“You do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind, and soul. Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you must choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” (1)
Yoga DefinedClassically speaking, yoga can be defined in a number of ways. One definition of yoga is “union,” indicating the unification of body, mind, and spirit—or the layers of the self. Yoga is also defined as “yogah citta vrtti nirodhah” or “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of thought.” Another definition is “skill in action.” All of these definitions point to a sense of unity, awareness, inner quiet, and perhaps skillfulness. These qualities are both the aim and result of a dedicated yoga practice. Whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, one of the reasons you may be drawn to yoga is for a sense of greater peace. This can mean harmony in body and mind.
Yoga for the SeasonAs mentioned in this article about Vata season, the transition from summer to fall marks the transition from Pitta season to Vata season. During the autumn season, we are more susceptible to Vata imbalances, such as insomnia, worry, anxiety, dryness, and constipation. Therefore it is particularly helpful to work towards stillness, peace, and mental quiet in one’s yoga practice. Furthermore, given the stressful climate of the times, this is probably something that we can all benefit from on a daily basis.
A Well-Rounded PracticeIn general, as a yoga teacher and practitioner, I suggest maintaining a well-rounded yoga practice. This means that your yoga practice will not look or feel exactly the same from day to day. I was trained to practice all the categories of yoga asanas (poses or postures). This means that within a month’s time it is good to include standing poses, twists, inversions, supine poses, seated poses, backbends, and arm balances in one’s practice. You probably won’t do all of these different types of poses each time you take a class or practice on your own. However, it is good to touch on all these types of poses over the course of the month or so.
Yoga Asana for PeaceThat said, if you are in need of a little extra inner quiet, focus on the poses that help your nervous system attain a sense of calm. Restorative practices can be very useful in this way. These are asanas that use props and supports so that the body and mind can rest in the poses for longer. When you do a restorative practice, be watchful for any mental strain or accumulation of tension. When I teach restorative classes I often emphasize the importance of nourishing the nervous system. Restorative practice is not a time to struggle or strain. It is a time to rejuvenate the body and mind. In addition, inversions are immensely helpful in supporting the health of the endocrine and nervous systems. Asanas such as Sirsasana (headstand), Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) are wonderful poses with many benefits. This is what B.K.S. Iyengar says about headstand:
“People suffering from loss of sleep, memory and vitality have recovered by the regular and correct practice of this asana and have become fountains of energy.” (2)One caveat in regards to inversions such as headstand is that it is important to learn how to do these poses properly so as not to get hurt. Therefore it is a good idea to learn these potent asanas from an experienced and qualified teacher.