“…if you do know what is taught by plants and weather, you are in on the gossip and can feel truly at home. The sum of a field’s forces become what we call very loosely the ‘spirit of the place.’ To know the spirit of a place is to realize that you are a part of a part and that the whole is made or parts, each of which in a whole. You start with the part you are whole in.” – Gary Snyder
Yoga and Ayurveda are the ancient lenses modern practitioners utilize to observe and translate the movements of energy in the body. In a busy householder’s rhythm, or the fast-paced lifestyle of many teachers and practitioners, we need simple moments of balance to reorient ourselves towards wellness. These in-depth practices can support the design of inspired and intuitive personal rituals to transition gracefully from season to season.
Yoga teaches us intuitively that the template for healing in our bodies has already been placed, and in many ways becomes a journey towards finding more grace and stability within our inner experience. We become more comfortable in the conversation between our inner bodies and our outer worlds, and learn to proactively address imbalances based on feeling and response.
As we transition from the stillness and fortification of winter, we enter into the grandeur of the expansive, shedding energy of spring. We move towards the lighter, warmer, and more active time of the year.
During winter, like animals in hibernation, our bodies tend to become more heavy and our digestive fire is strong to keep the energy storehouses of the body supported. This extra density in our personal energy is what is necessary to withstand the colder climates for most people. Spring is a time of renewal and reactivation, of both our physical and mental energy. We can intentionally ease our way into spring by slowly accelerating our dynamic movement practices, bringing fresh circulation to the heart and digestive organs, and maintaining the digestive fire that winter has cultivated while clearing the residual stagnation the slower, cooler months have created. The most important thing to remember is to make each decision with balance in mind. Gradual, intentional change in self care is what creates consistency and resiliency for our immune systems. Be conscientious that the shedding effect of spring can bring up dis-ease, and choose from the practices below to support a peaceful shift in your body-mind to spring.
Eat light and well spiced foods
To create more inner lightness, we can shift towards foods that are less oily, sweet, and salty to more bitter, astringent, and pungent foods to clarify any residual physical or energetic heaviness to our body. We can also stave off the final chill of winter by keeping light, dry, and warm foods in our diet. Think warm steamed veggies, berries and light, easily digestible greens. Integrate more light smoothies, broths, and warming teas with circulatory stimulants like saffron and chai blends.
Try Bhastrika Pranayama
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Observe the natural expansion and lift of your inhalation and the natural release and contraction of your exhalation. For 30 seconds:
Inhale deeply drawing air in with a constricted throat (you will create a whooshing sound) and let your chest lift and expand in a more pronounced way
Exhale in a controlled push like a bellows stoking a fire, and allow your chest to depress and your abdominals to help press the breath out.
Sit and observe the effect of this deeper fire-stoking breath for 5 minutes
Enjoy relaxing, supported heart openers
Place two foam blocks towards the top end of your mat. One block, set at it’s highest level, will be a support for your head. The second block, set at it’s medium height, will be placed directly beneath the shoulder blades at the widest part of your ribcage. Rest back onto the blocks and find a comfortable position for your arms to rest. You can extend your legs out, keep your knees bent and feet flat on the earth, or enter into a supine butterfly position of the legs.
Practice 10 breaths focusing on expanding your breath into the top 1/3 of your chest, between your sternum and your collar bones, another 10 breaths directing your expansive inhalations into the middle of your abdomen (the space between sternum and navel) around the solar plexus, 10 breaths focusing on moving the breath to the lowest part of the belly below the navel, and finish with 5 clearing breaths filling the entire abdomen and mindfully exhaling away any feelings of holding or stagnation from the belly and chest.
Ground into spring with simple, expansive movement meditation
Find a rhythmic practice that works well for your body, great practices for spring include daily walks, cycling, dance, and steady paced vinyasa style yogic flow. Try a few different practices and observe which experiences gives you the most energy, and the greatest feeling of clarity and peace mentally and emotionally. Do not work yourself to exhaustion, but rather focused on a practice that gently activates your body. As spring progresses, move towards more precise, energetic practices like Qi Gong or Yoga Nidra to continue your balanced rhythm into summer.
Practice weekly self massage
Encourage fluidity in your body using light oil blends like sweet almond or sunflower oil mixed with warming, revitalizing, and stimulating essential oils like Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Frankincense. Devote 15 minutes of your week to anoint your body with oil through the practice of self massage. Avoid self massage during menstruation, or if you are feeling any signs of illness or discomfort in the body (high accumulation of toxins is often seen with a thick white coating on the tongue). Massage yourself in a slow, rhythmic flow, with more pressure as each stroke moves in the direction of your heart. Turn on a comfortably steamy shower, and let the oils soak into your skin as you wash your hair and face, if possible, just apply cleansers to the ‘important’ parts on this day to let the healing oils stay on your skin. Pat your body dry and wear loose clothing. This is a great practice for a day of the week where you can relax.
Join Devon Sweeney on retreat in Iceland this August 2019.