Being a cyclical creature in a linear world is not always easy. In fact, it can feel quite impossible to flow with our innate nature as woman when our culture is so fixated on the masculine energy of ‘doing’.
Yet the benefits of living in alignment with the world around us are not only personal in nature.
When we remember and reclaim nature not only as cyclic, but as Sacred, this ripple effect has a profound impact on the environment we live in as we become care takers of Mother Earth once again.
How do we live in harmony with the natural cycles around us?
Living in harmony with the wisdom of the cycles is something I have been embodying for many years. For me, it’s been a potent spiritual practice offering practical ways to be ‘in flow’ with life. It has also been the greatest tool for truly knowing myself and honouring my own unique and ever-evolving needs.
Nature is cyclic, and each phase of the cycle gifts us with superpowers that support us to navigate each day with reverence, understanding, devotion and inner integrity.
One of the keys for cyclic living is balance – finding inner harmony and ultimately union with the masculine (Yang) and feminine (Yin) energies that are within and around us in each waking moment.
Our aspiration and intention for meeting life this way is to move away from leaning too much into one energy over the other. It also asks us to let go of the need to vilify or revere one aspect of the whole (feminine or masculine) and instead seek equanimity.
So what are the cycles we can align and how might living in harmony with them translate to how we tend to our self-care and the way we meet ourselves through our yoga practice?
The first cycle I want to speak to is that of the Solar Year and the Seasons.
Whether you have a deep understanding and lived experience of cycles, or this is the beginning of your exploration, we all know the flow of the seasons and have some idea of the different energy each phase brings.
The essence we can draw from the seasons is as follows:
Spring is a time of new beginnings, inspiration and of birthing visions. The energy can feel very alive with creativity and possibility. It is YANG in quality.
Summer is the time of fullness and ripeness, a potent time of manifestation and the feeling you can take on the world. It is also YANG in quality.
Autumn, or the Fall, is a time of harvesting and of releasing what no longer serves. Energy starts to turn inwards as we prepare for the dark of Winter. It is YIN in quality.
Winter is a time of death, rest and regeneration – a necessary pause as we prepare for the rebirth of Spring and is also YIN in quality.
In our current western culture, the more Yang qualities that are prevalent in Spring and Summer have been coveted over the Yin qualities that abound in Autumn and Winter. But if we are to co-exist in harmony with the cycles, then all parts of the whole need to be integrated and honoured.
What other cycles can we align with?
Other cycles we can align with are:
- The daily cycle of the Sun – from Sunrise, to Midday, to Sunset, to Midnight.
- The Lunar cycle (a cycle ancient cultures once lived intimately aligned with) – from the Waxing Moon to Full Moon, and the Waning Moon to Dark Moon.
- The life cycle of Women – from the Maiden to the Mother, the Maga (or Wise Woman) to the Crone.
Those still bleeding can also align with their menstrual cycle – from the Follicular phase through to Ovulation, the Luteal phase to Menstruation.
To summarise all the cycles and see how they flow together here’s a simple overview:
- Spring Energy: Sunrise, Waxing Moon, Maiden, Follicular Phase
- Summer Energy: Midday, Full Moon, Mother, Ovulation
- Autumn Energy: Sunset, Waxing Moon, Maga or Wise Woman, Luteal Phase
- Winter Energy: Midnight, Dark Moon, Crone, Menstruation
How can this wisdom flow into our self-care and yoga practice?
When we embody the cyclic feminine and live from this knowing, we are blessed with the most powerful compass for how we meet ourselves each day – understanding that no one day is like the last, nor can it ever be like the next. Our needs – like our true nature – are cyclic so we will forever ebb and flow, just like the tides and the moon.
One of the most vital pieces for living cyclically is the ability to listen – an art lost to many in modern culture but something we can easily cultivate through practice, patience, presence and dedication.
When we turn the gaze inwards and allow the distractions of the external world to drop away, we are able to hear the whispering of our inner wise woman and what she is truly needing in that moment. Couple this with aligning to the natural rhythms around us and we have a simple yet potent tool for navigating and tending lovingly to our changing needs.
On a practical level, in the Yang phases of our personal cycle or the natural cycle we are aligning with, (Spring and Summer) our self-care or yoga practice may be more ‘active’ in nature. This may include a more dynamic asana sequence, a dance class or strenuous bush walk.
During the Yin phases (Autumn and Winter) we are more likely to be drawn to practices and self-care that are ‘passive’ in nature and are perhaps more inward, nurturing and nourishing. For example:
Spring: As the energy starts to grow, this is a wonderful phase to bring more movement into your Yoga practice. The joint releasing ‘Pawanmuktasana’ sequence is both grounding and nourishing and will begin to gently awaken the body.
Summer: The peak of Summer energy is the time to incorporate a more dynamic flow so you might include stronger sun salutations, a flowing standing sequence or more active inversions into your practice.
Autumn: As we enter the “fall’ and the energy starts to spiral inwards this is a wonderful time to include practices that are more inward and contemplative in nature like Pranayama or Meditation.
The “falling out breath’ (where we inhale through the nose and exhale via an open mouth with a sigh or sound) is great for fostering the ‘letting go’ that comes with Autumn.
Winter: Including restorative poses like ‘Armchair Pose’ or ‘Viparita Karani’ with a guided Yoga Nidra in your practice. This is the ultimate way to take advantage of the deep rest that the winter phase invites.
On a side note – this doesn’t mean you can’t be ‘active’ during the Yin phase, or ‘passive’ during the Yang phase. It’s more about really tuning in to what’s true in the moment and following that thread no matter what season or phase of the moon is present, or where you find yourself in your own cycle.
As I said earlier, deep listening is the key – as is heeding the insight received.
This is not always easy in our fast-paced world, but it is worthy of our attention if we desire to live in a more present, harmonious and connected way, not only with ourselves but with Gaia and her changing seasons.
If you are interested to learn more about adapting your yoga practice to both your own monthly cycle and the wider natural cycles around us, read Moving with the Moon®- Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond by Ana Davis (also available in E-book format and with 22 accompanying audio tracks).
Star Despres is a Senior Course Facilitator for the Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course and Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training courses. Star also offers Online 1:1 Mentoring for yoga teachers and personalised yoga classes. Alongside Bliss Baby Yoga, Star shares her own Online sanctuary – www.stardespres.com – honouring the feminine and offering private mentoring, retreats, workshops and circles to inspire women to reclaim their power and reconnect to their authentic selves. Her greatest role is as a mama of 2 daughters (17 years apart), where she continues to fine tune the balance of work and Mamahood whilst also honouring her own needs.