The Secret Ingredient Is In The Season

Have you witnessed your first leaf falling yet?  Did you notice the autumn breeze stirring the summer heat up and out of the streets announcing the changing season? In a city such as New York where the elements can seem irrelevant through a window it is worth considering just how the seasons still affect our lives and our health, and how we can make choices that keep us on pace with Mother Nature. Leaves falling, temperature cooling and less daylight – change is in the air. As a Vinyasa Yoga practitioner transitioning gracefully is my art. I love the seamless flow from Up Dog to Down Dog and pose to pose, but I also love finding the opportunities in my life to transition with presence and attention. Autumn is in many ways a transitional time. There are days that still feel like summer and other days that warn of winter’s coming. Yet, Autumn is also a season unto itself ripe with opportunities to notice how the sunlight recedes as the raw green leaves ripen to their marigold hues. The foliage will climax in color as if a grand finale for the earthly stage – one last bow before the curtains fall. Encore! we say to summer and Autumn knows just what to do.

In the summer the heat builds and builds until even the luxury of central air conditioning doesn’t relieve the August desire to commune with our friends and relieve the warmth from our skin in the ocean waves. With the fall storms and breezes there is a kind of purity that reveals itself as the heat of summer is harvested into budding mums, pears and pumpkins. Nature accumulates and prepares to store this energy for the winter. A resplendent tilt away from the sun and not only the trees, but even our skin and complexion can reflect the shine of cooler days with a beautiful translucence when we are in tune with the seasons. Just like tuning an instrument between songs to make sure you’re in the right key, it is helpful to slow down a moment, experience the flight of a leaf from branch to park bench and allow ourselves some time to BREATHE and REFLECT on the heat of our summer.

If we take time NOW to gather our thoughts in meditation and do some strong Asana practice with an emphasis on stabilizing the limbs and directing the energy from the periphery towards our core then our vitality is stored.  It will last through the palest moments of winter like honey in a jar.

If we take a few minutes after our shower to massage with coconut or almond oil from our feet, up our legs towards our hearts and the same way for the upper body massaging from our neck and our hands, up our arms TOWARDS THE HEART then our skin will not be prone to dry, callous or pucker.

If we prepare what is seasonal and locally grown to cook warm, nourishing soups, stews, pies and meals then our bodies will be in tune with the environment and therefor less likely to catch cold or otherwise become depleted by the changes in the air.

At best the Fall Season is calm and peaceful, but sometimes the opposite happens as the wind rustles the trees and we can find ourselves needlessly restless and anxious. I offer you a simple breathing exercise below, which is warming and pacifying.

It can be difficult to take a few moments out of the day to simply sit still and breathe in a mindful way. I find it important to acknowledge that the hardest part of beginning a mindful breathing practice stems from the fact that as soon as you sit down, and close your eyes to look for some peace and quiet there will inevitably be a handful of things that come to mind, which need your attention. In fact, this is the whole point of taking time to sit quietly; it is important to NOT ACT on what you think about; simply allow your thoughts to be your thoughts. This breathing exercise requires that you not write anything down or take any action for a few minutes.  Instead, narrate the thoughts that rise to the surface, and recognize that what you think about indicates what is most important to you for this particular moment in your life. Take time to simply observe what your thoughts are indicating as important.

Then after a few minutes of observing your mental chatter about emails you need to write… plans that you need to make… errands you need to run… people you need to speak with… any and all of the the things that you want and need… then start noticing and narrating Your Breath. When you inhale say to yourself INHALE, and when you exhale say EXHALE quietly in your mind.

Breathe slowly in through your nose. Breathe out slowly through your nose. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out slowly. Begin to sense that there is nothing more vital to your life than a clean, easy breath.

Sitting with nothing on your mind except for the importance of breathing for a few minutes every day is not only the greatest gift that you can offer to yourself, but to everyone else that you meet in your day. It is empowering, gratifying, and will encourage patience and compassion.

Perhaps you will think about doing the breathing exercise everyday and that will feel sufficient, but who has the luxury of such time? It does take time. That is of course one of the secret ingredients. Take the time to do something nourishing for yourself, to breathe artfully, and to make sure you have enough honey to last you through the year.


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About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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