Awareness in Autumn

Awareness in Autumn:

Shifting Seasons, Shifting Moods

Some of you may have been in class recently when I read the following quote from Doug Keller's Yoga as Therapy book: 

"What makes the mind so powerful and difficult to 'still' is its rajasic impulse to DO- to think about what to do, and about what to do about what it is thinking and so on. By the same token, we are beset by the mind's tamasic tendencies towards sleepiness, boredom, and obsessiveness with replaying old memories, stored emotions and so on."

Keller is referring to the gunas, which can be translated from sanskrit to mean moods. The three moods are rajastamas and sattva. The tendency of the gunasis to move out of balance.  With this in mind, when we are more aware of the gunas we can use them for self-transformation.

Rajas is the energy of movement. When rajas is balanced we can feel powerful, energized, and expansive. When rajas is out of balance, we can feel chaotic and exhausted.  Tamas is immobile. When tamas is in balance, it can be experienced as feeling stable and rooted. Too much tamas can make us feel lethargic, stuck or bored. Sattva in balance is wholeness and light. Out of balance, it is experienced as disassociation and feelings of emptiness. 

During times of transition, like seasonal shifts, we can experience feelings of instability. This can be a particularly important time to be aware of the gunas. There is a continuous interplay of the moods. When rajas and tamas serve to move towards sattva, we experience flow in our life and contentment. These moods can be experienced in both our mind and body. As we move from the season of summer (more characterized by rajas) towards the season of fall (more characterized by tamas), how can we experience all three gunas in balance and a sense of wholeness, rather than swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other?

I've included some self-care tips for you to try out. These recommendations are informed by mindfulness practices and Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga). 

Grounding-  If you've had a busy week (excess rajas) take time to slow down with a walk.  If you've been slow to start (excess tamas), try a short run to re-ignite your fire.  Feel your feet on the ground and notice the beauty of fall- the crisp feeling in the air, the colors in the trees, and the sound of leaves crackling beneath your feet. 

Eat warm, seasonal foods- As the days become a bit chillier and the winds begin to blow, eating warm, nourishing foods can be a simple way to promote feelings of stability. Better yet, eat your largest meal between 10am-2pm. According to Ayurveda, that is when our digestive fire is highest and we can retain the most nutrients from our food. And for dessert.... A fall favorite of mine in high school were my cross-country coach's pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! Here is a recipefor a healthier version of this yummy treat. 

Self-massage-   One day this week try abhyanga- Ayurvedic self-massage- in the morning to start your day off with self-care. Click this link for the benefits and "how to" of abhyanga.

Establish rhythm- If you have the space in your schedule, follow nature's lead and adjust your sleeping hours to be more in-line with the hours of sunrise and sunset. If that isn't an option, find rhythm by setting special time aside for your yoga practice, hiking, climbing, dancing, whatever it may be that keeps you mindfully connected to your body. 

Our daily self-care program is what keeps us feeling balanced, connected and ready to engage with the world. With greater awareness of the gunas, we can create a solid foundation (tamas), and direct our energy purposefully (rajas), toward balance (sattva).  These efforts, motivated by tenderness and curiosity, guide us to greater self-awareness and the experience of flow and contentment.