Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Autumn officially started with the Fall Equinox less than two weeks ago. Not only do the days get shorter, the nights longer, and the lattes pumpkin-ier, but this is a time to reflect and surrender aspects of our lives that are no longer needed. The shifts we experience at this time can be transformative, but can also be uncomfortable as we may not always feel ready for change. This is when the tools of yoga can be used to help us discern what is most important and to let go of what isn't.
I recently told a close friend that I felt compelled to start the task of emptying out a storage space I had held onto for years and how overwhelming it felt. He laughed as he said he knew four other people who were going through the exact same thing and that something must be in the air!
In my case, I realized that some of the items I kept in storage were still beloved and could be repurposed, but others I was holding onto due to my samskaras or habits. I kept holding onto beliefs that I might need those things one day, that they couldn’t be replaced, or that it would take too much time to sort through everything. The more I put off organizing and clearing, the heavier the burden of keeping those items felt.
The funny thing was that as soon as I made the decision to move forward, the weight became lighter and lighter with every trip I took to Goodwill or the recycling center. And I found that the process wasn’t just about “letting go” or “non-attachment”, but to engage in proper discernment to decide what to keep, sell, give away, or discard.
In Sanskrit the word for discernment or discrimination is Viveka. Viveka can refer to the ability to see what is serving us and what we need to surrender. This may literally mean seeing the clutter we need to clear out of our physical environment such as our garage. It may also mean seeing what else we need to clear from our lives such as stuck emotions, outdated beliefs, negative habits, or even relationships.
If you’re feeling the pull to cleanse and clear, consider these top 5 tools of yoga to powerfully sharpen your ability to discern, release, and work through the discomfort of change.
Top 5 Yoga Tools for Discernment and Letting Go
Journaling—When the what-ifs do somersaults in your mind, turn to journaling to put your thoughts down on paper as a svadhyaya practice for self-reflection. Whether it takes a day, a week, or a month, you may notice patterns of thought you wouldn’t see otherwise. There are many approaches to journaling but one method that may be helpful is Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”. The Morning Pages can be up to several pages of stream-of-consciousness writing first thing in the morning that may reveal unique insights. This tool is also known for tapping into creativity.
Meditation—Settling into a comfortable seated or reclining position for meditation is an excellent way to tap into inner knowing and to find clarity. If being still makes you feel restless, go for a walk in nature to ground. Go on this walk by yourself to ensure the inner voice you hear is your own. If you hear the voice of the inner critic, lovingly acknowledge that voice, embrace the positive aspects of what you are doing, then let the critique go.
Mindful Movement—This wouldn’t be a yoga blog without this one! Movement, especially dynamic movement that allows you to gently flow from one position to the next with the breath can help release stuck energy. Even a few rounds of breath-centric cat/cow or half-salutes can be effective.
Lengthen the Exhale—The exhale represents letting go. A longer exhale can melt physical tension as well as emotional stress as long as it’s not forced. For those who like counting, start by lengthening your exhale by two seconds for about 10 breaths. For those more visually oriented you can imagine slowly blowing the seeds off a dandelion on an exhale. If you like sound, humming out loud will also naturally lengthen your exhale. As a rule, I suggest starting and ending your practice with at least two even breaths to begin and end in balance.
Finger Slides with Flicks—This is a breath-centric practice you can do while seated or reclining. Bring your thumb and index finger together. On your inhale, slide the thumb down to the base of the index finger. On the exhale, slide the thumb back to the tip and flick as if to release what no longer serves you. You can do this with one hand, then switch, or both hands at the same time for 8-12 breaths.
For guidance on how to tailor these or other yoga practices to suit your unique body, breath, and mind, schedule a yoga therapy appointment directly with me, Rebekah Conrad, your friendly yoga therapist. I'm here to help!