As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant is change.” Autumn reminds us that our bodies, minds, and surroundings are always developing. It focuses on the impermanence of life, emphasizing how important it is to embrace the present. When we do, we can savor what we have before it is gone. Fall is a time of transition—and transformation.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however, Fall can also be a time associated with transformation, transition, sadness, and grief—and yoga can be an amazing way to cope with these varied emotions. In TCM, this time of year correlates to the lung and large intestine channels, which run though 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 aligns 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. The course I just took through Janet Stone Yoga, called the Anatomy of Emotion, went into depth on how the body responds, ways we can nurture and heal, and use movement both Chi Gong and Yoga to help facilitate our understanding of the emotional body through the physical body.
As temperatures drop, leaves change color and fall. Autumn illustrates the beauty of letting go. It doesn’t have to be considered morbid or morose. Instead, we can apply this concept to our inner egos and patterns of greed and pride. The idea of letting go also stresses the temporary nature of everything around us. As nature and the seasons demonstrate, life is a series of cycles and changes. Through the example of trees, we see the introduction of yin energy as the energy begins to recede, bringing nourishment back within. The leaves change color at this contraction of energy in preparation for winter. The tree, no longer needing the leaves to bring nourishment, are released. The tree lets go.
Day and night are the same length during the autumnal equinox. As a result, ancient cultures have always associated this day with the concept of balance. The sun also enters Libra, which is symbolized by a pair of balanced scales. Autumn grants us a chance to harmonize with the Earth and tap into the balance within us. Play with balance poses.
The autumn season offers us a chance to reconnect with ourselves as we preserve our safe havens or homes. We tend to retreat indoors, we exercise self-protection by wearing layers and thicker fabrics. We also tend to focus on our health by boosting our immunity through habits and nutrition. Ultimately, autumn doubles as practice for heightened awareness of your self and surroundings.
Enjoy this time of reflecting, shedding that which no longer serves us, and allow time to retreat inward. What grows from this time might just be glorious.
And maybe think about that Pumpkin Latte to go with that cute sweater.