Growing up in Wisconsin, the seasons are more distinct and fierce than in the Pacific NW. The summers are hotter and much sticker, the crispness of autumn is sharper, the winter sting is deeper, and the cabin fever which accompanies spring lasts months longer.
As a young child, the rhythms of the seasons guided the rhythm of my life. I would play all day outside in the summer, then the cool breeze of fall would bring me indoors as the sun set, and remind me of coloring books and board games. Winter brought warm cocoa, sweaters and rest, and spring would re-ignite the spark for time outdoors.
These rhythms and rituals felt natural to me as a youngster. And then as I moved through middle school and high school, my life started to get busy. Responsibilities like student council, dance and sports, filled my schedule and governed much of my time. Shortly after menarche, my body’s hormones were bullied by oral contraceptives, and when my over-achieving, perfectionist attitude took hold, I no longer listened to my body in the same way. I couldn’t intuit what I needed in each season, let alone what I needed throughout my monthly cycle.
Enter yoga and Ayurveda…
Once I started a committed yoga practice and began incorporating Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle components into my routine, my life transformed. These traditions teach us how to practice in alignment with the seasons, with the monthly fertility cycle and with the lunar cycle. Just as the seasons of our bodies and lives change, so do our needs for nutrition, movement and activities.
The fact is that we are all better at certain things during certain times of the day, the month, and the year. We are made of the same elements which form the trees and the rivers, the sun and the moon. The influences of nature are absolutely registered in our bodies. And when we pay attention to and heed nature’s wise guidance, our health and happiness grows.
How might our experience in life change if we:
1) scheduled our major creative projects around the full moon?
2) nourished our bodies in springtime with bitter greens and and pungent radishes?
3) gave ourselves permission to rest during menstruation, the new moon and in the winter?
When we listen to our bodies, sometimes it means going against the grain of society. It might look like slowing down when others are running on high speed, or carving out space in our schedules for practice and creating. The effort needed to honor cycles and seasons, while at times challenging and very real, is a drop in the ocean, compared to the innate vitality and resiliency we embody when we’re dancing in rhythm with life.
I once met a woman at the Chennai airport, Jane, who told me that “the more you listen to your intuition, the louder the voice becomes”. These words were immediately etched into my heart, not to be forgotten. Intuition is a practice, which involves listening, AND taking action.
My passion for refining this dance with the cycles of the body and nature, extends beyond my personal practice. It informs the kind of yoga I teach throughout the month and the year, with seasonal postures, breathing exercises and mindfulness tools. This fire guides me to hold Red Tents, to honor the body and the heart during menstruation and the new moon, and Creatress, where we celebrate the energy of ovulation and the full moon, and learn to harness our innate creative force.
There are only a few spots left for Creatress, which is next weekend (April 15-17th).
Gentlemen yoga friends… I know I teach a lot of women’s retreats… Have no fear, because a late 2016 retreat is in the works and open to all! More details on that soon 🙂
For now, may we all have the courage to live with nature. Jai ma!