As you release the hot and humid days of summer and step into the cooler months of fall, your body begins to transition toward the slower and colder winter season. This transition can result in your energy becoming stagnant, restless, and uncertain.
Although there are many ways you can continue to keep the energy flowing during stagnant and transitional times, nothing gets the energy moving like a pranayama practice. In fact, the word pranayama alludes to it’s life-sustaining and energetic capabilities. Prana means life force or energy and ayama means to extend or draw out which makes pranayama the practice of extending your energy and life force.
Pranayama practices have been used for centuries to draw out the life force energy, get the flow of energy moving, and cultivate certain feelings and results in the body and mind. But it is often believed that pranayama is especially powerful during times of stagnant or slowing energy like during the fall season.
So, if you would like to avoid the sluggishness and uncertainty of fall that can overcome our bodies here are five pranayama practices that you should incorporate into your autumn yoga practice.
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This pranayama practice may not be new to you, but it is an extremely powerful practice to use when working on balancing out the two sides of your energy. Alternate nostril breathing is especially useful for settling restlessness and lack of focus during fall. To practice alternate nostril breathing you will use the thumb and ring finger on your right hand and will alternate which nostril you breath in and out of.
- Begin by exhaling all of the air out of your lungs, with your ring finger close the left nostril and inhale through the right nostril, then close the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through the left, inhale through the left, then close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right. Do this 10-12 times.
2. Spinal Breathing
The spine is known as the main pathway for prana in your body. A healthy spine is essential for the flow of energy throughout your entire energetic system, and is the focus of many pranayama practices. At times of sluggishness and lack of motivation as the season turns from warm to cool, use the practice of spinal breathing to get the energy flowing and to clear the main energetic channel for a free-flow of life source energy to all parts of your body.
In this pranayama practice you begin by connecting with your breath and your spine. Feel the breath flow up and down the spine with every inhale and every exhale.
- Begin by becoming aware of the breath in your spine, feel the breath as it moves into the spine. As you breathe in feel the breath move up the spine from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the head, and on the exhale feel the breath move from the crown of the head back to the base of the spine. Feel the breath flowing up and down, and begin to feel the spine gently expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale as if your spine is truly breathing and taking the air in and out. Feel the energy move up and down your spine as you breath. Practice this for 5-8 minutes, or as a part of your regular meditation practice.
3. Three Part Breathing
Another simple and powerful practice for the fall season is the 3-part breath which works on breath control and strength of the respiratory system. This practice segments the inhale into three equal parts to energizes the body and strengthen the respiratory system and then utilizes one long, full exhale to soothe the body and mind and release tension. During this pranayama practice the challenge comes with taking three equal partial inhales with control. It is as if each part of the inhale you are only taking in one third of the breath until you are completely full of breath on the final segment.
- Begin by exhaling all of the air out of your lungs, then inhale one third, inhale another third, and inhale a final third (you should feel completely full of breath at this point) and then take one long, full exhale out relaxing the body and mind. Repeat this as many times as you would like with a three-part inhale and a long exhale out until you feel the sensation of a quiet, calm energy move through you.
4. Relaxation breath
During the fall season you can begin to feel anxious and restless as you fall back on your primal instincts to be gathering and preparing for the winter months ahead, but since you no longer need to live off the land and store food for winter you may not know what to do with your restlessness, and this relaxing pranayama can help soothe our anxious minds. This practice is one that is good for any time you are feeling overly stimulated or activated and need to relax.
The practice of this breath is quite simple - just make your exhales longer than your inhales. Typically in a 4-8 count where you inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of eight. Although this count may not feel natural to some and you will need to take a shorter exhale, if you are keeping your breath out longer than your breath in you will get the calming effects of this pranayama practice.
- Take a moment to connect with your breath and slow down your rate of breath and begin to relax and settle into an easy rhythm. Then begin this breath by inhaling for a count of four, making sure you are filled up all the way when you reach four, then take a long exhale for a count of eight. Practice this pranayama for 5-10 minutes or until you begin to feel the calming effects.
5. Weaving mantra into your breath
Although not technically a pranayama practice, using a powerful mantra and syncing it up with your breath can help evoke feelings of stability and energy during the fall season. Using these simple mantras with each breath in and out can evoke feeling and emotion into your life, and give you focus and clarity during your meditation or yoga practice.
Try using mantras such as energy flows through me with ease, I am balanced, I am beautiful, or one of my personal favorites I can do anything, but will not do everything. Taking a mantra that resonates with you and syncs it up with your breath (example inhale - I am at peace exhale - I am relaxed) is a powerful tool turning the transitional season of fall to help evoke stability, energy, and balance in your fall yoga practice.