No one can better bask in summer's balm than those who have
endured winter's bite. Similarly, it is those who have suffered
through life's darkest hours who are able to truly savor the bright
dawn of happiness.
The Seasons of Your Life and Yoga Practices to Match Them
The last post triggered a lot of response, and I appreciate that you engage with my writing.
While I speak and write a lot about Ayurveda which is all about how to adapt to the changing environments and seasons while maintaining our vitality and well-being, I also want to touch upon another subject, which for me is equally important.
We often think that as weather, seasons and our external circumstances affect us, the best we can do is adapt. I think there is a lot of wisdom in this approach, and as we learn to bend and adapt, we are less likely to let life break us.
But yoga tradition is deeper than that in how it serves and honours every season of our human existence. You don't have to respond or react to it. You just have to recognise it. Yoga reminds us that no tree can bloom forever, and there comes a time to surrender and stay still to rest. Similarly, while we are alive, we can't extend hibernation, and when Spring arrives, we'd be going against nature if we resist growth and change by clinging to the stillness of Winter. There's no way to force any of this seasonality, it just happens.
Like every being in nature, we always intuitively know when is the time to act and when is the time to cave. As we learn to listen, we also learn to intuitively navigate through our inner seasons and rhythms and cycles. Through yoga and meditation practices that bring more clarity and sharpness of perception, we can learn to actually be true to ourselves for real, and to respect where we are in life.
Here are some seasons you might recognise within yourself.
Season of Fire
There are times when you are chasing your big dream, creating a family, building a new relationship or something of extreme significance to you, and end up so involved in it that you lose yourself completely. The most creative phases of our lives often go hand-in-hand with a mad whirlwind of emotion, and you end up doing too much or trying to BE too much.
Whether it's an overload of work, or a new lover that keeps you up every night or a very creatively satisfying stage of life, there seems to be no time for yoga, sometimes absolutely no time left for any kind of self care practice whatsoever amidst that frenzy. You are just diving head first into that something that matters to you while pushing all other life's priorities to the end of the line.
There comes a moment when it hits you. You run out of steam or face a burnout. You realise you HAVE to slow down to keep it sustainable, but you can't. Your mind is too busy most of the time, even at night. Paradoxically, you are feeling hyper pumped and completely drained simultaneously. The amazing fire that used to fuel your drive and motivation becomes destructive, and it feels like pressure fills ever cell of your body and your brain, and you can't slow down even when you want to.
In times like this, yoga nidra and slow paced restorative as well as yin yoga come to the rescue. During life's seasons when you are most likely to push yourself into an ashtanga yoga class, what you actually need more is a practice that nurtures and comforts you on every level and helps you get a bit more quiet on the inside to begin to hear your true self again.
Season of Hibernation
There are also seasons when we are feeling weak. Whether it's going through a breakup, a loss of a job, grieving about a death of a close person, the physical/mental recovery process (in case pushing ourselves too far has been a success after all), or a time following a birth of a child, or a completion of something that's taken up all of your inner resources. It may be a time when you just feel defeated by life. It may sound terrible but as long as we are human, we all get to experience these states when we sometimes wish we couldn't feel at all because it's so challenging to keep an open heart when your world as you know it seems to be collapsing.
What we seem to favour in those seasons of our lives is often an equivalent of staying under a blanket. We don't feel like doing much at all, favouring just "waiting it out". And this is exactly the times when what could serve our bodies and minds tremendously is a moderately physical hatha yoga practice where you take your time to slowly build strength as you re-construct yourself and your confidence. It's a practice where you get to restore your flexibility as you learn to re-open your heart to life again. A peaceful hatha practice can begin to move you back into balance, one slow deep breath at a time. Going on a yoga retreat is an excellent idea to both get yourself to move, to grieve and get out of the shell, but when you are feeling low, choose a retreat in your part of the world to not drain the body by excessive travel.
Calm Before the Storm
And there are seasons in life that feel like a calm before the storm. When everything seems to be going fine on the outside, but you have that premonition.. Embrace your yoga and meditation practice fully - whichever style, direction or tradition sets your heart on fire - and keep on building your inner power, stamina and resilience. You never know when you may need it whether it's for yourself or for someone dear to you.
The purpose of this post is to remind you that you are not a static creature. You - just like nature - go through seasons and through a process of ceaseless growth and change. Your inner seasons might not always match the literal seasons, but they are nonetheless very real. Don't beat yourself up for being where you are today. Don't try to ignite inner Summer when you know with all honesty that your heart is hibernating. Don't try to summon Spring when you are not there. Respect all expressions of your human-ness, including the beauty of your seasonal nature. Honour how everything that is alive, is flowing with invisible rhythms. Fall in love with how no day, or week, or year of your life is never the same and offers endless possibilities to learn about your true nature as long as you live.
Yoga and meditation might be your infinitely adaptable tools to help you on this quest of a lifetime.