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For the Fall Equinox, Yin Yoga teacher Danielle March offers a practice to help you gain some perspective and insight on your own summer growth.
The Fall Equinox, when the light and the dark make up equal parts of the day, marks the beginning of the harvesting and composting phases of the year. As the weather gets cooler, we begin to draw energy inward, lending us time to pause, reflect, take stock of and process what came of the summer growing season.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Fall is associated with the lungs and large intestine organ systems, which govern the respiratory and elimination function of the body. These systems are powerfully symbolic for the natural giving and receiving cycle of life. The lungs accept oxygen and later release it as carbon dioxide. Similarly, as food nutrients enter the large intestines, they are later released as waste. The same parallel can be drawn in nature, when the multi-colored leaves, perform an encore on their way down toward the earth before taking their final bow.
This 45–60-minute Fall Equinox practice offers an opportunity to gain perspective, insight, and clarity after the year’s growth phase before moving into its dormant period. We will stimulate the lung and large intestine meridian pair through the interplay of extension and contraction along the upper torso and by exploring different arm and shoulder variations. Remember to move slowly, always respecting your physical and mental edges.
A Yin Yoga Practice for the Fall Equinox
Begin by grounding yourself in a comfortable seat with a tall spine. Close your eyes and take a moment to reflect on the happenings of the summer season, cultivating a sense of gratitude for this body on this day. Remain close to your breath and start to settle your mind before moving to the first pose. When you are ready to begin, come onto your sitting bones.
Draw your feet together, allowing your knees to bend wide. As you begin to release the spine forward, close your eyes and allow yourself to be led by sensation instead of what the shape looks like. Once you’ve found a comfortable place to land, see if you can find stillness for the next 20–30 cycles of breaths or so. To come out of Butterfly, slowly extend your spine back to upright and extend your legs. Move slowly and carefully as the sensations intensify in the legs and lower back.
From a Table position, come on to your forearms and soften your heart between your shoulders, while keeping your hips stacked above your knees. The arms can be extended forward or you can bend your elbows and take your palms together in prayer or reach them backward your shoulder blades.
This shape can be intense for the shoulders so please be mindful of your edge and adjust your arm position as needed. See if you can relax for the next few minutes. When you are ready to release the shape, lie flat on your belly, extending your arms and legs back and turn your head to one side.
From your belly, prop yourself up onto your forearms to open your chest. Stay for a few breaths before going any deeper. If it feels appropriate for you, press into your hands and straighten your arms. You can bow your head forward or alternatively keep the head upright so that your neck remains in line with the rest of the spine. Close your eyes and stay for another 20 breaths. To come out, slowly release to your forearms then take your elbows wide, resting your forehead on to your hands. Hold a neutral spine for a few breathes before pressing back to Child’s Pose.
Child’s Pose with Arm Variation
Bring your knees together and draw your hips back toward your heels, rounding the spine forward and relaxing the shoulders. Soften your entire body here and breathe into the back of your lungs. Consider either reaching your arms forward or bending one arm at a time and placing your hand to the opposite elbow. Find stillness for the next several minutes, making any adjustments you need to be comfortable. When you are ready, begin your transition back to a seated position.
Lateral Dragonfly Pose
Extend your legs wide apart, ground both sitting bones and lengthen your spine. Begin to turn your chest toward the right leg and walk your hands out, any amount, as you round the spine toward your right thigh. Only go as far as your first point of tension and use this as an opportunity to practice patience. Stay for 20–30 breaths and slowly make your way back up to center, then repeat on the left side.
NOTE: If you suffer from a recent groin or hamstring injury, please opt for the modification on the next slide. the Half Lateral Dragonfly modification on the next slide. While you will feel sensations during yin yoga, going beyond your edge will irritate your injury and could set you back.
Half Lateral Dragonfly
Modification for groin or hamstring injury
If you suffer from a recent groin or hamstring injury, please opt for thus modification of the previous pose. While you will feel sensations during yin yoga, going beyond your edge will irritate your injury and could set you back.
Supported Fish Variation with Blanket
Roll up a blanket or towel and place it across your mat so that when you lie back, the blanket is beneath your breastbone. Make sure your shoulders are connected with the mat then find a comfortable position with your arms either reaching out overhead or out to the sides (elbows wide).
Step the feet wide, allowing bent knees to come toward each other, creating extra space in the sacrum. With the eyes closed, draw your breath into the front of your lungs. Stay another 4–5 minutes.To come out, roll onto one side, off of the blanket, encouraging the spine to rest in neutral.
Next, return to your back, reaching your arms and legs over to the right corners or your mat. Adjust your head and shoulders but be mindful to keep the hip stationary to create maximum space on the left side, in the shape of a crescent moon (or banana). Send your breath into your left waist. Allow the weight of the body to settle for the next few minutes. Make your way back to neutral between sides and repeat.
Before moving to Savasana, draw your knees to your chest and gently rock from side to side. Stay here as long as you need before making your way to Corpse Pose.
To end, lay back and surrender fully. Finish your practice with a sense of fullness from the season past, allowing that to sustain you in the season to come.
About Our Expert
Dani March is a Toronto-based Registered Yoga Teacher and Master Lifestyle Coach. She is the visionary behind LivOn Purpose™, a modern yoga teacher training that combines the yin and yang aspects of yoga with the underlying current of transformational work. Originally drawn to her own mat by the strong and graceful movements of Vinyasa Yoga, she later fell in love with the stillness and meditative aspects of Yin Yoga. As a devoted and lifelong student of yoga and meditation, Danielle dishes out inspiration, soulful strategies, tangible tactics, resources and a fresh perspective.