There is an ebb and flow to our lives: the sun rises, the sun sets; tides rise and fall; the moon waxes and wanes. We can find balance in our yoga practice and in our life by connecting with nature and the cycle of the seasons. An awareness of the ebb and flow of the year can help us to know when it's a good time to push forward and take action, and when it's better to take a more contemplative approach. When you combine yoga with an awareness of the changing seasons you connect with the rhythm of the year and align your energy to that rhythm, promoting happiness, health, and harmony in every season.
Of course, modern technology has many benefits, including connecting us with communities of like-minded people all over the globe. At the same time, we can become ungrounded when we're always turned-on and tuned-in to our devices. When we disconnect from our own natural rhythms and those of the Earth, our health can suffer. The seasonal yoga approach can provide a counterbalance to this, and when we marry seasonal awareness with our yoga practice a path is revealed that leads to a saner, healthier, more balanced, and harmonious way of living.
Below are seven ways to help you to gain the confidence to bring a seasonal approach into your yoga practice and your life.
1. Tune in to the Season's Energy
Your first steps on the path of honing your seasonal awareness might be to simply work with the Wheel of the Year to develop an awareness of where you are energy-wise in the year. Then you can pinpoint whether you are in the lighter or darker half of the year, and whether the sun's energy is waxing or waning. Generally speaking, the light-half of the year, between the Winter and Summer Solstice, favors an outward focus, with an emphasis on action and outward achievements. We use the season's fiery, expansive energy to make things happen and to get things done, remembering to stay in touch with our inner wisdom as we take action in the world. Broadly speaking, the dark-half of the year, between the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, favors an inward focus, with an emphasis on contemplation and rest. We use the watery energy of the season to incubate ideas, to find rest and renewal, and to dream and plan.
2. Set Your Intention for the Season
In seasonal yoga, about every six weeks or so (to correspond with the solstices, equinoxes, and seasonal transition points), you are encouraged to reflect on how you wish to use your energy and set your intentions for the coming season. By working in this way, you can become your own year-round life coach. We use seasonal meditation questions combined with a meditative approach to access the deep wisdom of the subconscious mind and align our energy to the prevalent energy of the season. Throughout the year this gives you the opportunity to review progress in all areas of your life, and if you've gone off track, you can correct yourself and get back on course again.
3. Appreciate the Beauty of Each Season
We can get so caught up in the minutiae and busyness of our lives that we forget to look around us and appreciate the beauty of the season. To counteract this tendency, when you encounter something beautiful, stop and take time to enjoy it. Instead of habitually getting your phone out to capture the image digitally, occasionally just allow yourself the space to look and absorb the image into your mind's eye. At the end of the day a great way to prepare for sleep is to recall anything beautiful in nature you've noticed that day; it's really relaxing and sets a positive tone for bedtime and sweet dreams. Or, when you are on your yoga mat, you can recall that beautiful flower, dappled light in a forest, the sun rising or setting, white clouds on a blue sky, or apples ripening on a tree, and let the image uplift you as you do your yoga. It will also help you to strengthen your connection to the natural world around you.
4. Tap into Tree Wisdom
Trees connect us to the changing seasons and to life itself. Spending time around them is healing, and they help us to recover from illness and reduce our stress levels. Even within the frantic rush of city life we can always find a moment of peace when we rest our gaze upon a tree. Yoga is union, and trees are a living, breathing embodiment of this union. The tree embodies all of yoga's teachings, and as such make a wonderful guru. The aim of yoga is to create a state of balanced perfection by uniting complementary opposites in a harmonious union. The tree marries earth to sky and stands perfectly balanced between the two.
5. Walk Your Way to Happiness
Walking meditation can be done any time of the year, and is a great way of connecting with nature and the changing seasons. It's ideal at those times when you want to meditate but don't want to spend more time sitting. It gets you out of your head and into your body; calming and clearing the mind, relieving and releasing stress. It grounds you, strengthening your connection to your surroundings and the earth. It boosts circulation and lifts your mood. When out walking be aware of the contact your feet make with the earth, and, remember to breathe. Whether you are walking in an urban or rural setting, try to find beauty and tranquillity wherever you are.
6. Send Love and Healing to the Earth
The Earth supports and nourishes us, giving us a home, air, food, water, and shelter. At this time of environmental crisis, it's essential that we all take action to protect and conserve the Earth to ensure our survival on this planet. Alongside this activism we can also make sending love, healing, and compassion to the Earth a part of our spiritual practice. Send out a heart-felt wish that all of us might care and look after the Earth, our home, with wisdom. Recall all that you love and find beautiful about the Earth: the trees, forests, plants, animals, birds, sea, sky, rivers, and mountains. See if you can picture a world where the Earth is healed and whole again. Imagine that the planet has healed itself. Its ecosystems are healthy and well balanced again. Earth, air, and water are clean and pure. Allow yourself to enjoy this image of a world where human beings live in harmony with the environment. Choose one small action you could take today to help make this dream become a reality. The practice of sending compassion to yourself and the planet also helps to prevent burn-out for environmental activists.
7. Grow Your Yoga Garden
Like a garden, your yoga practice needs to be tended and cultivated if it is to grow and blossom. Put some time and thought into planning what you would like to grow in your yoga garden, so that it will give you pleasure all year round. Small is beautiful! When you spend five minutes a day weeding your garden you can soon clear a space for planting flowers; and the same is true of your yoga practice. Look for small ways to integrate yoga into your daily life. For example, every time you check your phone, take a mindful breath in and out. Or spend a few minutes each day reading a yoga book or checking out yoga videos for ideas. Commit to five minutes practice a day and watch your home yoga practice grow and blossom!
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how you can find balance in your yoga practice and in your life by connecting with nature and the cycle of the seasons. The beauty of the seasonal yoga approach is that it can easily be fitted into even the busiest of lifestyles. In my book, Yoga Through the Year: A Seasonal Approach to Your Practice, you'll find mindfulness exercises, visualizations, meditations, yoga poses and sequences that are specially designed for each season, and you'll also learn how to personalize the practices to fit your needs all year long.