Fall is such a beautiful time in NYC! The air is crisp and cool, the leaves are changing, Halloween is afoot…the medieval festival at Fort Tryon Park is one of my favorite autumnal harbingers. It’s a little cheesy, sure, but who doesn’t love a smoked turkey leg and a paper cup of mead while listening to minstrels?
I’m soaking up the pleasures of fall in particular this year because I’m going to miss a big chunk of the season for a five and a half week trip to Shanghai. I love New York City so much, I’m getting separation anxiety just thinking about spending such a long time away, to say nothing of the time away from my husband! From an Ayurvedic perspective, my own Vata qualities, mixing with the cool, windy Vata energy of the season is not helping me to have a healthy perspective on this, either.
When the seasons change, we all tend to get a bit off kilter, and whether you’re Vata or not, the flighty energy going around can make transitioning extra hard. So, how do you manage to stay centered, and move forward into the colder, darker months feeling positive, and nourished? There are a lot of things to consider, what you eat not being the least of them. Eating seasonally (and I don’t mean your coffee shop’s pumpkin spice latte) can help you connect to the cycles of the earth. Try roasted winter squash with dinner, steamed sweet potatoes with butter or olive oil (or pumpkin seed oil, for an especially rich-tasting treat) for breakfast, or baked apple with brown sugar and spices for desert. You’ll warm up to winter in no time.
Another trick you can try is the same one I’ll be using to keep a healthy attitude as I begin my Shanghai adventure: balancing poses!
Balancing poses are a no-brainer for helping you to bring balance to your mind and your life, as well as a sense of healthy perspective. Whether the perspective you need is: It gets cold every year, but it’s going to get warm again… or I am a whole, well-adjusted, capable person. I am not defined by my home or significant other. This is an opportunity for reflection, learning, growth…and fun, you can start to find it in as simple a shape as tree pose, or as challenging a place as transitioning from half moon pose to Warrior III.
Many balancing poses are asymmetrical, but don’t let that make you forget that Mountain Pose is the base for every other pose: which parts of your body can stay solid and even as you adjust to stand on one leg, your tippy toes, or two arms (or your head!)? Even out the height of your hips in Tree Pose, and Warrior III. Extend both arms straight out from your shoulders in Half Moon, using a block (or blocks) as necessary.
If the pose in question is more or less symmetrical, you can employ the same adjustments that would help you find stability in an asymmetrical pose: draw your muscles in toward the bones they’re supporting, toward your center line, and up. Reach the crown of your head for the sky if your body is positioned vertically, and if not, send energy out in every direction your body is pointing: press through the lifted foot in half moon, forward from your nose, and back through your feet, and even up from the peak of your deeply curved spine in Crow pose. There is a beautiful quote from Terri Guillemets about the power of upward energy in a balancing pose (and out of it): “If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God[dess] reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and not just in yoga.”
Challenge yourself and find playfulness by experimenting with closing your eyes in a balancing pose. You may not realize how much your brain uses the horizon lines you can see to figure out where you are in space and how much you’re shifting around your balance point until you deprive yourself of that option! Be sure that you’re in a safe space, not near any sharp corners or hard objects, and prepared to catch yourself, should you wobble right out of the pose! In Crow pose and other arm balances, it can be nice to have a cushion of some kind where your face would land if you tipped forward onto it. I’ve often offered the option of closing the eyes in balancing poses in my classes, but in a yoga class last week, one of my teachers had us close our eyes in Mountain Pose, and then just slowly raise one foot off the ground, bringing the knee toward the chest a little at a time. Wow! What a challenge! Since we weren’t able to find our stable position before we closed our eyes, most of us didn’t make it very far. This variation can lend you perspective in another way: you don’t always have to look like the rock solid picture on the cover of Yoga Journal to be doing powerful, body and mind-changing yoga. Take yourself to a place where you wobble, and affirm that both your body and your ego can take the challenge.
No matter what tricks you use to prepare for the coming colder months, I hope this fall has something special for you in it…even if it’s that artificial ingredient-packed pumpkin spice latte!