Yoga Perspective

In the Chinese system, August and September have the distinction of being a fifth season.

"The forces of Autumn create dryness in Heaven and metal on Earth. They create the lung organ in the body, the skin and the colour white and pungent flavour… We come into contact with the emotion grief and the capacity to weep…" (Inner Classic).

As yogis, we know the actions in the body/mind of gathering inward and pulling together. Everything in our bodies and in Nature contracts and its essence moves inward and downward during the seasonal shift.

How are we to support the inevitable changes that we experience as light fades and inner focus sharpens?

The body has usually lightened a little over the height of summer. We feel a little closer to the bone then and so our muscles can tighten more readily along the bone shafts. Gripping the muscles onto the bones of the legs and arms is a pleasing as well as a stabilizing action. Our yoga practice is grounded and unwavering when the bones are aligned in a balanced relationship to gravity. Take the stabilizing effects of muscles tightening to the bones into your standing yoga postures.

Our skin is usually freer in summer and more pliable over the flesh of the body. Spreading the skin and softening its grip on the flesh is a form of opening, releasing and moving the energy of the body in a widespread fashion. Keep the skin broad, soft and descending over the skeletal body as you practice forward bends and twists.

The lungs register the seasonal changes from heat and dryness to moisture with the purging effects of colds. To strengthen the lungs, practice gentle breathing through the nose in your yoga practice. If you notice that you are holding the breath, release it gently. If the breath becomes ragged and disturbed in poses which challenge you, stop, release the breath and then continue your practice. BKS Iyengar says that the breath is the sound that the nervous system makes. If your breath sounds uneasy, your nervous system is stressed.

It is difficult to maintain normal breathing while watching the breath. Immediately the ego jumps in and tries to change or fix it. So take the time necessary to let the ego relax and allow the breath to come and go in a normal fashion; neither more nor less than the usual volume. Then observe if the inhalations and exhalations are of equal duration. Notice if the breath appears to come into both sides of the trunk evenly.

Stop during the course of daily life and observe the breath. It is normal that it might change in its depth and duration as the day progresses. Be curious about it and allow for those changes as patterns of breathing present themselves.

Oftentimes our yoga practice will surface emotions that have been lodged in the body. It is common to tighten the body when pain occurs and so we might be holding suffering in the muscles and joints. You might have observed the hunch of shoulders and inward collapse of the chest in one who has been protecting the heart. When the same person begins to open the front body and release the clenching around the heart an emotional release may occur .

A friend explained that, as children, his brother had often hit him on the upper arms and shoulders. He was saddened by the attacks and often hunched his shoulders to protect himself. When he broadens his chest, spreads the collar bones and lifts his sternum, he feels free and vulnerable at the same time. Over time as he releases the old patterns of holding in the body, the muscles, bones and soft tissue will create newness and freedom.