As we come to the end of the year and the days grow shorter, the temperatures lower, it is time to change the focus of your practice. Look at what is going on in nature and you get a good clue as to how to adjust your practice at this time of year.
During the Fall and Winter, there is a gradual drawing in that you see in nature. Leaves fall from the trees, grass stops growing and everything slows down and draws in for the Winter. Remember that Yin energy draws inward and that this is the dominating cycle now. We do the same drawing in, staying inside, bundling up when we do go out, and slowing down in general. Even in warmer climates there is a change, even if not to as great a degree as the colder climes.
How then does this affect the focus of our practice? Since Yin is the dominating energy, you want to take advantage of that by practicing in line with this energy. You want to focus on practice that emphasizes a more meditative internal type of work, as opposed to practice that centers on the outside and expanding your energy outward, or on practices designed to drive the energy in a vigorous manner. Concentrate on being very calm and meditative, focusing more on awareness of the internal part of your practice.
For example, concentrating on your focus on the Dan Tian and maintaining that as your center as you do your form practice is one way to practice in this manner. As you move, keep your mind centered on the Dan Tian, feeling everything as being in relation to this center. Keep the awareness inside in this manner as you practice each form, and let this center point move everything else. Do not let your concentration stray from that point, but also remain very relaxed and meditative.
Concentrating on feeling the internal flow of energy along the meridians is another way to do this more Yin practice. Try to heighten the awareness of the flow on the paths in the torso, up the governing and down the conception vessels for instance. Then you can move on to focus on the paths in the arms and then the paths in the legs. Take each one at a time and work with it until you get a good strong feeling before moving on.
This is also a good time of year to work on your standing, seated or reclining meditation practice, in addition to your moving meditation practice. The main focus again is internal. These types of meditation, while seemingly static, are in fact very busy inside. Make sure you do not fall into the trap of thinking that still meditation is just being completely still and empty. This is a common error made by many students when they are learning still meditation postures. Inside you should be very busy, working on your internal energy flow. Each posture is working on a specific type of flow and you must work on that in a very calm, concentrated manner.
These are just a few suggestions to give you the idea. Any of the forms can be practiced following the guidelines above, the main point being to be very calm and meditative, rather than trying to do practice to drive or expand the energy outward. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere of course, you are in the opposite phase right now.
My best wishes for the Holidays to everyone out there, and sincerest hopes that you all have a powerful New Year. If you have any questions or would like to see a particular topic covered, contact me.