The season of fall calls us for a change and detox—physically, mentally, spiritually. These yoga practices including asanas, pranayama, and yogic cleanse will help you move through it with ease.
Growing through the change
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu.
Change is hard and most of us resist any change. Even though change may be beneficial, many of us struggle to change – to change careers, cities, old and bad habits, to leave an unhealthy relationship, to go back to school. Feeling anxious and stressed during the time of change is very common.
Ironically, it is only through changing ourselves that we can remain grounded through life’s transitions.
Fall is the season of transitioning and change
If we observe and spend time with nature during this beautiful season, it can teach us life-transforming lessons of acceptance, balance, letting go, surrender, and reset. If we can adopt these in times of change, the change will be enjoyable.
Yoga is the journey of the self. If we connect our heart and soul to our practice, it can help us to learn these life lessons and to embrace changes with a lot more ease.
1. Accept change and impermanence
Every autumn we revel in the beauty of the fall colors. The changing fall foliage leaves us wonderstruck, reminding us that change is the nature of life and change is beautiful. Admiring the changing leaves helps us be open to the surprises of nature and the inevitable twists and turns in our life. It also means having faith that some supreme power always protects us in all the transitions of life.
Autumn, with its falling leaves and bare branches, remind us of the fleeting nature of all things. When we contemplate fall’s changes, we grow more appreciative of the beauty that surrounds us. How gracefully the trees accept the changes that they undergo in the natural cycle of life. “When you can appreciate beauty in every inch of the creation, that is yoga.” – says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Sri Sri School of Yoga.
The Breath of Joy teaches us to embrace all changes happily and with a smile. It energizes our body and uplifts our spirit.
2. Stay balanced and grounded
On the autumn equinox, day and night are of equal length. This signals the need to balance light and darkness within us. Far too often, we fear the dark and adore only the light.
One of the most popular definitions of yoga according to Bhagavad Gita, a 5000 year old text on yoga, is “Samatvam Yoga Uchayate”, which translates to “being equanimous is Yoga”. Being in balance – open to light as well as dark – is yoga. Not only is light a welcomed part of life, but we can gratefully acknowledge the darkness as a place of silent nurturance, reflection, and slow and steady growth.
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose) and Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) are wonderful poses to find this balance and help us accept all the challenges and changes with grace and dignity. The winds of change blow strong in the fall, but if we can learn to be steady and well grounded like a tree, and also sway with the wind without resisting it, we will be resilient like a warrior. While the tree pose teaches us to get the right balance between steadiness and swaying, the warrior pose teaches us to be ready for everything. What gives strength to the tree against the wind is its roots. While pursuing our dreams, challenging times may come. But if we remain rooted with basic human values, they will provide us necessary support and strength to sail through the difficult times.
3. Let go and surrender
The equal division of day and night also reflects autumn’s lesson to relinquish and to harvest. Autumn is a season that invites us to consider to release and surrender what no longer serves us or what gets in the way of being present to the sacredness of each moment.
We all know that a pigment called chlorophyll gives the green color of the leaves. During the hibernation of winter, the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, and the vibrant shades we witness in autumn are the tree’s true color. As we watch leaves changing shades and then fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. As autumn begins, it is time to reflect and surrender our masks and become more truly who we already are. As the leaves change their shades to unfold their true colors, let us consider changing the things, habits, beliefs, and attitudes that cover our true nature. This fall, let us surrender and let go all these to harvest our true nature of joy and bliss, peace and love. As per Patanjali Yoga aphorism – “Praytna shaithilya anantsamapatibhyam” which translates into “letting go of all the efforts, relax to experience the infinity”.
Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend) and Shishuasana (Child’s pose) are the perfect poses to teach surrender and letting go. During the transition, we take on new rhythms, so it’s important to take a moment to be inward, bow our heads and get close to Mother Earth. The chattering mind starts slowing down all mental gymnastics, and we find ourselves becoming restful and peaceful. These two poses offer us the opportunity to let go and surrender to the present moment to unfold our true nature.
4. Declutter, detox and reset
Ayurveda teaches us that the transitional periods between the seasons (such as fall) are the best times to cleanse. Just like the trees shed the leaves, we must shed our stored waste and toxins and cleanse our systems before the winter. This assists the body in the natural detoxification process that is already occurring and allows the body to reset itself.
In the fall, it’s about slowing down and restoring the body. Resetting your digestive system, and balancing your mental and emotional health to transition into the cooler months feeling grounded and nourished. A fall cleanse will help to stave off seasonal colds, keep your immune system healthy, and prepare your organs for the colder months ahead.
During this time of transition, the body is accustomed to working through some of its toxic overload from the summer by forcing us to slow down, sleep more, and ingest more warming, soothing foods and beverages. In an effort to support our body’s natural processes, it’s very helpful to undergo a gentle cleanse at this time. Some benefits of gentle cleansing include:
- Liver stimulation and support
- Increased clarity and suppleness of skin
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy
- Improved immunity
- Improved quality of sleep
- Stabilized blood sugar
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased sense of general wellbeing
- Mild weight loss
- Reduced sugar and caffeine cravings
Yogic cleanse with Shat Karma
Hatha yoga also recommends regular cleansing and has elaborated many cleansing techniques. These cleansing processes have been placed into six groups of purification practices known as Shatkarmas. ‘Shat’ means six and ‘karma’ means purifying actions. They are described in the ancient texts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita. The six shatkarmas are:
- Neti – cleansing of the nasal passages
- Dhauti – cleansing of the alimentary canal
- Nauli – strengthening of the abdominal organs
- Basti – cleansing of the large intestine
- Kapalbhati – cleansing of the frontal area of the brain
- Tratak – decluttering and cleansing the mind
Thus you can understand that yoga has considered internal purification of the human body in depth. The shuddhi kriyas or shat karmas (Cleansing Process) have been planned with a view to have total purification of the body and mind.
The organs where there can be a lot of impurities require these shuddhi kriyas. The internal organs, which come into contact with the external matters regularly, need to be purified. The trachea or the windpipe regularly comes into contact with the external air, the digestive system comes into contact with the external food products, and the mind comes into contact with the thoughts of the external world; these and such other organs need to be purified internally. These shat karmas help purify out internal systems.
A variety of practices come under these categories. One of the very popular practices is Shankha Prakshalana – a saltwater digestive system cleanse with a specific set of yoga postures followed by rest and a specific diet.
Why do Shankha Prakshalana?
Digestive strength is intricately linked to the immune response and overall physical and mental health. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, said that “All diseases begin in the gut”. He was right! A growing amount of research is discovering that underlying gut problems play a significant role in a wide range of diseases, from anxiety, depression to lupus to diabetes. Allergies are no exception. Clearing out the digestive system can be tremendously helpful in fighting allergies that are so common nowadays. Growing medical studies support the approach of having a clean and healthy gut for the relief of seasonal allergies. A clean, well-functioning digestive system is imperative to good physical as well as mental health. If you cleanse the digestive system, you will likely find the relief you are looking for more quickly.
There are 5 valves in our GI tract: oesophageal, pyloric, ileocecal, colon, and anus. Our entire GI tract, if detangled and laid out flat, would be approximately 30 feet long! That’s a lot of space where toxins can build up. Poor food, sedentary lifestyles, day to day tensions and stresses, late eating hours, habitual snacking, and dehydration are all common things that restrict a smooth digestive flow. Gradually, the system starts to back up, causing inefficient assimilation and elimination (autointoxication) and resulting in various digestive ailments. Consequences can range from asthma and allergies, to arthritis and cancer, to autoimmune diseases.
Shankha Prakshalana or the saltwater flush forces your digestive system to release stored waste and the toxins. By cleaning out the gunk in your gut and maintaining a good balance of gut flora, you are helping your immune system in a big way. Shankha Prakshalana practice reconditions the function of the valves and eliminates auto intoxicants in the system.
Shankha Prakshalana is a delicate process, and has to be done in a specific way to avoid any undesired consequences and to get its best results. Though this is by far one of the safest and most natural ways to cleanse and detox, it should always be done under the supervision of a trained yoga expert in a retreat set up like the Sri Sri Yoga Deep Dive Retreat.
Ayurveda has described these shuddhi kriyas by the name of Panchkarma. However, these panchakarma take the help of certain medicines and herbs. In the shuddhi kriyas stated in yoga, the emphasis is on the natural methods.
Are you interested in undergoing a seasonal cleanse?
Though Shankha Prakshalana can be done at any time of the year. But doing it during the seasonal change like spring and fall, it serves a greater purpose.
The Sri Sri School of Yoga brings you the experience of the shat karmas in one single retreat. Give yourself a profound body-mind cleanse, healing, rejuvenation and much more with processes like shankha prakshalana, jal neti, trataka, SAHC, etc. Experience the magic of yogic detox, dive deeper into the depth of yoga practice and wisdom with Sri Sri Yoga Deep Dive Retreat.
While we enjoy the marvelous colors of fall, let us imbibe these beautiful and life nurturing lessons, and get ready to welcome change and live life to our fullest! Let every change color your life with such magic and splendor!