By Maya Howard, Contributing Wellness Blogger (@MayasHealthyDay)
Summer has come, and summer has gone! In a few days we’ll be entering a new season of pumpkin spiced latte weather, but more importantly of physical and mental changes as the days grow shorter and nights get colder. Whether you are simply settling into another seasonal shift, or are in the midst of some major life change, transition is bound to affect how you are feeling in body and mind. An amazing tool that we can rely on to guide us throughout this time is yoga. By flowing through the following guided sequence, you will find a sense of stability, calm, and comfort during any time of change!
How to practice this Yoga for Seasonal Transitions sequence:
Hold each pose for 10-20 deep breaths before carefully moving your body into the next posture. If you are familiar with basic yoga sequences, feel free to use a Sun Salutation to transition from one pose to the next.
Pose #1: Lotus Pose
How to do it: Sit on your yoga mat, either with the soles of your feet touching together or with ankles crossed. Lift up each fleshy part of your glutes and sit directly on your tailbone. This creates direct contact with your root chakra (located at the sacrum) to the floor, creating an ultimate sense of physical grounding. Place both hands in your lap and close your eyes. Take a slow inhale through your nose and powerful exhale through an open mouth. With each exhale, feel your body grow heavy and imagine any anxious thoughts being pulled out of your mind and into your body, where they are now calm and safe.
Physical Benefits: Releases muscle tension from the face, neck, shoulders, hips, quads, and knees.
Mental Benefits: The feeling of being connected to the earth allows you to feel physically supported, leaving your mind free to calm, re-center, and free from negative thoughts and mental to-do lists.
Pose #2: Cat/Cow Pose
How to do it: Start balanced on hands and knees. Add extra support from a blanket under the knees as needed, and balance on the fists instead of hands if you have wrist pain. On an inhalation of breath, tuck your toes under, arch your back, raise your chest, and raise your gaze forward (but not all the way to the ceiling, to avoid neck craning). On the exhalation, flatten the tops of your feet into the mat, drop your head to gaze towards your belly button, and round your back deeply. Continue to move through each pose, arching and rounding the spine for several rounds.
Physical Benefits: Encourages natural movement of the spine, strengthens core muscles, releases muscle tension from the neck and shoulders.
Mental Benefits: The heavy balance of your bodyweight into your hands and feet coupled with the easy flow of the spine during movement reminds you to stop fighting the natural transitions of life and instead learn to flow with change.
Pose #3: Puppy Pose
How to do it: Start balanced on hands and knees with the tops of your feet planted flat on the mat. Keep hips stacked over the knees and extend your arms out until they are completely straight. Allow your forehead to rest on the mat and if possible, your chest also. Relax, let your heart melt into the floor, and let go of any bodily tension.
Physical Benefits: Stretches the spine and releases tension caused by sitting for long periods of time. Reduces muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Improves posture.
Mental Benefits: When you feel stressed or anxious from transitions, you are likely to develop physical tension within your body. As you totally relax your body in puppy pose, your physical tension, which often carries fearful thoughts within it, should release and leave you with a calm mind.
Pose #4: Supine Spinal Twist
How to do it: Lay on your back with arms stretched wide in a “T” shape and feet lifted off the ground, knees floating above your hips. Take a deep inhalation, and on the exhalation drop your knees to the left and bring them the rest on the mat. Rotate your head to look towards your right hand. You should feel a gentle twist in your spine and stretch from your top hip to your neck, extended shoulder, and arm. Take several deep breathes here, then complete the same stretch on the other side. (For more of a stretch, stack your right knee over your left before resting your knees on the mat.)
Physical Benefits: Stretches abdominal muscles and massages internal organs. Encourages healthy rotation of the spine. Reduces muscle tension in the glutes, neck, shoulder, and arm muscles.
Mental Benefits: As this pose reduces physical tension caused by poor posture and stress, it calms the mind. The weight of gravity invites you to be heavy in your body and feel supported by the earth, further balancing your root chakra.
Pose #5: Happy Baby Pose
How to do it: Lay on your back and extend your legs into the air. Bend your knees enough to allow you to gently wrap your index and middle fingers around each big toe. Allow legs to remain open wide, and as you exhale let go of any tightness and tension in your hips.
Physical Benefits: Elongates the spine, strengthens the abdominal muscles, stretches the hip flexors, inner thighs, and hamstrings. Reduces muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Reduces tension in the lower back and relieves lower back pain.
Mental Benefits: This pose invite you to feel fully supported by the earth and release mental tensions as you release physical ones. It allows us to regress back to our worry-free infant days and be open to the natural life lessons that we are here to experience.
Pose #6: Reclining Bound Angle Pose
How to do it: Use this as your final resting pose in this sequence. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the mat. Allow the soles of your feet to touch and let your knees fall away from each other. (If this is too much stretch on your groin and inner thighs, support your knees with pillows, yoga blocks, or blankets.) Gently pick up your head with your hands, elongate your neck, and gently place your head back down. Rest one hand on your heart and one hand on your navel. Close your eyes, relax your tongue away from the roof of your mouth, and gaze at the dark space between your eyebrows. Allow every inhale to fill your belly then chest with breath, and every exhale to push the breathe throughout your entire body. If you feel any remaining tension in your body, direct your breath to that area and relax it. If your mind wanders, kindly acknowledge the thought and send it away.
Physical Benefits: Stretches the hip flexors, inner thighs, quads, and hips. Reduces tension in the lower back and relieves lower back pain. Reduces muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.
Mental Benefits: In this pose and any final resting pose (savasana), the physical and mental distractions are extremely minimal, leaving your mind and body open to receiving guidance and wisdom from your subconscious mind. The focus on intentional breathing in this pose increases body awareness and gives you a final reminder of where your body holds physical tension when your mind is not at ease. Practicing savasana often will result in ease of mind, reducing mental stress, anxiety, and depression.
After this yoga practice you may feel heavy and grounded in your physical body, but also free of muscle tension and mental stress. Feel free to practice this sequence once a day, once a week, or whenever a seasonal or life transition leaves your body and mind needing some extra TLC!