Did you know that the sun and Earth’s relative positions to one another create not just the seasons, but shifts in our lives (and our yoga practices)? Each year, the sun’s pathway as seen from Earth moves from the Equator to the Tropic of Cancer, back to the Equator, to the Tropic of Capricorn, and back again. When the Sun crosses the Equator, this is an equinox.
When the autumnal equinox occurs, the Northern Hemisphere moves into fall and the Southern Hemisphere moves to spring. It’s also the end of Virgo season and the start of Libra season, the cardinal zodiac sign of fall.
How the equinox affects your life and practice
Libra’s symbolism gives clues to the sort of energy present at the equinox. Libra is an air sign, and in astrology, air represents the mind. Since Libra is symbolized by a scale that swings up and down, Libra represents the quality of the mind which seeks to find balance. Occasionally, true balance is reached, but much of the time, the scale hits highs and lows.
Similarly, the autumnal equinox is a moment when energies seem to ramp up and slow down quickly. Our minds seek balance as we move into a new season of life, work, and learning about ourselves and others. You might choose to take up new endeavors at this time, and activities may seem to spring up all around you. Likewise, outdated ways of being that you experienced in years past or in the summer seem to fall away, and you may find yourself in a state of mental fluctuation as you navigate yourself, relationships, responsibilities, and the simple act of being alive (especially now).
Your yoga practice may also seem to shift during this time, as you find yourself navigating life’s challenges and fitting in your practices at home or at a studio. The big, heart-opening, fun flows from summer may seem like too much at this time, and you may find yourself craving practices that draw you inward.
This type of inward motion is exactly what is suggested for the autumn equinox. Libra rules the lumbar region of the back and the upper buttocks and hips, and this is a moment when these areas can be strengthened by drawing your spine into balance, as well as positioning your standing body well on the earth. Balancing postures become especially important at this time, as returning to the midline of the body brings energetic balance both physically and energetically to all areas of life.
Tips on moving into the new season
As you move into the new season, keep in mind that balance is only ever truly experienced by moving up and down, and side to side. Just like the sun, which moves into balance and to extremes as the seasons shift, you also have to move in order to find your balance.
As the equinox initiates autumn, recognize that you have the ability to create balance in your life and your practice by giving yourself motion. Consider what aspects of your life are in service of balance, and which aspects require your action and attention to shift into balance. Consider the truth that inner balance creates outer balance, so working on your inner state can have positive effects in other areas of your life, from relationships to work, and beyond.
As well, remember that the scales have to swing up and down to find their true balancing point, so give yourself space to explore, make mistakes, and try again as you find your flow and your balance this autumn and Libra season.
A yoga practice for the autumnal equinox
How this pose draws in equinox energy: This pose calls in strength and balance in the low back and hips, which are ruled by Libra, while connecting the energy up through the Libra-associated heart chakra.
How to practice: Take a wide stance with your toes and knees pointing in the same direction at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and flip your palms forward, facing in front of you. Bend your knees to descend your hips into a squatting motion, pressing your pelvis forward and your tailbone to the floor. Rock your hips from side to side, leaning into one knee at a time. Cactus your arms at 90 degrees and look forward.
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: This pose stretches and opens the lumbar section of the spine, which is associated with Libra. This posture also offers a twist, which tones the Virgo-ruled intestines and strikes the equinox balance in the body.
How to practice: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). With an exhale, step your legs apart into a wide stance. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Exhale and extend your torso to the right directly over your right leg, and reach your right arm forward, keeping your spine long. Then, bending from the hip joint, not the waist, descend your right arm toward your right toes (or a block or the floor). Lift your left arm to the sky. Broaden your chest and breathe.
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: This pose calls in the strength that is needed for balancing the energies of the equinox. It is the physical embodiment of how strength creates balance and balance facilitates strength. This is one of the primary lessons of the autumn equinox.
How to practice: Stand in Tadasana, exhale and fold forward to Uttanasana. Exhale and step your left foot back into a high lunge position. Lay the midline of your torso (from the pubis to the sternum) down on the midline of the right thigh (from the knee to the hip crease) and bring your hands to your right knee. Stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing each other. Exhale and press the head of the right thighbone back and press the heel actively into the floor. Synchronize the straightening of the front leg and the lifting of the back leg. Imagine making one long line with your body, drawing your hands overhead or placing your palms together at heart center in Anjali Mudra.
Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Twisted Half Moon Pose)
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: Like Virabhadrasana III, this posture calls in strength and balance, while adding a twist. The addition of the twist integrates the Virgo energy that was present preceding the equinox, and integrates it into the Libra-ruled balancing energy.
How to practice: From in Warrior III (on your right foot with torso reaching forward and left leg reaching back), reach your left hand down toward the floor (or a block) and twist your torso to the right. Stretch your right hand up toward the sky. If it’s comfortable, turn your head slightly right to gaze upward. Otherwise, look straight ahead.
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: This pose calls in balance while connecting to the physical energies that were present in the Pisces full moon (September 20) preceding the equinox this year. The Pisces-ruled feet are an essential part of balance, and help ground the energy needed to draw yourself into the upcoming Libra season.
How to practice: From Mountain Pose, shift your weight into your left foot and lift your right knee toward your belly, grabbing your big toe. Firm the front muscles of the standing leg, inhale, and extend your right leg forward Hold here, straightening your knee any amount. Once you feel steady here, open your leg out to the right, while drawing your left arm open to the left. Repeat on the other side.
Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: This pose builds upon the energy of Hasta Padangusthasana by adding a twist. The twist further animates the solar energy that is leaving Virgo and heading into Libra. As your physical body does this, energy is drawn upward toward your heart, getting you ready to move into the season with purpose and grace.
How to practice: From Mountain Pose, shift your weight into your left foot and lift your right knee toward your belly. Reach your left arm across your body to grab the outside of your right foot. Straighten your knee any amount, while simultaneously twisting to your right, extending your right hand behind you. Repeat on the other side.
How this pose draws in the equinox energy: Tree pose draws energy into the true balancing point of the body: sushumna nadi, the central channel of the body. By practicing this posture, the body, mind, and spirit are drawn into a state of balance. As you shift and stabilize, the energy of the equinox is grounded into your physical form.
How to practice this pose: Start in Mountain Pose, and shift weight into your right foot. Bend the left knee and place the foot on the inner calf or inner thigh (but not the inner knee). Balance here, paying attention to how your body compensates in the pose. Keeping the pelvis squared to the wall you are facing, carefully draw the right knee back to deepen the external rotation in the hip, but only to the extent that you can keep the hips square. Raise your arms over your head without flaring the ribs. If you feel confident here, touch your palms together in Anjali Mudra and gaze up toward your thumbs.