30 Sep Get Grounded: A Yoga Sequence for Fall
Originally posted on Well TO Do
September 30, 2016
Every fall season I am amazed by how nature instinctively guides us back in to somewhat of a routine. The days start to shorten, children go back to school, the leaves start to change and fall from the trees, and we feel the carefree days of summer start to slip through our fingers. Fall is a time (at least for those of us who experience the four seasons), where we, too, instinctively want to hibernate and slow down.
Life in 2016, however, might not be compatible with this age-old human intuition. We often find ourselves with a packed calendar, despite the fact that we promised we would make ourselves a priority come fall. So how can you balance life’s demands during a time where we are called to stay under the covers for an extra 15 minutes or savour a cup of tea while we cozy up with a good book? Connecting to yourself and making decisions from a grounded place, will help you to prioritize what needs to be done, all while remaining true to yourself.
Fall offers us a chance to do exactly what mother nature does…get back to our roots. According to Ayurveda Medicine (a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent), fall is associated with vata. Rather than the light and airy feeling that summer offers (pitta), fall brings us back to earth. If we balance our diets and activities to match up with what is going on around us, we’ll find harmony as we transition with the seasons. Perhaps this is why soups, stews and root vegetables feel so comforting this time of year.
As you take a look at your daily routine, see if you can discover places where you can make small adjustments that allow you to feel more in-tune with yourself and welcome in a sense of balance. Here are a few foundational yoga poses that can help you feel firmly rooted while juggling what’s coming at you.
Mountain Pose | Tadasana
Reminder: As the foundation to many yoga poses, focus on the alignment of the body – ankles under knees, knees under hips, hips under shoulders – creating optimal alignment in your body.
Practice: This pose is a great baseline to get to know your body, understand your alignment, and to quiet and centre yourself. —- Place your feet hip width apart (about 2 fists fists width between the inside edges of your feet). As you look down, line up the centre of your ankle with the base of your second toe.
Root all four corners of each foot into the mat.
Draw your inner thighs towards one another and reach them back, wide and apart until you feel your bum stick out a little behind you. Then root your tailbone to the ground as your belly draws up and in.
Lengthen through all four sides of your waist. Imagine growing your torso out of your waist as your front, back and side bodies find length to grow you taller.
Broaden through your collar bones and draw your shoulder blades closer together, as your palms turn toward the front of your mat. Reach your fingers towards the earth.
Grow long through the back of your neck (the chin may tuck in towards your throat). Feel as if the crown of your head is reaching up towards the sky.
Hold here for at least 5 breaths, grounding through your heels and growing tall through your head.
Tree Pose | Vrksasana
Reminder: If it is challenging to balance in this pose, take your hands to the back of a chair or use one hand against the wall.
Practice: Just like the trees outside, this pose is grounding, as you root down to rise up. It provides a strong sense of connection and stabilization. Balancing poses are great to challenge the mind as well as increase mental focus. —- With your feet together, place your hands on your hips. Keep the hips square and let your right knee drape out to the side (usually about 2 on the face of a clock).
Keep the toes on the floor or start to walk the right foot up the left leg. Be mindful to keep the hips level and avoid pressing the foot directly into the knee.
Press your right foot into your left leg as your left leg presses again the right foot. Keep your tailbone rooted to the ground. With the hip bones facing forward and the right knee drawing slightly behind you, feel the outer hips hugging in towards the mid line of the body. Find length in your spine and reach the crown of your head up towards the ceiling.
Options for the arms/hands: 1. Keep your hands on your hips for the most stability; 2. Bring the palms together in front of your heart; 3. Reach the arms overhead, with the shoulders relaxing away from the ears.
If you find balancing challenging, you can rest your hands on a chair or turn sideways and use the wall for support. Don’t worry about bringing the arms overhead as this will come with time.
Hold 5-8 breaths.
Repeat on the left side (with the left knee coming to 10 on the face of a clock).
Warrior II Pose | Virabhadrasana II
Reminder: Play around with the alignment of your front heel and back foot. Start with heel to heel alignment and work on bringing the front heel to align with the arch of the back foot.
Practice: Use this pose to strengthen your legs, ankles, shoulders and arms. This is a powerful pose that helps increase mental and physical stamina, much needed during this transitional time. Turn to the left and take a large step towards the back with your left foot. Left foot is parallel to the front heel or turned in at 45-60 degree angle.
From your hip, open your right thigh (knee and toes going along for the ride) and bring your knee directly over your ankle.
Draw the knee to the outer edge of your right foot until you feel your right sit bone wrap underneath you. Press through the outside edge of your left foot.
Root your tailbone to the ground and grow long though your spine. Turn your chest towards the left and take your arms out wide. Stack your shoulders directly over your hips. Soften your shoulders away from your ears.
As you hold here, gaze out over the right finger tips.
Hold for 5-8 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Child’s Pose | Balasana
Reminder: Make the hips/heels connection first, then start to lower the forehead down.
Practice: This pose helps when you need to centre yourself or block out distractions. By practicing this pose often, you develop a baseline to check in with yourself. Child pose also helps to bring length to the spine. —- With your big toes touching and your knees open wide to the side edges of your mat, settle your hips onto your heels.
Keep the hips heavy and then bring the chest towards your mat. You may be able to bring your forehead down to the mat. If you feel your hips lift away from the heels, bring the forehead to a block or on top of stacked fists.
With each inhale, feel the belly press against the thighs and with each exhale, feel the hips settle towards the heels.
Hold for 5-8 breaths.