A Ritual for the Autumnal Equinox

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Balance. We seek it in Yoga, we seek it in Life.

The definition that resonates for me is from Mirriam-Webster: “to bring into harmony or proportion”.

Perhaps you’ve experienced balance for a few rhythmic breaths in headstand or tree pose, or biting into a ripe piece of cold watermelon after a walk in the sun…or sinking into a steamy bath with your best tunes playing after a super tough work week.

For me, it’s become soothing to think of the order of the Universe unfolding according to some deep ancient plan. No matter how hard I try to control aspects of my life, something bigger makes the sun rise each morning and set each evening. Earth spins on its axis, unprompted. We created the concept of time to try to bring structure to our lives. And, as we know, sometimes an hour feels like a moment, sometimes an hour feels like an eternity.

The ancient Greeks made a distinction between what they referred to as Chronos time (literal time) and Kairos time (the most auspicious time for a particular occurrence). I love this concept, especially as it relates to our Yoga practice. In working on a complex pose or trying to memorize a complex sutra, we know that it doesn’t happen on “our” time (Chronos time), it takes the time it takes (Kairos time), if it happens at all! In that way, we have an opportunity to practice vairagya, or non-attachment. Another good example can be illustrated through the lens of Ayurveda. For some people, the Summer Season is pure bliss - all that light, all that heat! They wish it could continue forever! Time seems to fly by. For others, the Summer Season poses a particular challenge - all that light, all that heat! It seems to stretch interminably.

Within the parameters of Chronos time, we are now moving towards the first day of Autumn and the Autumnal Equinox on Thursday Sept 22nd. On this day, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west, and day and night are the same length. Nature illustrates balance for us so perfectly! A balance of light and dark, yang and yin, sun and moon. One could even say a balance of sthira/sukha: sthira as the steadiness of working and activity in the day, and sukha as the quiet reprieve or fun filled ease of nighttime. It’s a powerful day to affirm the same in our own lives. Easier said than done, for sure! Our modern lives can get chock full of activity, both chosen and non-negotiable. All the more reason to take inspiration from what happens in the celestial realm.

So let’s take a closer look at this unusual occurrence.

For starters, it only happens twice a year. Think of that: out of our Chronos time 365-day calendar, only two times! If we take that a step further, we could say the rest of the 363 days, the arrangement of Earth and Sun and Moon are incrementally playing off of each other in a cosmic dance of proportional power.

Isn’t it a relief to know that even the universe is in a dynamic state, carefully putting one foot in front of the other day by day, in its journey towards equanimity? Perhaps we can use that as an opportunity to turn a compassionate gaze on our own struggles with work and self care, alone time and healthy relationships, discipline and flexibility. And those times when it does come together so beautifully and our inner see-saw hits horizon level, we can deepen our appreciation for our own actions, mixed with the grace of Spirit, that landed us there. And when it doesn’t, taking a holy pause to figure out what the next right step could be, small or big, it all adds up.

Ritual for the Autumnal Equinox

Do your best to plan in advance an equal measure of work and leisure time, and on September 22nd, see if you can set up optimal conditions for both.

  1. Start your day with a bit of self care for mind, body, and spirit. A brief seated or walking meditation, a few sun salutations, a little journaling or prayer eases us into the day feeling both grounded and inspired. Include nadi shodhana, the pranayama practice that balances out the energy channels ida and pingala. If it’s newer for you, start with just a few rounds. If you’ve been doing it for a while, it might be fifteen minutes of practice.
  2. Next, you might use this day to clean out your work-from-home space or your office. Add something to the space that represents balance for you - it could be a houseplant on your desk, a picture of yourself on vacation, or a softer cushion on the back of your task chair.
  3. From 10am-2pm daily is Pitta time. The first two hours of daytime Pitta time (10am-noon) is an auspicious time for working as it gives us more clarity and industriousness. It’s a good time to get started on the most difficult tasks, our minds are often at their clearest and sharpest. Just remember to stand up and stretch every so often. Drink some water, step away from your desk for a few minutes, refresh yourself. (Author’s note, I just took my own advice and stood up, did a few jumping jacks, drank a little water, did some tapping on my head. #practicewhatyoupreach)
  4. In the second half of daytime Pitta time, noon-2pm, see if you can take a longer break. Eat a nutritious yummy meal, take a walk if possible, have a chat with a beloved friend or find a quiet space for some alone time.
  5. Once Vata daytime (2-6pm) kicks in, know that all that wind and ether energy can help us to be more creative. If there is some aspect of your work life that feels stuck, Vata rules movement. This could be a good time for problem solving - sometimes a change of perspective opens up a whole new path. It’s also an auspicious time to connect back into our inner workings, so this could be a good time for a meditation or Yoga.
  6. As we ease into evening, Kapha time is upon us, from 6pm-10pm. Give yourself some wind down time, whatever that means to you. For some of us it could be a quiet home cooked dinner with friends or family, for some of us that means trying out a hot new restaurant. Make room for laughter, leisure, rest, play. Try to put aside the business call interruptions, the temptation to send a few more work emails before bed.
  7. Close out your day with another session of nadi shodhana. Then take a few minutes to sit quietly. Thank yourself for all you do to cultivate balance in your Life. We are all works in progress. Thank the Universe for inspiration, and give yourself some gratitude for doing your best to exemplify balance today.

May we feel the support of the Universe in our daily lives, illustrating longevity and patience as we navigate our path towards harmony.

Happy Equinox! Happy Autumn!

Namaste, Ali

About the Author

Ali Cramer

Ali is a yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner based in New York City. She believes deeply that the practices of yoga and Ayurveda can teach us to live our lives with integrity, balance, and grace, if we are willing to do the work. You can practice with Ali on Yoga Anytime in Yoga and Ayurveda and Ayurveda: Yoga Practices to Feel Like Yourself.


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