Spring is a time of new beginnings, growth and reaching out. It's time to come out of the comfy hibernation of winter, step confidently into action and create.
In yoga, many people now feel naturally drawn to more expansive poses, new challenges and energising breathing techniques to sharpen the mind.
Spring also embodies some potentially tricky opposites - a significant transition from darkness to light, receptive to active, moon to sun and internal to external. The Bhagavad Gita says that 'yoga is skill in action', and this transition requires some skilful navigation to honour the season's energy, be in tune with it in our practice and enjoy its benefits.
According to Ayurveda, Spring carries with her some of the kapha energy of Winter. Kapha governs the structure, tissues and fluids of the body. It protects us, but can lead to lethargy, congestion, stubborness or resistance when excessive. The presence of vata can also be felt (especially here in windy England) which can leave us feeling scattered and distracted.
With this in mind, here are three tips to make the most of your yoga and wellbeing this Spring:
1. Spring clean from the inside, while supporting your organs and glands
Stimulate lymph flow and counter congestion as you energise the body and mind with surya namaskar (sun salutations) and dynamic standing sequences including warrior poses and standing balances.
Gently 'massage' (compress) and create space for the abdominal organs and wake up the digestive system with twists and forward bends (standing, seated, reclining or inverted). These poses help to remove sluggishness from the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. A Spring Yin yoga practice often focuses on the gall bladder and liver meridians.
Backbends (locust, bridge or full wheel) energise the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid. These poses open the front body and our manipura chakra, our third or solar plexus chakra (subtle energy centre) which represents our personal power and vitality. Core strength work awakens our agni or digestive fire. We are ready to be active in the world with purpose.
Going upside down (shoulderstand, headstand, legs-up-the-wall) benefits our organs, glands and health in the head, neck, throat and chest: the thyroid and parathyroid glands, the respiratory system (for relief from congestion and breathlessness) and the nervous system (soothing nervousness, irritation and insomnia). The change in gravity creates space for the abdominal organs and process of elimination to function effectively.
Spring can be a fun time to reach out and name a challenge - a pose or family of poses you want to focus on, working with a new intention, or making meditation part of your day, even by taking 20 mindful steps to work, akin to walking meditation, each morning. What is important, is to approach challenges with the mind and heart firmly focused on the process or action, rather than the outcome which then takes care of itself.
If a dynamic practice is not appropriate for you, a restorative practice brings the same benefits, in the form of fully supported floor-based poses. Here are examples of a restorative twist and backbend:
2. Start your day right with energising, cleansing breathing
Kapalabhati (often known as the 'skull-cleansing' breath) with its long, steady inhalation and shorter, dynamic exhalations is a wonderful morning wake-up call. I like to practice it first thing in the morning, before breakfast. This is a technique to learn with a teacher.
If you prefer something less dynamic, the simple, equal breathing rhythm of sama vritti pranayama (for example inhaling and exhaling smoothly through the nose for a count of four) grounds and regulates energy, or ujjayi (the' victorious' breath) creates a cleansing internal warmth.
3. Remain grounded and practice self-care
Continue with the practices and daily routines that ground and nurture you in order to create steady, strong growth. Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well.
Always make time for savasana (corpse or relaxation pose/constructive rest) or quiet sitting to allow the organs, glands and body's systems to function optimally. This meditative non-doing enables us to maintain balance amid the season's opposites and to re-charge on a regular basis. It provides clarity of mind and deep insight and its positive effects for the health of the nervous system are immense.
Keep your roots and lower chakras firmly connected to the earth to allow your full Spring potential to blossom.
Enjoy your exploration and have a wonderful season. Is there anything in your yoga practice that works particularly well for you in Spring that you'd like to share? Anything you struggle with? Feel free to leave a comment below. It will be of benefit and appreciated by others.
Photos: author's own