During your cool down, try a seated twisting pose, such as Marichyasana, or “Marichi’s pose.”
2. Nourish your mental and emotional self. While summer is a time of heat and movement, fall is a cooler, quieter time; it is beneficial to work with the seasonal shift as opposed to against it. Take more time to relax and unwind by integrating some gentle and restorative asanas into your yoga practice. After practicing the above suggestions, close your practice with a gentle inversion such as “legs up the wall” pose, before an extended Shavasana. Gentle and restorative postures are calming to the body, and help to de-stress and soothe the mind. Opting for gentle inversions will also stimulate the digestive system by reversing the blood flow to the digestive organs, increasing circulation in the feet and legs.
3. Make time for pranayama. For some, the most challenging part of any yoga practice is sitting still and focusing on the breath—yet it can also be a powerful tool for focusing the mind and aligning the body with spirit. Pranayama is Sanskrit for “extension of the breath” or “expansion of the life force,” so in terms of reducing stress, the breath is your best ally for “expanding your life force.” As we shift into a slower season, use your breath to aid your ability to slow down and center yourself. Taking a few additional minutes each day for seated meditation with attention to the breath is yet another way to ground the spirit, shift our focus internally and stay aligned with the earth as it flows into a new season.
Do you feel the energy shift of fall? How do you find yourself changing your practice?