Fall. What is it about this season that resonates so deeply? For me, it has to do with the dance between light and dark, pleasant and unpleasant, that comes with the end of summer. Keats expressed it so aptly in the opening lines of his famous poem “To Autumn”:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun—
Isn’t this what we feel in the autumn—a kind of ripening, a “maturing” like the sun’s, and the recognition of another year going by? And “mists” evokes a kind of wistfulness, followed by a mellow fruitfulness that, to my ear, suggests gentle reflection.
Autumn means a return for many of us: to school, perhaps a regular work schedule, the beginning, again, of the holiday season, a return to that season, and so on—and all of those returns strike chords. There is resonance in the English language, too. September, November, December—I think of them as the three “ember” months, the “remember months.” The year turning into embers, coming to an end...
Perhaps nothing is so alive as something that’s about to die. The reds and golds and oranges of fall shout their glory to us—Take notice, we will soon be gone, they seem to say.
For me, practicing yoga nidra at this time of the year has a special quality of reminiscence, especially if we invoke the feeling of the season into our practice. I wrote the yoga nidra script below with that in mind.
You might wonder why I chose to do a short yoga nidra (this practice is 15 minutes long) as opposed to a long one, since fall is, after all, a leisurely season—great for strolls, stews, and long naps. However, fall is also a time when a lot of work projects and holiday plans go into the hopper, and time can feel compressed as the end of the year draws closer and closer. A short yoga nidra can be a good way to take a break from the task or list at hand, and return to it refreshed.
If you’re a teacher, feel free to play with the language of this script to make it your own. You might expand the body scan, using body rotations (also known as “rotations of consciousness”) from a more traditional yoga nidra, if you have the inclination and time to guide a longer practice.
You can open the yoga nidra session by inviting students to listen to what you’re saying, but if they find the words are washing over them, so be it. A teacher of mine recently confided to me that she listens to yoga nidra for the guide’s voice, that the words are secondary. I imagine many of us feel this way.
Finally, I owe deep gratitude to Jon Kabat Zinn, Jennifer Piercy, and Richard Miller. Their body scan and yoga nidra practices have helped me rest and inspired the creation of this one.
Yoga Nidra Script for Fall (15 minutes)
Note for teachers: The breaks between paragraphs represent pauses. A few seconds is usually enough, but feel it out and see what works best. Longer pauses and other suggestions are noted in brackets. You might also tell your student(s) at the beginning that this nidra has a fall theme.
Welcome to this yoga nidra…to this yogic sleep.
Take some time now to make yourself comfortable in any position you like. You can lie down, you can sit up, or stand. Take as much time as you need, using any props you have on hand so you’ll feel supported during the practice. And when you’re ready, you can close your eyes, if doing so feels comfortable for you.
Before we begin, take a moment in whatever position you’re in now to become aware of any thoughts or feelings at the forefront of your mind.
Acknowledge whatever is present for you, and then take a few moments to set it aside so that you can give yourself to this practice.
[Pause for 30 seconds.]
Everything from here on out is an invitation to you. Let my voice and my words support your practice. There’s no right or wrong, only noticing.
Notice that you may not be able to find complete comfort. That’s okay. We all bring our lives into the room with us, and now we are resting with what we’ve brought.
Acknowledge, in any way that feels right, any discomfort or pain that you have right now. Bring your attention to one place where you notice it—physical, mental, or emotional—and take a moment to acknowledge the feeling.
Breathe into the sensation.
And breathe into the sensation again.
Make any extra adjustments to the position you’ve chosen now and then find stillness.
[If you are guiding, you could say that you’d be happy to bring extra props to your students now if they’d like them.]
[Pause for 15 to 30 seconds.]
Notice the support of your mat, the floor, and the earth.
Allow your senses to open.
Bring your awareness to your mouth.
Swallow. Notice sensation inside your mouth.
Relax tongue and jaw. If your lips are parted, that’s fine.
Allow your shoulders and your chest to soften as if they had just sighed.
Feel the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.
See, if you can let go of any holding in the hips and pelvis.
Breathe into your thighs, your calves, and your feet. Allow slow breaths to sweep down your body.
Notice your back. Where can you let go a little more?
With your whole body, gently listen.
Smell. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then exhale through your mouth.
Take another breath in and let go.
Feel the touch of air at your nostrils—
the scent inside of them, the scent around you.
Rest your eyes from seeing, looking. Rest your eyes from working. Let them be.
Notice the feeling behind your eyes. Perhaps there’s no feeling, or a blank, or perhaps there are slight pulsations.
Become aware of your skin, the temperature of the room on it, and the feeling of your clothing.
Feel into being.
Let your attention begin to wander now, without controlling it in any way. Just allowing it to roam.
Feel into this sense of being.
Feel into this sense of you.
[Pause for 10 seconds.]
We’ll set an intention now.
What is your heart’s desire for this season? How is it connected to your desire for your life?
[Pause for 10 seconds.]
Where do you feel this desire in your body?
When you’re ready, state your desire simply and silently say it to yourself three times.
[Pause for 20 to 30 seconds.]
Let your breath breathe you now without any effort on your part, without any controlling. Notice how your body may begin to melt a little.
Feel how within this melting the body can release into itself, spreads out a little.
Sense how your awareness of this can allow you to relax more deeply.
Bring your attention now to your neck and soften inside your throat.
Let your awareness sink a little deeper, go beneath your skin to let your muscles relax.
Now, let the bones relax. Feel the energy beneath all of these sensations.
Feel how each breath connects to the next and how they connect to your life.
Our day is made up of our breaths.
And our day flows into night, and our night flows into day.
Days become our seasons—
The cold of winter flows into the cold of spring. The cold of spring flows into warmth, and the warmth of spring flows into the heat of summer. Summer’s heat flows into autumn’s warmth and the warmth of autumn ebbs into a crisp coolness.
Relax into being breathed.
Bring your attention now to a feeling of rootedness
and welcome this sensation into your body. Let it ground you.
Feel your body as if it were one with the earth; no division between you and where you are resting.
Now bring your attention to a sense of lightness, as if your body is a fallen leaf on the ground. Allow images to come and let them float by.
Lightness...fluttering...allow everything to be picked up in the wind and dispersed.
Move back and forth between these feelings, bringing your attention to the sensation of rootedness, of earth, and then go back to the feeling of lightness, dissolving into a weightlessness, then back to the roots, your limbs heavy, your head and torso heavy, then back to the weightlessness of your limbs, your head and torso floating lightly.
Now feel both rootedness and lightness at the same time without thinking about it. Rootedness and lightness morphing into one another.
Let there be only this feeling of dissolving, nothing else. Let go of anything that might be in the way of this feeling.
Bring your attention now to a feeling of coolness, a fall morning wind, and welcome this sensation. Let it brush easily over your body.
Now bring your attention to a feeling of warmth, a warm autumn day when you feel the need to peel off a layer to allow the sun to soak your skin. Allow images to come and let them float by.
Warmth…sun…leaves...allow everything to be picked up in the wind and scattered.
Move back and forth between these feelings, bringing your attention to coolness, to earth, and then go back to the feeling of warmth, your skin soothed by a soft sunlight, then back to the wind, your limbs cool, then your face warm, back and forth.
Now feel both coolness and warmth at the same time without thinking about it. Cool and warm tempering one another.
Let there only be this feeling.
Let yourself be empty now of any stories and fall back into just this space of being.
Just this space of being.
[Pause for a minute or two.]
Begin now to bring your awareness back into the room.
Feel where your body is touching the floor. Notice your breath.
Notice the rhythm of your breath.
Notice your energy.
Before you begin to move, imagine where you might move first, which part of your body. Now move that part of your body a little bit. Just shift.
Continue to shift, feeling each movement as you do.
Take a deep breath in and then let it go.
If you are lying down, roll into a fetal position on your side. And when you are ready, come to a seated position. If you are seated or standing, rise up a little taller.
[Pause for enough time for students to get resettled.]
Cover your face with your hands and observe how you feel right now.
Notice the effects of this practice. Allow your hands to rest in your lap now. Your eyes can slowly open to a soft gaze.
This yoga nidra practice is now complete.