The Fall Equinox, also known as the Autumnal Equinox, or Autumn Equinox, marks the transition from summer to fall, which has always felt like the true “new year” to me. Maybe this is because I have spent more of my life on a school schedule than not – both as a student and an educator, or maybe it’s because the change in weather creates a tangible shift you can really feel during this time of year.
Regardless, I’ve always felt that this time is a time of renewal. A time of tangible change.
Aligning our practices with the energetic shift of this time of year can help us to transition with grace, which is something I’m always striving to do (with mixed success). To do so, let’s dive into what, exactly, the Fall Equinox is.
What is an Equinox?
The word equinox comes from the Latin for “equal night” – which is exactly what it is, and it happens twice a year.
The Spring and Autumn Equinoxes are specific positions of the Earth during its year-long orbit around the sun. In these positions, our planet’s axis is directed neither toward nor away from the sun, and the planet is divided into approximately equal parts night and day.
On an equinox, the sun is visible right above the planet’s equator, splitting it down the middle in a neat astronomical alignment. This leads to perfectly divided amounts of sunshine.
The equinoxes are the points of balance between the two solstices: the Summer Solstice, when the days are longest, and the Winter Solstice, when the nights are longest. At the Spring and Autumnal Equinox, day and night are of equal length: 12 hours each.
Related: Spring Equinox 108 Sun Salutations
The Autumnal Equinox
As the Earth progresses along its orbit and it passes through the balanced equinox point at the end of summer (the Fall Equinox), its axis begins to lean away from the sun. This brings the southern hemisphere closer to, and the northern hemisphere further away from, the sun.
As a result, the sun’s rays hit the northern hemisphere at an indirect angle and we get less sunshine in this part of the world. This waning sunlight initiates a distinct and perceptible shift, as summer begins to fade and the top half of our planet retreats from the heat of the sun.
In other words, winter is coming (even if Game of Thrones isn’t yet – whyyy must we wait so long?! But I digress…).
The Autumn Equinox is the point at which we are about to turn toward the darkest time of the year, as nighttime gradually starts to outlast the day.
How Can We Align With the Fall Equinox
If you’re anything like me, you don’t exactly welcome this shift to darker days and colder temperatures (hi, that’s why I live in Mexico now). However, instead of seeing this gradual shift as a dismal plunge into cold darkness, maybe we can see it as nature’s reminder to slow down.
Shorter days mean less time for doing. More time for being still; being quiet. The increased darkness is our invitation to turn toward the light within.
Seasonal changes also remind us that the only constant in life is change. As such, we must learn to let go of anything we no longer need and embrace that change.
And just as the equinox is the planet’s point of balance between light and dark, hot and cold, we are invited to find balance in ourselves and our lives.
The Autumnal Equinox is the perfect time to reflect on what hasn’t served us and to practice letting go. To set new intentions for the season ahead, and to spend some time grounding and finding balance – balance between movement and stillness, between strength and surrender.
In preparation for the Fall Equinox, I invite you to ponder the Autumn Equinox Contemplation Questions below. Do this when you have some quiet, perhaps with a cup of coffee or tea. Take this time to start turning inward.
Autumn Equinox Contemplation Questions
1. What have I achieved this year?
What has been my personal harvest?
What has grown into full expression and brought me joy?
Begin each sentence with “I celebrate…”
2. Which seeds have grown, and which have not?
Why have I been successful in some areas and not in others?
What seeds of insight will I collect to re-plant successfully in the next season?
3. Where am I holding back or giving in to doubt?
Which fears are stalling me?
“I am afraid of…”
4. Where am I creating struggle or holding on?
How can I conserve energy by releasing any unnecessary effort?
5. Am I housing any latent anger towards myself or others?
How can I liberate myself from it?
6. Do I feel ashamed or embarrassed by any behaviors or decisions I have made?
How can I lay them to rest?
7. Do I feel guilty for any of my thoughts, words, or actions?
How can I make a conscious change?
8. If my body were to speak, what would it say to me?
When you have taken your time to contemplate, move on to this Autumn Equinox Practice consisting of pranayama, asana, and meditation. Feel free to practice them individually, or all together for a complete practice.
Autumn Equinox Practices
Sama Vritti Pranayama: Even, Regulated Breath
Find a comfortable seat and observe your breath for a few moments.
Begin to smooth out the breath and make it more regular.
– Without rushing, gradually guide the breath into a smooth and even rhythm, making each part of the inhale the same as every other part of the inhale (so the beginning of the breath isn’t faster or stronger than the latter part of the breath).
– Do the same with the exhale: even it out.
When you’ve found an evenness within each inhale and each exhale, begin to match the length of the inhales and exhales.
– If you inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts.
– Any count is fine, as long as there is no strain on the breath and you are able to match inhales and exhales.
Continue like this for 5 minutes.
Asana Practice: Balancing Movement & Stillness, Strength & Surrender
Seated Side bends: 5 breaths each side
Seated Spinal Twist: 5 breaths each side
Tabletop: Cat/Cow x5
Plank: 5 breaths
Downward Facing Dog: 5 breaths
Plank-> Down Dog: Flow x5
Ragdoll/Standing Forward Fold: 5 breaths
Tadasana: 5 breaths (close the eyes, connect to the earth beneath you)
Surya Namaskar A x3
Surya Namaskar B x3
Warrior 2: 5 breaths
Reverse Warrior: 5 breaths
Triangle: 5 breaths
Half Moon: 5 breaths
Warrior 2: 3 breaths
Optional Vinyasa -> Downward Facing Dog
Repeat on Left Side
Warrior 2 -> Reverse Warrior -> Triangle -> Half Moon -> Warrior 2: 1 breath per movement Flow x1 (R& L sides)
Pidgeon Pose: 10 breaths each side
Seated Forward Fold: 10 breaths
Supported Bridge: 10 breaths
Legs up the wall: 10 breaths
Supine twist: 5 breaths each side
Savasana: 10-15 minutes
As the trees let go of their leaves, what do you wish to let go of? What seeds do you want to cultivate over the winter, ready to grow and blossom next spring?
Select one of the Autumn Equinox Contemplation Questions for this meditation, and choose one of the below based on the time you have available.
Less than 5 minutes:
Simply pose a question to yourself and trust your subconscious to come up with an answer. In savasana, or just before bed, are good times to do this.
5 – 20 Minutes:
Sit quietly and reflect on your chosen question. Set a timer and keep gently bringing your attention back to your breath and your meditation question.
As thoughts arise, imagine placing each one on a leaf and watch it flow by on a stream. Observe any thoughts that come into your mind, one after another, and then let them go.
Meditate on a question as you walk. You can do this indoors or outside. Keep your focus on the act of walking, your breathing, and on your meditation question.
Set your timer for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes, and keep your pen glued to the paper, writing continuously for that time.
If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the meditation question. Don’t worry if a lot of what you write doesn’t seem to make any sense, this stream of consciousness writing can allow gems of truth to surface.
I hope you find a balanced sense of grounding during this Autumn Equinox, and that these practices help you to release and let go ❤️
As always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, please drop them in the comments below or shoot me an email 🙂
Related: Winter Solstice Guide + Practice