Today is officially the start of autumn, and at the studio we can feel the seasonal change in the air. Meteorologists call it an “equinox” because around today each year the sun passes directly over the Earth’s equator and creates a day whose accompanying night is of an equal length. To be precise, an equinox is really that moment at which the sun is on the equator at local noon. Whatever the science, we can all feel the change as the studio bustles with the influx of students and the Meadows is strewn with leaves.
From now begins the run of longer nights and shorter days that will lead us into winter, and our Yoga practice can adapt to support this seasonal shift in our lifestyle. I’m Karen Kirkness, founder of Meadowlark Yoga, here to talk about what I do in my practice to adapt to the Autumn leaves.
- Eat Warm, Orange Things:
Yams, turnips, beets, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, carrots, yuca, kohlrabi, onions, celery root (or celeriac), horseradish, turmeric, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and ginger are all resplendently warm in colour and decidedly rooty. Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb heaps of nutrients from the soil and benefit from an inherently grounded quality that we would be wise to absorb ourselves. As we move out of summer activities and into the autumn season, it is a time to load up on nutrition and get earthy.
- Establish a Routine:
So I don’t know about you, but in the summer I want to do ALL THE THINGS. By the end of it, I’ve blown all my energy and had a whale of a time but I often end up with a wee injury or an existential crisis of one sort or another. In the face of ending such a great summer, staring down the long barrel of a wet, windy winter, it can be natural to despair and wonder “whatever will I do now?“.
Getting into a reasonable routine at the start of Autumn is the simplest way to prevent myself from going off the rails into an unproductive state of randomness, which while occasionally interesting does not on the whole set one up for a productive season.* In terms of my Yoga practice, I am now more than ever into daily morning practice, but the point is for each individual to set up their own routine and stick to it.
*This has been a hard-won lesson for me, and I wouldn’t have had the foresight to implement a conscientious seasonal routine in my 20’s. But, hear me now, young women and men: set some achievable goals on a weekly cycle and stick to them, it helps combat the crazy. Give yourself up to Autumn, it only lasts until the holidays and then you’ve got a whole new set of resolutions to crack into.
- Cleanse: As the dust settles, it is important for me to reconnect to the important essentials and sort of “reboot” my routine after the vagaries of summer intensity. This involves a cleanse. Now, there are a lot of things being said about cleansing out there, and I think the important thing is really the spirit of what it means to cleanse. You don’t have to do a juice feast, or eat nothing but cayenne pepper and maple syrup, or even get set up for a proper Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse (although that would be optimal). Just look around yourself, your personal environment, and get your sauca hat on.Sauca is one of the Niyamas, the five observances from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that he prescribed would behoove a Yoga to maintain with regard to oneself in this world. Sauca means cleanliness. Look around and see what excesses can be dealt with in your life, and make the commitment to clean it up. Simple!
- Take the Long Way Home: Here is an important pairing for the Cleanse. You need to be moving your body every day and exercising your heart muscle. Try to mix up your bus/car commute with days where you walk or cycle. I don’t mean you need to necessarily ramp up a serious training schedule, unless you’re into the sort of thing. I am talking about every person, not just the athletes amongst us.
Each and every one of us needs to at least walk briskly up hills most days, taste the morning/evening air, and stimulate the cardiovascular system.You don’t have to make a special trip, just build it into your routine. Even in the Autumn/Winter cycle, when all can relate to the natural hibernation tendency. This point is about balancing the inertia, ensuring that you’re outside sometimes and invigorating the system. Autumn is especially beautiful and transitory, so get outside and soak up the magic before Winter makes it even more challenging. Why not walk or cycle to work/class some days?
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- Abhyanga (Sanskrit: अभ्यंग or अभ्यङ्ग “oil massage”): Use this form of Ayurvedic medicine as an important form of self-care this Autumn. The oil can be pre-medicated with herbs for specific conditions, but you don’t need an Ayurvedic doctor to use this powerful method to your advantage for radiantly healthy tissues.Sesame or almond oil is affordable and unctuous, and when you massage it warm into your skin using firm circular strokes, you will be not only taking care of your skin, but stimulating your lymphatic system to keep your interstitial cellular spaces free of debris and toxins.
Keeping your mental and physical systems lubricated is important for any machine, and this ritual helps me take an inventory of my body each day. Feet are an important region, far away as they are from our heads they can often be forgotten in our cleansing and fitness routines. As such, they can get pretty sad (and gross)! Keep them clean, scrub them, and use abhyanga at night. I do this at night before bed, then pop a pair of socks on and go to sleep. Upone waking, my feet are not at all greasy – just moisturised and ready to get onto the mat. Abhyanga is a method of nurturing the self and is an important means of embracing the condition our condition is in. Take these methods with you into the Autumn ahead and remember, when in doubt, go for the balance.