A Short Yoga Practice for the Fall
Try this fall yoga practice designed by Gretchen Spiro to honor the earth’s changes
Give yourself approximately 20 minutes for this fall yoga sequence of 10 yoga postures meant to honor the earth. Place special attention on full, relaxed breathing. Just as the trees shed their leaves in the fall, reflect upon what you can release in your life—what has served it’s purpose and is ready to be let go. Draw attention to grounding your energy through your structure so that each posture helps you feel firm and steady into the earth. Align your intention for your health and well-being.
Sit back on your heels, allowing your forehead to rest on the ground or on a folded blanket. This position stretches the back and hips, and breath naturally spreads into the lumbar region. The spine naturally lengthens with each exhalation. Draw your attention inwardly, letting go of everything except for your gift to yourself: taking this special time for yoga practice. [10 breaths]
Reach your arms forward, placing your outstretched palms shoulder distance apart. Like a big yawn, straighten your legs and draw your hips up and back away from your hands. Your body will be in an inverted V. Feel how hands and feet connect with the ground, and root your structure so that the strength in the pose comes from all parts of the body working in harmony. This inverted posture (head lower than the heart) calms the nerves, brings more blood to the brain, and helps to offset the aging effects of gravity. [15 breaths]
Tree Pose with Arms Raised
Stand on one leg, with the other knee bent to the side and the foot on the upper inner thigh. Press the foot of the bent leg into the straight leg. Reach your arms up, as a tree reaches for the sky. Unclench your standing foot, as if you had roots reaching deep down. Release excess tension, standing strong in your center. Practice next to a wall to gain more stability. [5 breaths each side]
From a lunge, with the front leg bent with knee over heel, and the back leg straight, raise both arms overhead, with palms facing each other. This stretches the chest and elongates the spine, stimulating the lungs and invigorating your entire system. Repeat several times, stepping back into Downward Dog as you change sides. [5 breaths each side]
Lying on your belly, form a base of support with your hands clasped, elbows shoulder width, and your forearms on the floor. Raise your torso into a straight line, like a pushup, with your weight on forearms and balls of feet (or forearms and knees.) Keep the body straight, without lifting or sagging the hips. This posture tones the entire body, integrating the core muscles. This posture is useful for cultivating awareness of deep core stability, which is important to counteract sluggishness. [Practice several “sets”—holding for as long as you can maintain steady breathing]
Standing Forward Bend
With feet hip width apart, fold forward from the hips and place your fingers on a block or on the floor. While firming the muscles of your legs, release your entire torso to the draw of gravity. Feel the stretch of your legs, back, and neck. As you bring awareness to your breath, you may be able to feel your spine gently rise and fall—responding to the natural cycle of your internal rhythm. [10 breaths]
Lie on your back with heels near your hips. Interlace your hands under your hip, raise your pelvis and roll your shoulders under. You will form a gentle bridge from your shoulders to your knees. Lengthen your tailbone towards the back of your bent knees, creating a rainbow shape in the spine. This posture is a wonderful way to open the chest, allowing for more expansive breathing, and counteracting the effects of sitting. This posture stimulates the endocrine glands in the neck, supporting hormonal balance. [10 breaths, 2x]
Seated Simple Twist in Easy Pose
Sitting cross-legged with the hips on a block or folded blanket, rotate towards the right, placing the left hand on the right knee and the right hand behind. Guide your spine to draw upright and rotate like a barber pole. Twists are inherently releasing and cleansing, perfect for the fall season. [5-10 breaths, each direction]
Supported Chest Opener
Lie on your back with a rolled towel or blanket placed horizontally to your spine behind your heart, just below your shoulder blades. Your arms can stretch outwards to the sides, above the roll. In this restorative/supported posture, bring your attention to the subtle stretching of the intercostal muscles (between your ribs.) Bring awareness to your breath and gently opening your heart and lung area. [25 breaths]
This posture is vital; it allows for integration, rest, and rejuvenation. Lie on your back with legs straight, with a rolled blanket under the knees, or with the calves on a chair. Place the body symmetrically and cover yourself with a blanket. Offering the body, mind and spirit dedicated time to be, and not to do, is especially important in this season. Allow your senses to quiet and draw inwardly, and enjoy your experience of being with yourself as you relax into stillness. [Rest for at least 5 minutes]
Complete your wonderful fall yoga practice by rolling to your side and sitting upright for a few breaths. Cultivate a quality of being with yourself that is steady and centered.
Notes: The number of suggested breaths is approximate—judge how long you stay in each posture by how you feel—look for a sense of challenge without strain. Consult a qualified yoga teacher or yoga book (I recommend 30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Lasater) for detailed instructions regarding alignment for each of the yoga poses. Practice with care and respect for your body.
Fall yoga practice sequence created by Gretchen Spiro, Women’s Quest Yoga Instructor