Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
-The Serenity Prayer
In the West, Yoga is most well-known for the asana practice. Practicing asana strengthens our bodies, soothes our nervous system, and calms our minds. As important as asana practice is, it is only a very small part of the science and practice of Yoga.
Yoga teaches us to live as spiritual beings in a physical world. If we let it, Yogic practices can inform our daily routine and keep us seasonally attuned. What we need in order to be healthy and feel at peace during the spring and summer changes as autumn and winter approach. Beyond asana practice, yoga invites as to participate in the turning of the wheel of the year through nutrition, self-care practices, and seasonal reflections.
As the seasons change, it is helpful to consider their deeper meeting. What happens during the fall? Certainly, there are outward signs that fall is coming. Leaves change colors, the air becomes crisp, and the sky is a deeper blue. As lovely as these autumn changes may be, there is more going on during this transitory season than can be experienced through our physical senses.
Summer and winter have us living in the extremes. Summer is warm, bright, and the Earth’s energy is at its apex. Winter is the opposite. It is cold, dim, and the energy is dormant. Autumn bridges these two seasons. It teaches us to release our attachment to how things have been and gives us time to transition into a drastically different way of living.
Many of us resist winter. We dread the inevitable intense cold and all that comes along with it. By learning autumn’s lessons well, we position ourselves to not only accept, but embrace winter for what it is.
During winter we experience the world in death. We grieve that which we have lost, including that which was never begun. Winter teaches us to do the best with what we have, even if it means sometimes going without.
Grounding ourselves with spiritual practices.
Autumn teaches us acceptance and surrender. Winter has its place in nature. It is an inevitable, necessary change. When we resist change, we suffer. We don’t have to like the changes we undergo, but if we can accept them and surrender to the process of transformation, we can make peace with them.
One of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves when undergoing a change is to stay grounded. As we begin practicing yoga, or any spiritual practice, we may hear the word “grounding” a lot. Being spiritually grounded means we cultivate a sense of stability within ourselves that is not dependent on what goes on around us. We do this through our consistent spiritual practice.
Connecting to the earth through our body.
As important as a consistent spiritual practice is for staying grounded, it is key that we stay physically grounded as well. Small adjustments to our asana practice do wonders! Honing a basic asana practice gives us stability and the comfort of routine. Try balancing asana such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose), longer held standing poses, and extra time in Savasana. Focus on your connection to the solid ground beneath you.
Nutrition is a key component to feeling grounded. If we continue to eat the same raw, crisp food we have enjoyed all summer, our bodies will not optimally function. As the temperature cools, warming food will not only be more desirable, but also more nourishing. According to Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine and Yoga’s “sister-science”, Autumn is Vata-season in the West. It is recommended that we enjoy sweet, sour, and salty tastes and refrain from food and drinks that are pungent, better, and astringent.
Finally, seasonal adjustments to our self-care practices are not only grounding, but comforting and feel really good! Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of massaging oil into our skin. Ideally, we do this daily, but even a few times a week are beneficial! Not only is skin-oiling good for our skin, but it more deeply connects us to our bodies. In the physical world, our bodies are our homes. No matter the season, nothing is more grounding than cultivating a sense of home!
Autumn lessons: accept, surrender, reflect.
The Serenity Prayer knows no religious boundaries and speaks to the spirit of autumn. During this season our work is to accept that which we cannot change, surrender to nature’s wisdom, and reflect on the year’s journey. As we do, we fortify the strength within us to gracefully meet the challenges of winter, and plant the seeds of hope that bloom in spring.