At the peak of autumn, the temperature is dropping, the days are noticeably shorter, and the final harvests are coming to an end as nature is readying herself for deep rest. This is a transformative time. Late autumn can be compared to the last melting glimmer of sunset, before the day settles into night.
This time of year can be a little melancholy for me. It starts out beautiful and then slowly becomes more and more damp and gray. Death is seemingly all around with plant life dying back, the carefree flippant energy of summer long gone, and the cold front pushing in.
We can look to the trees for inspiration and guidance around this time. After the spectacular display of colorful leaves have all fallen withered brown and dried up, the branches lay bare, and you could easily assume that everything has died. But the reality is, the tree’s have not died, they have gone into a state of dormancy. This is a restorative time for the earth. A period of regeneration and deep inner renewal.
These periods of dormancy are reflected at many points throughout our lives, experiences, and even our daily rhythm as we wind down and prepare for sleep each night. Understanding the need and the place of each turn around the wheel, and cycle of our life, even the darker ones- ESPECIALLY the darker ones, is what can help us find meaning and hope.
Halfway between autumn equinox and the winter solstice, falls Samhain, which can be translated to “summer's end”. This time of year is representative of completion of a cycle, both symbolic and literal death, letting go, and time to rest.
Samhain, pronounced “sow(cow)-inn”, is a celebration to honor the and celebrate our loved ones who have passed on and the lineage from which we came from. This is the pagan roots that modern day Halloween is based on. It is believed that the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest around this time, and you will find other holidays around this time, such as Dia de los muertos, and all souls day, are also based on respect for the dead. Rituals and traditions stem from multiple different locations, but all share one common thread: the honoring of the dead.
Samhain is generally observed on or around the night Oct 31. Because the origins of Samhain are so ancient, people were not living by the same calendar system we live by today, and there is no record of an exact date. It was most likely celebrated over the course of days or even weeks.
This is a powerful time to ask for guidance whether through our meditation practice, our dreams, or our inner journeys. Death is an inevitable part of life. You can be uncomfortable with it and ignore it all you want, but you're better off learning to work with it. Use this energy to transmute what is no longer working for you in your life, and help you to release anything that has gone stagnant, or reached the end of its run. Let what needs to die, die.
On the Mat
We use our practice to align with Mother Nature as she unwinds into the slow release of autumn. It is a time to make space in our bodies and psyches by letting go of what doesn't need to be there. Whether it's tension in our shoulders or outdated beliefs, or a nervous energy knotting up in your belly.
Consider weaving more restorative and/or yin postures into your practice. I encourage my students to move more slowly through transitions and spend more time in each posture, as we shift into the darker seasons. Sequences during these times of year focus more on yin or feminine energy or nourishment and refueling ourselves, rather than the yang, masculine energy of fiery determination.
When we are experiencing anxiety, sadness, or grief (many feelings that come up around this time of year), the breath can become restricted in the upper part of the lungs, making the breath shallow. Shallow breathing is associated with chronic stress and it affects our whole system, including causing tension in the muscles especially the upper back and neck.
Resting in these poses and consciously deepening and slowing the breath (use a count of 4 on the inhale and 7 on the exhale) down-regulates the nervous system, or puts it into a parasympathetic system, communicating to your body that you are safe.
My top 5 poses late fall found in this reel:
The final phase of life is symbolized by the crone archetype, and so we see this energy present in late autumn and winter, as they are the final phases of the year. The word crone is usually associated with an old, haggard woman, with warts and a hunchback, who lives in the woods and eats children. This is an outdated patriarchal view of women becoming useless with old age and it goes to show just how afraid, avoidant, and disgusted we generally are, as a whole, when it comes to matters of aging and dying. We’d rather look away instead of facing the facts that sooner or later everything must come to an end.
Because of this derogatory connotation of the word crone, if you prefer, you can use the term elder or sage. The archetype shows up in all of our lives regardless of your age. The characterization of the crone is focused on inward reflection and rest. It is a time for hibernation, not a time to give to others, but to focus on filling your own cup. It is a powerful archetype representing wisdom, knowledge and experience. She is the inner voice of wisdom and that part of us that can see through bull-shit, and creates strong boundaries. Represents the wisdom of age and the freedom and the confidence that comes from it.
The message of the elders is to encourage laugh lines on your face, and celebrate the silver strands through your hair. The journey of life, the hardships, the celebrations, the learning to surrender, is the whole point of our existence.
We can connect to this part of ourselves by tapping into our intuition. Place of third eye or ajna chakra. Allows you to notice patterns that are normally hidden from your subconscious. Allows you to observe yourself like a third party observer. The brow chakra is thought of as the center for discernment, intuition and wisdom. It is also the place of artistic and psychic gifts. It is here we access the wisdom of our higher self. It is here that we befriend the crone or wise elder within.
Take Yoga Off the Mat:
Aparigraha is one of the 5 Yamas or principles/ abstinence's that a yogi observes on their journey, and can be translated as non-attachment, or non-clinging. We grasp on tight to things because they hold sentimental value, or we justify some need for it, or we fear there isn't enough for everyone. We want for more and more things because the neighbors have it, the commercials tell us we want it, we are not content with our current circumstances, or we feel a discomfort we’re seeking to numb.
We practice Aparigraha, ideally with foresight, choosing not to give into every impulse purchase or void filling attempt, and in hindsight, by letting go and giving away those things in which we do not need anymore. Aparigraha is not just about tangible stuff, but the ideas and beliefs that hold us back, the relationships that suppress or smother our flame, and the habits and routines that no longer serve us.
It is the season of letting go. We see this in the external reality with the animals gearing up for hibernation and the plant life going dormant. This will often show up for us in the “nesting'' we feel propelled to do around this time. The tidying of the home, and de-cluttering of junk, asking of yourself, ‘what no longer needs to be here?’. We use this same energy to look inward at our emotional landscape and evaluate what from the past is still lingering, old fears? resentments? Where is the holding on doing more harm than good?
We can look at the wisdom of the trees in autumn again, in the way they preserve their energy by letting go of unnecessary baggage (leaves). A tree does not weep the loss of the leaves it spent all summer growing. Letting go creates physical and mental spaciousness in our lives. Prioritize what's most important to you, and clear space to nurture those things, without the distraction STUFF. “What do I need to let go of to prioritize the things I value in my life?”
When you overlap the cycle of the seasons, with the cycle of the breath, the season of autumn syncs with the exhale.
You can think of summer being the pause at the end of the inhale, and winter being the pause at the end of the exhale. Springtime is the fresh breath in again. Exhaling is a physical expression matching the messaging of the autumn season, which urges us to withdraw or let go.
To honor the spirit of this season, This ritual will help you select specific things in your life to put to rest. Using the four elements to categorize different areas of your life, choose four experiences or issues to let go of.
Earth: the physical body and surroundings.Example: financial insecurity, health problems, and job issues
Air: the mind and intellect. Example: unresolved conflicts, obsessions, mental or creative blockages
Fire: the spirit and passion. Example: anger issues, grudges, or impulsive behavior
Water: Emotion and Empathy. Example: melancholy, anxiety, codependency, or funneling your love into the wrong places.
Ether. Spiritual connection or lack thereof. Example: Feeling disconnected, spacey, unwilling to surrender
Once you have selected these four things you wish to let go of, find the prettiest dying leaf. Take time to choose it carefully. The beauty of this leaf signifies that endings can be beautiful and even difficult things can be appreciated for their lessons.
Blow each emotion/issue/experience into the leaf, and let it float away with the current, letting water's cleansing flow carry it away from you.
Because our culture is built around constant growth, honoring these periods of dormancy and embodying them in our day to day life can be extremely hard. Unfortunately for the majority, our jobs, and responsibilities don’t stop or even slow down when the rest of nature does. Simply, incorporate however you can. No acknowledgement is too small, even just an internal understanding, a quiet nod, lets your higher self know you are tuned in. It's a time to gently look down inside ourselves and see what needs attention. Use this time rethink what it means to rest. It is time to take stock, replenish and repair.
Join me for Seasonal Flow at Tribe Yoga on Mondays!