A Season of Change

In seasons of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide.”
      …Shauna Niequist in Present Over Perfect

Change of Season imageWe clearly see the physical transformation of living things around us in the fall. Deciduous trees are among the most visible of autumn’s shapeshifters. Their cloaks of green transform to yellow or orange or red or burgundys and russets. And when the trees are ready, sensing the shortening hours of light and feeling the cooler temperatures, the transfer of water to each leaf and food from the leaves ceases. The trees surrender their leaves to the earth.

We notice too a change in the air. Coolness descends in the late afternoon and lingers into the next morning. Squirrels work diligently to fill their larders for winter. The insect voices so characteristic of hot August evenings diminish. The evening is quieter here along the Conodoguinet now.

I, too, find myself thinking I am in a time of transition. Over the years I have seen how my yoga practices have helped me to open to risk and change. I tried new things: teaching a new class and workshops as well as letting go of classes; taking on the study of Vedic Chant; attending church; trying a different strategy to deal with anxiety and depression; deciding I needed to live more completely in sync with my values. For all of this, yoga and the support of my teacher have given me guidance and courage.

Now, I feel again in a place of change, hoping to be more fully present in my relationships, to deepen my learning and teaching of yoga, to work on what I can do to live in harmony with Mother Earth, and to find joy in living each day. Focusing on these priorities requires paring back some activities and maintaining more white space on my calendar. Simply, but not simple, is the need to give myself more space. Like the trees in this fall season, I have to let go of some things to nourish other things, including myself and those closest to me.

What will sustain me in this time of transformation will be my yoga practice, my communities of support, and the quiet in which I can hear the leanings of the spirit.

I wonder how many others of you are feeling the same draw to transition in your lives. If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to email or call me. You may find, as I did, that this is a journey that needs a community of support.

Autumn Notes


Each year as we make the transition from the warmth and bright sun of summer to the waning light of autumn, I feel changes in my system that require changes in my yoga practice, diet, and lifestyle.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, gives us a non-Western lens through which we might understand the effects of the seasons. We are told in the teachings of ayurveda that each person has a “birth constitution,” which consists of a unique arrangement of three different doshas or energies. The vata dosha controls body movement and is concerned with the nervous system. The kapha dosha controls body stability and lubrication and is concerned with the tissues and wastes of the body. Pitta dosha involves digestion and concerns the body’s endocrine and enzymatic systems. Our particular arrangement of these energies, along with our diet and lifestyle, affects how we respond to life and seasonal changes.

Each season also has a dominant dosha, with its own characteristics. Autumn’s dosha is vata. As vata is about the energy of movement, fall is characterized by the movement of air and wind, which has the effect of drying things. Wind, too, stirs things up. Think about the reds, yellows, oranges of autumn leaves, that eventually dry and brown and roil and rustle in an October wind.

We are affected by autumn’s energies and may be vulnerable to imbalances in our own systems. When vata is out of balance within us, we may experience creaky joints, constipation, dry eyes, hair, and nails, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, forgetfulness, and mental distractedness. If we are in a vata stage of life, mid-50s and up, we are even more vulnerable to such an imbalance, particularly in autumn.

If you find yourself feeling out of sorts with some of the symptoms of autumn’s vata dosha, you can explore some of suggestions that follow:

  • Allow your approach to yoga practice to be attentive and meditative. Keep your focus on cultivating a feeling of groundedness, staying one or two breaths in your postures.
  • Choose activities that support a calm mind and heart.
  • Include soups and stews in your diet, using vegetables and fruits from our local bountiful harvests.
  • Hydrate your body by drinking water throughout the day.
  • Add good oils to your diet, olive and sunflower, as the weather cools, and in winter some sesame or fish oil.
  • Oil your skin before you take a warm shower, using sunflower oil or sunflower mixed with sesame.

Much information exists on the subject of the ayurvedic constitution, and you also can work with an ayurvedic practitioner to learn about your birth constitution. But we all can begin by paying attention to how we are affected by the seasons, our diets, and our lifestyle choices. Then, we can adopt strategies to maintain a sense of comfort, stability, and balance.

If you would like to have me teach you a personal yoga practice you can do at home, as well as receive diet, and lifestyle recommendations to address your needs this autumn, you can reach me at 717-645-0067 or eterryyoga@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.


Leaves are Starting to Fall

When I woke the other morning, the air felt chilly as I slipped into the space I call “my room” to do my yoga practice. And it was still cool enough when I went downstairs afterwards that Jim had cooked oatmeal for our breakfast, his “first oatmeal of the season,” as he said.

At my desk later, I found my head spinning as I looked at the well-organized sheet of notes listing all the things I should be taking care of. Fortunately, I stopped and decided the only way to gain perspective was to take a walk.

The lane where I walked divides smallish homes and the Conodoguinet creek on the left and a woodsy area below a town house development on the right. Scattered across the lane were brown leaves, and a few even floated down in front of me as I walked. Some trees sported drying leaves lacey with holes. It was quiet. No voices, no bird calls. Just the peace of the trees and a few horsetail clouds in a blue sky. I couldn’t help but think the day announced the slightest shift, an almost perceptible movement, toward the energy of fall.

I know this change toward shorter days and cooler weather is not welcome by everyone. And I’m not writing this as a foreboding of unwelcome things to come, but rather as an observation. So often our awareness of seasonal change is about what is around, outside of us. Yet the energetic qualities of each season influence all beings – including us.

In fall we observe the leaves drying and falling, often blown by the winds. The air cools. Autumn is characterized by the qualities of vata dosha, one of three constitutions described by the Indian science of health known as ayurveda. If we are in a vata stage of life – mid-50s and up – we might be even more vulnerable to these effects. We might find our hair, nails, and skin is dry. We may suffer from constipation and have trouble sleeping. We may feel ungrounded or anxious.

Knowing in advance the energetics of fall can keep us from wondering “what is the matter” if we find ourselves experiencing some of the symptoms of out-of-balance vata. Accepting that the season may exacerbate these effects, we can start making changes in our diet and lifestyles that can support a sense of balance. So, for example, if we tend to experience dryness, we can begin to add soups to our diets and take time to massage some sesame oil into our feet and joints. Our yoga practice can change to bring a sense of grounded-ness and stability to our system.

We do have to remember that how we respond to seasonal and life changes varies from person to person based upon what ayurveda identifies as our personal dosha or constitution at birth. Understanding our constitution helps us to understand our strengths and weaknesses and our responses to seasons and life events and choices. Much literature exists on the subject, and an ayurvedic practitioner can accurately identify and explain our constitution and its implications in our life.

Whether you choose to delve more deeply into learning about your constitution or not, we all can observe, without judging, the qualities of each season. We can notice how we are affected and prepare strategies to counter-balance any negative effects we may experience. In that way, we can help ourselves to “avoid future suffering“.