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October 19, 2013

Flow with the Seasons: Autumn Edition. ~ Michael Hetherington

 “Those who flow as life flows, know they need no other force” ~ Lao Tzu 

There is no doubt that energy moves through us differently according to the time of day, the climatic conditions, the attitudes we harbor and the cycles of the moon, as well as the natural flow of seasons—so it makes sense that our yoga practice reflects these changes.

Throughout Chinese medicine and Taoist thought, the aim is to find and establish harmony by aligning with the natural flow of life. To live the path of least resistance means that one is aligned with nature and with the divine expression of life itself. These ideas are not limited to Chinese thought and can be found throughout Ayurvedic medicine (said to be the oldest medicine on the planet), yogic science and many other traditions and cultures who place great importance on learning from the changes in nature.

In the western world, we are familiar with the four seasons—spring, winter, summer and autumn. However, in the Taoist understanding of time and change they devised five seasons: the extra one is late summer and refers to the late part of summer when it becomes much more humid.

Within Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist cosmology, the five-element theory was most likely conceived around 476 – 221 BC. This was one of the first developments of science, when they came to realize that the phenomena was created through the interacting relationships of natural elements and was not, therefore, the act of gods who either showered gifts from above or wreaked havoc on the earth.

This was a revolutionary breakthrough in the way they viewed life and the process of disease. Over time, through their observations, they focused on five primary elements and their inter-relationships within all physical phenomena. They also drew connections between these elements and the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of the human being. This theory did not die out through time. Instead, it became even more solidified into the theory and practice of traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism, making it one of the oldest and most field-tested theories and medicines on the planet.

Autumn

Autumn (Metal Element) is the transitional period from the expansive energy of summer to the more introverted energy of winter. Because we are moving away from the energy of summer, it’s a time to start slowing things down, to tie up loose ends, refine one’s character and let go of the things, ideas and goals that don’t serve us any longer.

The organs associated with autumn are the lungs and large intestine—both these organs play a large part in the detoxification of the body. This is also relevant to the detoxification of the mind: meaning it’s a time to let go of any grudges or things that tie us to our past and clear some space for being in the now.

Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Signs and Symptoms (Oriental medicine)

Lung & Large Intestine in balance:

  • Rarely affected by colds or flus
  • Wake early
  • Have regular bowel movements (morning before breakfast is the best time)
  • Bowel movements not loose or constipated
  • Able to let go of the past and grudges
  • Prefer structure and organization
  • Quality in work; refinement
  • Integrity is very important
  • Can access and enjoy the ‘present moment’
  • Affected by grief and sadness but able to accept it
  • Powerful and pleasant voice
  • Healthy skin

Lung & Large Intestine out of balance:

  • Anxiety, shallow breathing, panic attacks
  • Self doubt, loss of spiritual connection
  • Gets colds and flu easily
  • Constipated, (once a day is desired) or regular loose stools (other organs are also involved)
  • Structure turns into rigidity
  • Repressed emotions: especially grief, sadness, bitterness, regret
  • Unable to let go
  • Attachment to “things”
  • Skin rashes, boils, dry skin, etc (due to toxins unable to be eliminated)
  • Sinus problems
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Respiratory conditions like asthma
  • Easily tired
  • Weak voice
  • Sweating

Asanas and Yoga Practices for Autumn

The main aim with the autumn asana practice is to open the side of the rib cage by extending the arms overhead, activating the deltoids, strengthening the legs and stimulating the diaphragm. Try incorporating these postures into an asana practice during autumn to stimulate the associated organs and meridians.

  •  Down Facing Dog—Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Extended Side Angle Pose—Utthita Parsva Konasana
  • Horse Stance (with arms pushing Qi out to the side)
  • Horse Stance (with arms up in prayer)
  • Standing Back Bend   
  • Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana  (with palms up)
  • Triangle Pose—Trikonasana
  • Variations of Wild Thing—Camatkarasana
  • Sitting Side Bend—Parivrttta Janu Sirsasana
  • Reverse Plank—Purvottanasana
  • Lions Breath
  • Alternate nostril breathing pranayama
  • Self massage of the internal organs

Other Practices for Autumn

  • Early morning walks to bring fresh Qi/Prana energy into the lungs.
  • Cover and protect the neck area from wind.
  • Refine our character: identify what qualities we wish to cultivate in ourselves and let go of anything that may be holding us back, for example: memories, opinions, people, places, fears, worries.
  •  Breath awareness meditation/present moment awareness cultivation.
  •  Metal is about structure so re-affirm structure: be consistent and focus on the long-term goals over the short term highs. Be disciplined but not rigid.
  • Tie up loose ends and then let them go.
  • Start withdrawing from excessive activity or over-commitment.
  • Strip away the non-essentials. Refine and articulate.
  •  Go to bed a little earlier than usual. Always best to get to bed before 11 PM.

May the force be with you!

 

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 Assistant Ed: Bronwyn Petry/Ed: Sara Crolick

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andrewdpapas Oct 21, 2013 1:27am

very informative post

Catrina Oct 20, 2013 3:41pm

This was great. I am doing my teacher training and have a 20min class this Thursday that I'm teaching. Some of these poses I had in my routine already, great to know they all tie into Autumn. And you gave me a couple others to fit in. Great article all around.

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Michael Hetherington

Michael Hetherington (L.Ac) is an acupuncturist, yoga teacher and author from Australia. He specializes in pain management, meditation for beginners, drug addiction recovery and drinking cups of tea. He has currently writing a series of books on “Oriental Yoga” which explores each of the five elements and seasons. Inspired by the teachings of many, he has learned that a lighthearted and nurturing approach to life serves best. He can currently be found in South East Asia or online.