The Seasons of Yoga
Maintaining Practice as the Seasons Shift
As the time of year shifts, we tend to get antsy. Even if we are in a part of the country that doesn’t have large transitions in the weather, we can still see the changes happening all around us. Decorations in our favorite stores change, the flavors of food available in our markets and at our favorite restaurants modify to reflect the availability of certain foods, and we start thinking about the holidays that are imbued within the coming months.
With each seasonal transformation, we have new demands on our schedule, claiming our precious time. We never want to give up those things that we know are good for us, but all too often, something has to give. As each new challenge arises, the start of the school year, the beginning of the winter holiday season, the start of summer and increased travel plans, we are met with the challenge of how to maintain our yoga practice as a constant in our lives while everything around it is changing.
Each and every one of us gives into the occasional skipped class. Taking our best friends to dinner on their birthday, or a work obligation that we just can’t get out of – these things happen. The key to preserving our practice throughout the seasons comes with remembering a few key components to practice.
First – it has never been too long since you’ve come to the mat. No matter if you had to skip a day because of an office party, or a week because of a vacation, or a season because of taking care of a loved one that fell ill, the mat is always there, it’s always part of you. Your body might rebel and give you a hard time if it’s been a while, but we have to remember that just as autumn is the season of hard work, finding and storing up energy for the long winter ahead, pushing through these discomforts is good for us. Not only are they are reminder that we are doing something good for ourselves, they are actually actively strengthening us, forming new muscles in the bodies we carry. If we can find beauty in the hard parts of coming to the mat, remembering that the dormancy of the trees mean that beautiful fall foliage is just around the corner, we can too find comfort in knowing that yoga is always there for us, ready to welcome us back.
Second – there is no ‘perfect’ in yoga. Yoga is about practice, about betterment, and about growth. We can use the seasonal shifts to remind us of that. Just as in winter, the plants pull back and become dormant, this too is part of their growth, making it possible for their bodies to be stronger and become heartier. Sometimes we need to accept the laws of nature in our own lives. Those days or weeks in which we are struggling to bring ourselves to the mat have a purpose in our lives, just as winter is a season that looks dreary, but is making way for the allowance of new growth.
Third – Yoga opens us up to new success. Just as spring gives way to new life, so does yoga. We have all accepted there is a gaining of physical strength in yoga, but remembering personal growth is just as important will keep us coming back, class after class. Through yoga we cultivate all the progress we are making, not just with strengthening our bodies, but also shifting our perspectives and bettering our mindsets. Spring is a time for renewal, and often a time of excitement because we are emerging from a cocoon of protection from the harsher elements of winter. Yoga too is about renewal of spirit and a readiness for that which is to come.
Fourth – Yoga, just as the different seasons and holidays, is full of variance. Finding the style of yoga that best fits your personal journey is one of the most fitting ways to let yoga enrich your life. No matter your personality or skill set, there is a yoga class that can help you grow. Hot yoga lights us up, just like the flurry of activity that seems to sweep us up in the summer months. Yin Yoga reminds us of the importance of connection, just as autumn is the connection between heat and cold. Iyengar Yoga focuses on foundation and strength, just as winter reminds us to come back into ourselves and find our centers for a while before going out to explore again. Ashtanga Yoga is fast paced, moving quickly from pose to pose, while also remembering to breath, similarly to the way that all the new growth in spring seems to happen at once be needs resources. Just as the seasons shift, we too can find the best place for us within each time of year. Our yoga practice doesn’t have to stop just because our schedules change, in fact it can help the transition be even more fulfilling.
By Jes Niemiec