“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Unknown
This practice of yoga not only offers us a philosophy rich in guidance and wisdom, but also a number of tools to help put these ideas into practice. These yoga tools, like any, when used in an intelligent and discerning manner can prove beneficial. But, when used carelessly and without intelligence, they can prove detrimental, simply furthering excessive “efforting”, attachments, aversions and identifications with all that is impermanent.
The changing of the seasons is a good reminder to us all that, similar to the transformations in nature, we too undergo shifts in our internal environment. While we cannot control the external environment, these internal changes ask that we re-evaluate the tools at our disposal. Just as the cycles of life (from newborn to old age) require that we attend to ourselves differently, the shifts in energy brought about by each season require that we reassess our habits so as to provide the best self-care to maintain health and vitality.
As the cooler winds settle in around us and nature begins to shed and prepare to withdraw for the hibernation and introversion of winter, we can feel shifts within own own selves. A sense of dis-ease may arise with feelings of being ungrounded, scattered, depleted of energy, anxious, insecure or fearful; sleep and eating patterns may also shift. Hair and nails may seem more brittle, skin drier and joints start cracking. When these air and ether qualities of vata begin to rise, it is important for us to remain discerning in our practices, including our food choices, so that we can stay grounded, calm, peaceful, warm and secure.
Food is often the first way that we maintain self-care. This time of year calls for sweet, sour and salty foods like root vegetables, pumpkin, squash, dairy (maybe warmed with warming spices), lean meats, warm or hot water/tea with lemon or ginger. This is a great time of year to cleanse, shedding the toxins built up throughout summer. Almond oil body massage also provides healing qualities.
In a world where we are rewarded for working harder, faster, longer and with great excess, the way we practice on our mats, or in our pranayama and meditation practices, may be a reflection of the way we live our lives. When we practice mindlessly, drawn toward those practices to which we are attached, we miss the important aspect of self-inquiry. Similar to the energetic effects of the food we eat, our practices have a time and an energetic purpose. Practicing on auto-pilot, or simply out of our attraction, may further instill habitual patterns and ways of living that may not prove constructive. Discernment is an important aspect of practicing yoga and lack thereof may prove destabilizing and destructive of our internal environment ~ leading to dis-ease.
This is a great time of year to slow down our asana practice and to focus on grounding into our actual, physical bodies, while maintaining warmth, and remembering that all practices embody a balance between effort and ease. These rooting and warming qualities in our practices prove beneficial as the cool, dry and windy season of fall whirls around us.
In the end, remember we care for those things we love. Self-care is an act of love, requiring first self-inquiry so that we can best determine what is needed; then with discipline and diligence, we practice without expectation or attachment. The awesomeness of this practice lies in this very aspect of shifts, changes and impermanence, for these changes arouse curiosity that comes with each new day, hour, moment. May we all live with this curiosity and involvement so that in the end we can say that we were involved, we were present, we lived!!
“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself, the challenge is to silence the mind.” Caroline Myss