Have you noticed how over the past couple of days, the intense heat has given way to the first signs of autumn? The temperature’s dropped, the wind’s picked up and there’s a subtle crispness in the air. Seasonal shifts can make you feel a little out of sorts; it can help to slow down your yoga practice and include more grounding poses.
I’ve created a simple 20 minute routine that can be done any time of the day to help you feel more centred and balanced as the seasonal wheel turns.
As always, with accessibility in mind, this sequence can be done from a chair as well as from the floor.
1. Tree pose (Vriksasana)
Vriksasana is a wonderful way to cultivate a sense of calm in the present moment (because when you’re standing on one leg, you’re not really thinking about anything else!).
Begin in mountain pose, root one foot firmly into the earth and bring the sole of your other foot to your standing ankle, calf or inner thigh. Find a focal point and bring your hands to your hips, to your heart in anjali mudra (prayer pose) or raise your arms like branches. Take deep breaths and channel your inner strength and rootedness.
From a chair, begin in mountain pose, root down into one foot and bring the sole of the other foot to the opposite ankle. Grow tall and place your hands on your heart in anjali mudra (prayer pose) or raise your arms up and outwards whilst you focus on a still point in front.
2. Forward fold (Uttanasana)
As the days begin to grow shorter and darker, Uttanasana allows you to turn your focus inwards.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and as you exhale, bend forward from your hips. The knees can be as bent as you need them to be. Allow your head to hang heavy and give your head a gentle shake to release tension in the neck and shoulders. Let any tension or worries wash over you and fall out of your head.
Begin firmly rooted in your chair in mountain pose. Take the feet wide, exhale as you hinge from the hips and fold forwards. You can reach for a block, hold opposite elbows or keep your legs together and extend them out in front of you as you reach down the legs. However you choose to take Chair Uttanasana, allow your head to bow forward.
3. Happy baby pose (Ananda balasana)
As well as soothing the nervous system, Ananda balasana can also ease tension in the low back and hips.
Come all the way down onto your back, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift your knees and point them towards your armpits, reach for your ankles or the inner or outer edges of your feet. Ensure that your back torso and head is relaxed on the ground. Stay here and breath slow and steady, or rock gently side to side.
From Chair Uttanasana, take your feet a little wider, bring your hands behind your heels and wrap them around your ankles. Focus on your breath and with each exhale, release tension around the hips and pelvis.
4. Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
Cultivate calm and stillness with this mild inversion that encourages you to slow down and rest.
Sit with one hip next to a wall and swing both legs up the wall, scooching your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Lie back with your arms on your belly or out at your sides. Focus on belly breathing, with each exhale soften and release tension from the mind and body.
Chair Viparita Karani
N.B. For this pose you will need to be able to get up from the ground. Lie in front of a chair, bend your knees and place your lower legs on the chair seat. Your arms can be on your belly or out at your sides. Stay here and breath into your belly.
5. Breathwork (Pranayama)
Finish with a few rounds of deep belly breathing, inhaling as you expand your belly & chest, and exhale fully, releasing any tension. Allow each breath to bring your awareness back to the present moment.
Remember to spend at least a few minutes in savasana to integrate your practice. As always, listen to your body and honour it’s needs. Embrace the seasonal change and allow the essence of autumn to guide you on your inner journey.