We have entered the Fall phase.
Although the calendar has not officially declared “Autumn,” the 40-some temperature of two nights ago, paired with this morning’s chilly rain tells us that Fall has entered the room. With it comes the body’s innate tendency to wrap around itself: protect the organs, warm the blood. Hibernation and slow-to-no movement will soon follow. This is the season that prepares us to be still: In order to do so, the organs of elimination—in particular, the Lung and Large Intestine—need to create a purified “cave” into which we can burrow and resist disease.
I had no conscious intention to spend the wee-early morning hours the way that I did today. Perhaps it was the pre-dawn feeding and cleaning of a neighbor’s rabbit and his enclosure that spurred my sudden desire to deep-clean small areas of my apartment. As I did, I inwardly chuckled at the incongruity of Spring Cleaning on a gray and damp September morning. And then I recognized the organic need to cleanse: Fall is the season of elimination, and its organs—Lung and Large Intestine—were requesting attention.
So, while waiting for my freshly washed bathroom floor to dry, I blended two essential oils to massage onto my entire abdominal area; the oil that remained on my hands was slowly rubbed just beneath my collar bone, as a means to target the Lung system. I chose to use ginger and neroli oils: Ginger warms, and both soothes and stimulates digestion; and neroli calms and refreshes mentally and physically.
Special note: If you do not have ginger oil, think of other warming, piquant herbs, e.g., cinnamon, black pepper, even nutmeg. In a pinch, you can raid your spice rack and create a paste with a bit of carrier oil. No neroli? Bergamot, sweet orange, or tangerine oils would work well: And again, if you do not have the essential oils, head to the kitchen.
Once you have imbued your belly and upper chest with a topical application of blended oils (or pantry creations), it is time to move and configure your body in ways that will stoke the processes of elimination. Typically, twists and side bends accomplish this, while lateral and rotational movements further fortify the process. For this Silent Sunday, the postures will be done Yin-style, i.e., you remain in the same pose for 2-5 minutes. The initial opening movements will be done for 1 minute each.
To begin, stand with enough room around you to swing your arms through the full circumference of your surrounding space. Bring the arms to the sides at shoulder level: Bend the elbows to 90 degrees, palms facing forward. Touch the thumb tip of each hand to the inner base of the ring finger, nestled into the web between the middle and ring fingers. Inhale deeply: As you exhale, bring the arms forward until the forearms and pinky finger sides touch in front of you; the upper arms remain parallel to the floor throughout the entire move.
Inhale to open the arms (still bent), and squeeze the shoulder blades together as you do. This move will open and stimulate the Lungs. On your exhale, again bring the arms forward to touch in front; however, this time, rotate the elbows and wrists enough that the index/thumb side of the hands bump against each other. Inhale to open again. Each time you exhale to close the arms in front, alternate hitting the pinky sides and index finger sides of the hands together. Continue at a steady rhythm for 1 minute.
Then, shake out the arms for a few seconds, and bring them back up to the sides at shoulder level. The palms face down, and the fingers relax naturally. Inhale, then exhale to twist through the waist to the right, bringing the left hand in toward the chest, reaching back through the length of the right arm. Inhale back to center and immediately rotate to the left, reaching the left arm back, and bringing the right hand in toward the chest. Continue this rotation at a moderate-rapid pace for 1 minute: This exercise helps to awaken and open both the Large Intestine—in fact, all of the digestive organs—and the Lung, as well as the Heart.
Now that you are warm, and the eliminative organs have been stirred, come onto the floor for Baby Pose. Take a few slow, deep breaths here. Then, roll up to sit on your heels; as always, feel free to pad the knees or bolster your hips in this position. Slowly begin to lean back, using your hands to guide your body toward the floor: This posture is an intense front-body opener; the knees must remain on the floor. If possible, bring your elbows to the floor; if you are able, you may lie completely on your back. Regardless, close your eyes, gazing at the Third Eye, and settle into your version of the posture for 2-6 minutes.
When you are done, you will need to ease your way very gently up and out of the pose. Slowly extend the legs forward, so that you can shake or massage them, or move into an easy forward bend for a few breaths. Then, bring yourself onto your belly. As a deeper address of the Stomach and Large Intestine, bend the knees, so that the feet move toward the buttocks: Let the legs be loose and relaxed.
Then, push yourself onto the forearms, as if coming into Sphinx Pose: However, do not remain in the arm-supported position. Instead, slide the right hand under the chest, reaching the hand along the floor all the way to the left. The right arm is now fully extended out, under the Lung region, with the palm up. Rest the right side of the face on the floor, and place your left arm anywhere that feels natural and comfortable: I find that I rest my left wrist on my right, with the left palm down, right palm up. Breathe into this pose, allowing your body to ease and open gradually: Remain here for 1-3 minutes.
When you are ready, slowly unwind the upper body; you may also release and shake out the legs for a moment preparing to do the other side. This time, with legs bent or straight on the floor, slide the left arm under the chest to the right at shoulder level, palm up. Relax the head onto its left side, position the right arm as you see fit, and inhabit the pose for another 1-3 minutes. As before, gently release the posture, understanding that the depth of Yin yoga requires the body to readjust upon exiting a pose.
To finish, find your way into Svasana for a few minutes. If you like, cap today’s practice with a cup of tea that echoes your initial anointment with oils: cinnamon or orange with ginger and/or turmeric, or fennel with lemon, or your favorite warming, spicy brew, will do wonders to support the eliminative work of Fall’s organ systems.