We are moving into my most favorite season of all – FALL! One of the things I love most about living on the East Coast is that we get to experience the beauty of each of the four seasons and the changes that arise with each season. By noticing the difference of each season, we are reminded that it is the nature of things to change. Just look outside – the parks that were once filled with people basking in the sun and barbecuing are now a little less populated, the once green leaves start to take on those orange and red hues and flutter to the ground. Even in our homes we see change – like the strategic shifting of our closets from summer clothes to winter clothes (that’s for my NY folks in tiny apartments); or look in the kitchen - one minute the sink is empty of dishes, the next it’s full, and then you clean them and it’s empty, and then of course you eat, and it’s full, and so on.
Now, if you know me well, you know that change is hard for me. I tend to like things to stay the same and to stay within my own comfort zone. But in the back of my mind I know change has to happen - I see it around me, within me. I can’t deny the extra few gray hairs as I look in the mirror (scary). Nor can I deny the extra strength and tone in my arms from many caturangas (1/2 push up pose – not so scary).
One of the great things about having a yoga practice is that it encourages us to stay present – to live in the center of change and experience the changes as they arise. If you have ever practiced yoga, you’ve probably experienced some kind of change. You might have noticed yourself coming in to class disconnected, stressed, tense, scattered, only to find that as the class progressed your muscles loosened, your mind quieted, your breath deepened, so that when you left you noticed yourself a little more connected to yourself and the world around you.
I practice and teach in the vinyasa style of hatha yoga, which basically means that every movement is linked with a breath. As you inhale an action in the body occurs, as you exhale something else occurs. There are many descriptions of this idea of vinyasa. Two that have resonated with me are:
“Vinyasa is an outward expression of the subtle movement of life force.” - David Swenson
(Vinyasas are) “…progressive sequences that unfold with an inherent harmony and intelligence.” – Shiva Rae
For me, these descriptions allow us to see that as we move from one shape to another and our energy and breath shift, we experience first-hand the change of each moment. We find out what it means to live in the middle of change – to live breath by breath as our hamstrings open a little more, as our arms shake as we tap into our extra strength, as our hearts open more and more.
The word vinyasa breaks down as such: vi = in a special way, nyasa = to place. In our vinyasa yoga practice we are essentially placing our steps in a special way, aligning our movements with our breath. Take that a step further and transition this idea off of your mat. We can literally shape and allow our lives to unfold vinyasa style! So as we make our way through this glorious time of fall, with the leaves changing color and falling to the ground, with a busier schedule and kids going back to school, and move into the inevitable blast of winter, filled with holidays, shopping, travel, family and another new year, can we live in the center of CHANGE – live in the center of each moment and see it for what it is – a chance for us to experience, create and live our lives in a very special way?
Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course. Lao-Tzu
Choose a favorite activity (walking, running, playing a sport, taking a yoga class, baking…you get the picture) Notice your “state” (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) just before your start – just notice it don’t judge it. Part-way through notice where you are (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually). And again after you’ve finished, notice where you are.
Very simply notice your own changes over the next few months – are your doing more in-door activities, rather than out-doorsy ones? Are you spending more time with family or friends or more time alone? Just notice any shifts, again without judgment, so that you are taking time to become more connected and more aware of any subtle or radical changes.
Last Days, By Mary Oliver
Things are changing; things are starting to
spin, snap, fly off into
the blue sleeve of the long
afternoon. Oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
into substance and hue. As everything,
forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
I too love oblivion why not it is full
of second chances. Now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves, Now!
booms the muscle of the wind.
Stay present while doing the laundry (or the dishes or making the bed…). Can you just stay present (feeling the body in motion, the texture of the towels, dishes, sheets, noticing your breath) and perform the task knowing that it’s not about getting it done forever? Can you take that time and make it into a mini meditation for yourself, rather than a chore?
Surya Namasakar A (Sun Salutations)
Here is one way to celebrate the fall equinox – one of two times a year when the day is as long as the night. Sun salutations are a great way to bring warmth into the body – especially as we move into more chilly weather. They also give us a chance to honor the sun and thank it for all that it gives us (light, warmth, nourishment).
Notice the way the breath and body move in harmony. With that idea and the warmth it brings, you might start to feel subtle shifts in the body mind and spirit. By bowing down to the sun we begin to remove the darkness from our life.
(if you have knee, low back, shoulder issues, please be mindful – as with any physical/ exercise program you should always consult your doctor before trying a new practice)
Repeat with the Left foot stepping back.
You can do this Sun Salutation as many times as you like. It is a very full practice that not only unites asanas (the shapes the body makes as it moves) with pranayama (the breath), but includes forward bends and back bends. Some make just this practice their Sadhana (spiritual practice) doing it 108 times. 108 is a very significant number – some say it is tied in with there being 9 planets and 12 zodiac signs, others say it represents 108 aspects of the Divine. Regardless of whether you do this 1 time on each side or 108 times, notice what happens when you link the breath with the body in motion; feel the change in your whole being as you move from one shape to another and have fun!
Tadasana – Feel the weight evenly between your right and left foot, front and back of feet. Move your thigh bones back and roll the inner thighs in toward each other. Lengthen your tailbone down toward your heels. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and lift your heart.
Lunge – Keep your front knee over your ankle, keep your back heel reaching away from your head, and gently hug your inner thighs into toward each other.
Downward dog – Root your whole hand – from the heel of your palm through your fingertips - into the ground. Keep your fingers spread wide and feel the energy of your fingers and the space between them moving forward and down. Draw energy up your arms and slide your shoulders away from your ears. Reach your sitting bones up to the sky to lengthen the lower back. Reach your heels toward the ground without losing the lift of your sitting bones and the length in your spine.
Plank – Feel your shoulders right over your wrists. Reach the heart forward between the frame of your upper arms and at the same time reach your heels away from your head. You can lower gently in one straight line to the ground. Or lower yourself by bending the knees first and then lowering your torso down.
Baby cobra – Keep your hands under your shoulders and the tops of your feet on the ground. Spread your toes wide so your pinky toe is heavy into the ground. Roll your shoulders down your back, away from your ears and lift your heart. You can energetically draw the hands toward your hips and peek the heart through the arms even more. Draw your belly gently in and up to help protect the low back.
For more info on sun salutations visit: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/928_1.cfm
Thank you so much for reading the Fall 2006 issue of this is bliss. Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or comments. And certainly feel free to pass this along to anyone else you think might enjoy reading it. If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please email and let me know.
Peace and Love!
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