“The Falling of the Leaves”
by W.B. Yeats
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
The offical Autumnal Equinox is tomorrow Friday, September 22 at 3:02pm CST to be precise. This means that we will have nearly equal amounts of night and day. Equinox is latin for “equal night.” The equinox signifies a shift: Yang to yin. Light to dark. Sun to moon. Hot to cold. Outer focus to inner focus. Building up to letting go. It marks the beginning of a new season and perhaps a new outlook.
The autumn season is filled with changes. I can feel it in the cooler temperatures. I can see it the vibrantly changing leaves. I can sense it in the approaching holidays that focus on family, food and faith. Autumn is ripe with a sense of downshifting, completion and letting go.
After the summer season of growth and activity, autumn is a reminder slow down. Summer is a great time to achieve goals, but autumn is a time of gathering. A time to feel completion, success and doneness. Perhaps not all of the goals were met, but instead of focusing on what did not get checked off the list, focus on what did. Just as the trees are letting go of their leaves, I am reminded to let go of what didn’t go as planned and what isn’t quite working. I did not master the wheelie on my bicycle, but I have a few moments of hang time in my handstand!
The autumn is also a time of harvest. The full moon that is closest to the equinox is aptly called the “Harvest Moon.” The change in sunlight alerts the trees to shed their leaves and animal kingdom to prepare for the colder season. The fall flowers are blooming, mums and aster. My dog has started her seasonal shed as she grows her hardier winter coat. The squirrels are starting to look a bit fatter.
In my body and on my mat I sense this shift. The cooler temperatures and shorter days can throw my body into unbalance. Cold and flu season are just around the corner, and the equinox reminds me to find balance. In yoga sequencing, I start incorporating more heart openers and pranayama to keep my lungs clear. Ustransana (camel) with lion’s breath is one of my favorites during the fall and winter. I practice more standing balance poses to reconnect to the ground and the earth. I incorporate more hip openers and soft yin sequences to bring a sense of nurturing and letting go. Specifically, I practice and teach “yang and yin” yoga sequences to feel the two opposing forces in the body. Half flowing and vinyasa, half restorative and yin. One practice is more energetic and strengthening, while the other is more contemplative and releasing. Try it at home: Set a timer, 10 minutes of sun salutations and balancing followed by 10 minutes of your favorite stretches and savasana. See how you feel. This is a practice that I bring into my home sequence regularly throughout the year, but especially resonates during the equinox season.
In many different cultures and in academia, autumn is actually the beginning of the new year. Back-to-school memories are often filled with falling leaves and long shadows. Rosh Hashana is celebrated in Judaism. Navarati-Diwali is celebrated in Hinduism. The equinox also coincides with the UN International Day of Peace and a new moon this year. Just as I do for the solstices, I will practice 108 Surya Namaskar or Pranams to signify the change in season–see the post on Summer Solstice for more on 108. Although the end of summer is bittersweet, I will focus the idea of peaceful new beginnings this fall.
What have you achieved this year? What is your own personal harvest? As the trees let go of their leaves, what can you let go of?
Peace, Love and Namaste,
Kristin (& Luna)