6 Yoga Poses for beginners to relieve stress and energize you for one person.
The shift in seasons is nature’s way of reminding you to pay attention. While it seems obvious that you adjust your outer life to acclimate to the changing weather, you may often forget the shift that is necessary in the inner realm when seasons change.
Yet, aligning yourself with nature helps you to live in the path of least resistance. If you really tune in to your body and spirit, you’ll notice an inner calling for a necessity to shed in the autumn season.
As you come off the hotter, fiery months of summer, days become shorter and winds become crisper. The leaves start to turn, and the dead ones fall away. Rather than fighting to hold on to them, the trees let them go, with faith that after a period of rest, new growth will appear.
So too should you embrace the cycle of letting go, rest, and rejuvenation as the year churns onward Rather than expecting life to move at the speed of summer all year round, autumn is the time for a deliberate, yet natural unwinding. In anticipation for the socially held time of new beginnings at the New Year, autumn is the time when you begin to take stock of your life, determining what is serving you well (like a yoga regimen, dedicated meditation time, or evenings spent with friends), and what is not serving your highest good (drinking every night, going to bed too late, or succumbing to anxious thoughts).
Time to let go…
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” -Rumi
You may have heard your yoga teacher say something like, “Let go of what no longer serves you” as you move through class. While this common saying speaks the truth, have you ever really contemplated what areas of your life might benefit from this philosophical idea?
It might mean something as simple as completing an out-breath in any given moment, or as complicated and thorny as walking away from an outgrown relationship. It is worth investigating though, especially as you welcome Fall back into your life. Since you have the support of Nature on your side, consider the following ways you might shed your dead leaves at this time of year:
- Let go of grudges.
- Forgive someone
- Be easier on yourself.
- Take a break from self-improvement. Spend this season being in love with yourself exactly as you are.
- Notice what you complain about most often, then choose to either address the root of the complaint, or vow to stop complaining altogether.
- Let go of your thoughts and feelings of insecurity. Replace them with affirmations.
- Purify your body. Fast, cleanse, or do what is necessary to get your digestion on track.
- Stop trying to people-please and putting other people’s needs before your own.
- Simplify your schedule. Shed excessive socializing or over-scheduling. Prioritize.
- Clear the clutter! Throw things away. Even though you may correlate this activity with Spring, clearing away the brush in the Fall just makes sense. Weed out what’s weighing you down.
In TCM, this time of year correlates to the lung and large intestine channels, which run through the chest and arms and are associated with sadness and grief. These emotions represent our ability to balance taking in and letting go—as is represented in the lungs and large intestine.
The physiological functions of these organs align with their energetic function: the lungs govern respiration and the Large Intestine governs elimination. Disharmony of both organ systems can present as upper respiratory symptoms (runny nose, cough, hoarse voice, etc.) and constipation. The contraction of energy can present with shallow breath and slow-moving elimination, and if any sadness and grief are not processed, they will continue to constrain qi, or energy—and the emotions will persist.
However, we can use this withdrawing of energy during Fall to our advantage by taking the opportunity to review what needs to be released in our lives. We can bring harmony back to the body by slowing down, giving room for reflection, and creating a state of ease with our relationship to change.
Reminder: Yin yoga works deeply into our body with passive, longer-held poses.
Yin yoga targets the deepest tissues of the body, our connective tissues – ligaments, joints, bones, and the deep facia networks of the body – rather than the muscles (which are the physical focus of Yang yoga practices).
Get into a comfortable cross-legged seated position. Placing a folded blanket or cushion under your sits bones. Stacking each vertebra on top of each other. Settle in and take a few breaths. Sink into the earth, connecting to your breath. Let everything go. Inhale through the nose deep into the belly, filling up the rib cage, opening the intercostal muscles between each rib all the way up to the collar bones. Take one more sip of air, hold it. Exhale through the nose, letting the chest fall, knitting the ribs together, imagining the belly falling to the front of the spine. Let your mind go. Focus on your breath, only your breath. Notice how you feel in your body. Come back to your breath. Sit here for 3-10 minutes.
Restorative backbend with a blanket
Take your blanket, roll it up tightly and place it under your shoulder blades as you lie on the mat. Tips of your shoulders on the mat. You can let your arms be wideout to your sides or in a cactus shape. Open up your heart, let the energy flow out your fingertips. You can place a bolster under your knees or place your feet flat on the floor, letting your knees fall in together. Widening the breath, opening up the lungs.
You will benefit from sitting on a folded blanket or cushion for this pose. From a seated position, legs outstretched in front of you, fold forward from the hips, allowing your spine to round. You may also place a pillow under your torso. Relax your legs and allow your feet to naturally fall outwards or inwards. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 minutes. You are looking for sensations along the spine and/or in the hamstrings. Feel free to place a pillow or bolster under your knees to modify if the sensation in the hamstrings or low back is too intense. To come out of the pose, use your hands to press the floor away and slowly unroll the spine. Place your hands behind you and lean backward to release the hips before moving into your counterpose.
Puppy pose/melting heart-
From all fours, knees a little wider than hip-width apart, toes to touch, lower down onto your elbows, arms long in front of you. Place your chin or forehead onto the mat, block or cushion. Allow yourself to soften into the pose. Opening up your 3rd eye (6th chakra). Let your belly hang like a hammock. Keeping your hips up high. Soften into your shoulders. Surrender. Possibly feeling a sensation in the low back. Hold for 3-5 minutes. To come out of this pose, bring your arms under your shoulders and push back into a child’s pose.
Laying on your back, bring your knees to your chest. Place your feet flat on the floor, push up through your heels into a bridge pose. Place a block under your sacrum, lowering your sacrum, below your lower back, down onto the block. Arms long by your torso, or wideout to your sides, lifting your right leg straight into the air, breath and lift your left leg into the air, zippering up your legs together. If it easier feel free to put your legs up the wall. Close your eyes and allow yourself to sink and melt into the mat, into the pose. Feel the benefits of this gentle inversion, releasing tension the in the low back, hamstrings. Releasing anxiety, slowing down the heart. Stay here anywhere from 3-20 minutes. To get out of this pose, gently bring your knees to your chest, removing the block if you have one and rolling onto your left side in the fetal position.
Lie flat on your back. Separate your legs at least hip width distance apart. Let your feel and ankles relax and roll out. Arms can be long side your torso or one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Completely melt into the mat. Let your body and your mind be completely relaxed, allowing gravity, space and time take you away. Relaxing your face, relaxing your mind, your body, your breath. This is the most important pose of the entire sequence. Releasing the old, shedding away what no longer serves you. Allowing space for growth, healing, a new you. Stay here as long as you can. Make this as comfortable as you like. Grabbing pillows for under your head, knees, arms and hands. If you have an eye pillow or something to put over your eyes. Completely let go as the pose calms the nervous system bringing the bodymind back to homeostasis. Stay in this pose for a minimum of 5 minutes.
To get out, gentle begin to wiggle fingers and toes, slowly waking up the body. Inhale bringing your knees to your chest, rolling over to left side in a fetal position, pushing yourself up with your right arm, letting your head hang heavy coming up last. Gently flutter your eyes open and notice how you feel from the beginning of the practice.