Ground Thyself: Yoga Poses for the Autumnal Equinox

Get grounded! Root down and rise up with these stabilizing yoga poses for the fall equinox.

All this full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.
–The Upanishads

At the Autumnal Equinox, it’s important to take a moment to go inward. Perhaps you’re going through something difficult, or lost in a feeling of chaos. Keep in mind that life is a continuous circle: always shifting and evolving, dying and being born again. Just as change is the only constant, there are unbroken patterns that exist within the ebb and flow of reality, within the mind’s ever-fluctuating inner landscape. When we stop spinning our wheels, we can begin to witness the pattern, becoming aware enough to actually break free from it.

As the wheel of life spins round and round, it is there at the center of the cyclone where clarity and stillness reside. This galactic center is our connection to the divine; it is a balancing of duality: of yin and yang, of feminine and masculine, light and dark, success and failure, creation and receptivity. It is where our habits and patterns become illuminated, and we experience a great awakening—despite the chaos and commotion that is swirling all around us. By grounding into this center of serenity, we are inevitably more relaxed and at ease. We are reminded that whatever the circumstance may be, whether good or bad, that eventually it too will pass.

This pause into stillness presents us with an opportunity to view life from a broader perspective—from the deepest depths to highest heights. We can recognize that dark and light must coexist together, as duality is the nature of all things. Through practice and experience, it becomes possible to understand that the dark and the difficult are needed as much as the light and easy. By opening ourselves up to the full spectrum of creation we become more integrated, more powerful and present. This integration is transcendence from duality—it is being in direct participation with the universe itself. We are no longer separate, but part of the cosmic whole. Once we become existentially rooted, we can navigate the world from a place of steadiness and stability.

The Autumnal Equinox on September 22 recognizes the symmetry between light and darkness, as Mother Nature establishes equilibrium between both day and night. As the warmth of the sun tilts away from the Northern Hemisphere, we accept that the soil is dying as we turn our attention inward for the slower, darker and colder months to come. The first day of fall also coincides with the start of Libra season in astrology, the sign of the Scales, marking a time for inviting balance back to body and mind after the whirlwind of summer. We can also look to the pagan ritual “Mabon,” and come together in celebration of abundance and gratitude: sharing in the bounty of our harvests and even reallocating some of those resources to those who live in scarcity.

To become whole is to recognize that there is always enough to go around—to cultivate spiritual richness in an effort to transcend from duality. A well-rounded and grounded person is a whole person: a holy person. The following yoga postures provide essential mind-body grounding for fall, equalizing feminine and masculine energies and balancing the root (Muladhara) chakra. As always, warm up with a few cycles of Cat/Cow and Sun Salutations first.

Malasana Magic

Malasana Magic Fall YogaBegin in a squat and widen the feet just enough to establish a foundation at the outside edges of the feet. Curl the tailbone down and away, but not under, to draw the lumbar region into a C-shape curve. Bring hands to heart and inhale fingertips to the earth with one hand, pressing the inside of the thigh (abduction) to triceps while the opposite arm lengthens skyward. Look toward fingertips and lengthen through the crown of the head for a full cycle of breath. Switch sides, moving rhythmically with your breath.

Gathering Goddess Energy

Gathering Goddess Energy Fall YogaFrom a traditional Goddess stance, again, pressing actively into the outside edges of the feet, inhale arms wide and exhale to draw energy inward toward you, palms facing one another. Bring that prana into your heart space and then flip the palms outwardly to send it toward the heavens.

Flying Peaceful Moon Warrior

Flying Warrior Fall YogaFrom Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), inhale both arms overhead and straighten through the legs to “Flying Warrior,” exhaling back to Warrior II. Repeat and then reverse, staying low in the front thigh and maintaining rootedness through the back foot. Take a leap of faith, and then use the floating fingertips to guide yourself forward, leading with the heart, pressing into the standing foot. Slowly hinge at the waist until the fingertips connect to the earth while extending through the back foot to lift it in line with its hip, flexing through the heel for Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). Spin the heart skyward and look up, and then step back into Warrior II, landing softly and with precision.

Unbound Bird of Paradise

Unbound Bird of Paradise Fall YogaReturning to Warrior II, place fingertips just outside of the front foot and reach the opposite hand up and overhead for Extended Side Angle (Uttitha Hastha Pandangusthasana). Use the breath to facilitate a bind, clasping both hands underneath of you and spinning the heart upward. Keep pressing into the outside edge of the back foot and look up, turning the chin toward opposite shoulder. Step the back foot in and shift weight into it, lifting the front foot and keeping the front leg bent. Pause and stabilize, rooting to rise to stand up and extend through the front foot to straighten the leg into Bird of Paradise (Svarga Dvijasana). Gaze toward your spread toes and breathe, and then hinge forward to step the foot back down into a wide-legged stance, maintaining the bind. Slide or step the back foot backward and unwind, coming back to Side Angle.

Number 4 FTW

Number Four Stretch Fall YogaFrom Mountain Pose (Tadasana), shift weight into one foot and cross the opposite ankle above the knee for a Number Four stretch. Sink low in the hips, reaching the seat back but keeping the chest lifted. Inhale to stretch the arms overhead, exhaling hands to heart. Hinge forward at the waist, and then reach fingertips toward the earth, bringing a nice bend to the front leg. Let your head go and release the neck. Repeat on the other side, beginning with the flying warrior series. 

Rockin’ Root Chakra

Rockin Root Chakra Fall YogaCome to a cross-legged seat. Draw the outside edge of your foot into the inner elbow of the opposite arm and sit up tall, rocking the pelvis slightly forward to create spinal extension in the lumbar curve. Find the two points of the sit bones and tip the pelvis forward (extension) and then back (flexion), finding equilibrium there. Gently twist the torso side-to-side while pressing into the outside edge of the rooted foot beneath you to maintain your grounding. Rock and roll around carefully and with intention, staying connected to the breath.

Find Your True North

Compass Pose Fall YogaFrom “Rockin’ Root Chakra,” extend the leg that is being worked with to the side to find this revolved, heart-opening variation of Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana). Sweep the inside arm inside the thigh and reaching opposite arm overhead toward opposite foot. Rotate the heart open and turn the chin upward, staying rooted in your seat. Draw the extended heel in to bend the knee and drag the released arm back to lift the elbow and activate through the fingertips. Extend through the heel and continue spinning the chest, finding Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana) and re-straightening through the leg any amount. Bend the knee to lower the leg back down. Root to rise with grace and ease, and then repeat on the other side.

Images by Beth Kessler Photography. 

Andrea Rice is a writer and yoga teacher in Raleigh, NC. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, NY Yoga + Life, SONIMA, mindbodygreen and other online publications. Connect with Andrea on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and her website.