Asana + TCM: Yoga for the Seasons

Are you interested in a new angle in your yoga classes? Yoga can meet many forms of knowledge, not just Ayurveda, to provide care and health for all.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on 5 element theory. This TCM philosophy is older than Western Medicine by some millennia. Interestingly, various TCM and Ayurvedic theories were developed around the same time, albeit in different parts of the world.

5 Element Theory places great importance on treating people according to the weather outside as well as their individual constitution.

The five elements tie in with a season, and can be used to tailor your yoga classes to suit everyone’s needs according to the weather outside. You can give yoga classes to help with spring allergies, and yoga classes to ensure bodies are able to respond to the cold of winter.

This is done by poses that bring awareness to certain energy meridians that run all over the body, as well as directly impacting our internal organs.

Here is a little about seasonal yoga for different times of the year:

Summer – Fire element – Time for getting outside, taking advantage of the sunlight to see friends, and starting creative projects. Yoga classes in summer should cool us down help to cope with soaring temperatures and steamy weather. These classes that give us space before burning out, open the heart for connections, and help move excess heat from our bodies.

Transitions/late summer – Earth element – The late summer harvests yield the sweetest crops. It’s a time to be grateful for the earth’s abundance, and appreciative of the last days of summer. The earth element gives us the ability to focus, and body functions that support change and growth. At this time of year, we can open the front of the body with poses like pigeon and wheel. This assists the functioning of the spleen and stomach, which help us process sugar.

Autumn – Metal element (overlaps with ‘ether’ and ‘air’ in different medical philosophies). The fall is a time to prepare for hibernation. We make pickles from summer harvest, we store what we need during the months when it is harder to grow things. We also throw away what we need. Lungs and large intestine reflect this function, so we focus on pranayama and large intestine asana.

Winter – Water element – Time for slowing down, for meditation. Yoga asana classes flow like a steady river, and poses focus on kidney and bladder functions that restore our life source over the cool months. Strong inversions like headstand, and lower back poses like baby cobra, give us the strength at the base of the spine to support comfortable sitting and a steady mind in meditation.

Spring – Wood element – Now is when new green shoots push through the decay of winter. Time to be bendy like young saplings, and focus on twists and opening the sides. Spring yoga should work on the liver, gallbladder, and the sides of the body. The quality of this season is a bouncy energy.

Thinking about yoga appropriate for different times of the year is another way to help people feel connected with the world around them, and to foster a sense of inner peace. Perceiving and feeling the processes of nature mirrored in our bodies is a beautiful thing!