October is undoubtedly a beautiful time of year, soon the trees will be aflame putting on a dazzling finale before their splendid frocks are blown away leaving just their naked frames to face the year's end. But that curtain call always feels deeply poignant to me, marking, as it does, the transition from summer to winter.
Periods of change like this mean we need to look afresh at all aspects of our life. The rhythm of the summer months no longer feels right and there is this need to shift our focus inward.
The new term has started at school for the kids and I too feel the need to study.
Some of you may be familiar with ayurvedic medicine; there are three doshas relating to the humours in the body; kapha which relates to mucus and lubrication, pitta, whose chief quality is heat and lastly vata, which relates to wind and is the impulse necessary to stabilize the nervous system.
It is this last dosha that is dominant in the autumn. The cold, the dryness and the movement (wind) are easily observed now and these characteristics are at the essence of vata.
Ayurvedic medicine teaches us that we need to balance the doshas for a healthy life so the food we eat is important. Warming soups and stews start to feel far more appealing than light salads as the weather gets cooler. Our yoga practice needs to be calming and warming, strengthening and consistent too, in order to counter the affects of vata.
The standing poses can be really beneficial here. They strengthen the leg muscles and joints and increase the suppleness and strength of the spine, but they also connect us to the earth and are therefore very grounding. These asanas are warming too because they tone the cardio-vascular system, increasing the supply of fresh blood to the heart.
Practiced slowly and mindfully they are perfect for now.
So, the posture that we will focus on this month is Trikonasana (triangle pose)
Stand with feet together (Tadasana – mountain pose) on a smooth uncovered floor or on a sticky mat. Press the feet evenly and firmly down so that the legs stretch up. Breathe evenly.
Inhale deeply and step or jump the feet wide. Your feet should be in line and the arms stretched out at shoulder height. Lift your chest and look straight ahead.
Turn your left toes in a little and turn your right leg fully to the right side, keep the arms stretching.
Exhale as you stretch to the right side bringing the hand to your shin or onto the floor. Raise your other arm towards the ceiling, in line with your shoulders and turn the head. Keep the back of the neck in line with the spine and take the gaze towards your raised thumb. Still breathing evenly, stay in the pose for 20-30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
It's a basic pose but it pays dividends to both novice and experienced practitioners. We can all find our own rhythm in the pose, working without over-exertion, feeling that connection to the earth and breathing evenly.
Too much vata plays havoc with the nervous system leaving you feeling scattered and unsettled (like those leaves blown from the trees) but you can counteract its affects!
Have a good practice (and then perhaps, a hearty bowl of soup!) and embrace the changing of the seasons.