How lucky we were today to have a break from the Glasgow drizzle, so that we could have our last summer hurrah, ‘parkasana’, the yoga picnic.
The last picnic we had was in the middle of July, spirits were high, we were jumping back from bakasana and leaping about all over the place!
But late summer is a different pace. The days are getting shorter, the kids are already going back to school – it calls for a different kind of practice.
Clearly with energies slightly lower we want a less crazy vigorous practice, but there are other nice things that we can pay attention to.
In mid to late August we already start to see harvests coming in, all the hard work of the spring and summer is literally bearing fruit. This means it’s a great time to stop and reflect, to look around and see just how much abundance surrounds us. The late afternoon dying rays of sun (if we’re lucky enough to have it in Glasgow), gluts of courgettes and apples overspilling, and the inevitable pies and chutneys, yum.
This is the season of samana vayu – out of the five energy currents of the subtle body, samana vayu is the energy of assimilation, where all our good work is absorbed and distributed throughout the body. Similarly we can reflect on the fun we’ve had all summer, let it seep in through the skin and reside within us as we start to transition into the beginning of Autumn.
Late summer is also about a return to the Earth. We were lucky enough to have the chance to practice today right on the grass – where you can smell the soil and the grass, feel the springy and soft ground underneath you. Usually when we talk about rooting into the ground it’s a floor or cement or something manmade, but here we are, the absolute immediate connection with the Earth through our hands and feet and any body part lucky enough to make contact with it!
In the yoga practice, in order to deeper experience this earthy connection we work with the energetic ‘locks’, the bandhas – mula bandha and uddhiyana and jalandhara, in particular in a supine pose like tadaka mudra. I also love teaching hasta bandha and pada bandha and all that really means is really using a strong active hand and foot to connect with the ground/mat. Postures where you come into close contact with the earth such as locust and also grounding poses like malasana and goddess are some favourites at this time of year too.
In fact the whole idea of Late Summer as a separate season comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they characterise this transitional period as one of nurturing, digestion, and reflection. The Five-Element theory relates late summer to the spleen and stomach meridians in the body – the energy channels related to digestion.
In order to access these meridians we can use postures that work with the inner thighs, the belly, the underarm (mmm side bends! hi!) and the chest. So today we did various sequences including baddha konasana, goddess, side angle, wide legged folds, as well as some gentle backbending.
For me certainly it feels great to be able to connect with the seasons and the elements – I do believe that it has such a strong effect on all of us that we maybe don’t pay enough attention to.
How do you feel in late summer? Do you have any favourite ways of connecting with the Earth at this time of year? Let me know in the comments below!