Yoga for All Seasons: Summer
by: Nichole Golden
As the seasons shift, our bodies cycle through an organic ebb and flow of change that serves to harmonize and create balance within us. These changes are usually influenced by the seasons themselves: hours of daylight, foods that are abundant at particular times of the year, weather patterns, and seasonally inspired activities.
Although your body will adjust to these changes naturally, it never hurts to integrate some simple tweaks into your routine to aid in the transition and link yourself more intimately with the season that is upon you.
An Ayurvedic approach to inner-body balance
The summer months are a time of light and warmth, and the energy of summer radiates at a high vibration. To balance the heat and energy of the summer season, aim to cultivate the opposite environment on the inside of the body — cool and calm.
According to Ayurveda, the science of health native to India, summer inspires the pitta dosha. The doshas are the bodily humors that help to create one’s individual constitution, and there are three different doshas: vata, pitta, kapha.
Pitta is driven predominately by the solar force, so when the natural cycle of the seasons brings us to the sunny summer months, it is important to pacify the natural pitta inside our bodies so that we aren’t meeting the hot, fiery external climate with a similar internal energy. In doing so, we allow ourselves to enjoy the full excitement and thrill that summer brings, without being flooded by too much of one energetic force.
But how do we balance that pitta energy? During this time of year, a good counter for the sunny weather would be to create a lunar current within the body by focusing on activities and foods that are cooling. This approach will nourish your system and help increase your energy levels.
6 cooling summer yoga poses
One of the best ways to encourage equilibrium in your body is through your yoga practice. Here are a few cooling yoga poses you can include in your daily routine:
Moon Salutations: These are a variation of your Sun Salutes. If you want to do regular Sun Salutations, try to walk forward rather than jump forward to maintain the low vibratory feeling.
Supported Backbends: Try Bridge Pose with a yoga block beneath the low back.
Legs Up the Wall: Remember to keep your tailbone flush against the wall and your legs straight up.
Supported Shoulder Stand: Place a blanket or towel under the shoulders, letting your neck dip off the edge.
Forward Folds: Try Seated Forward Fold or Wide-Legged Forward Fold.
Floor Twists: You can do these seated or lying on your back.
All of these poses send a calming wave through the nervous system and serve the body’s attempts to self-regulate.
Breath work: Cooling Pranayama
After you complete your asanas, weave in one or both of the following cooling pranayama (breath work):
Shitali Pranayama: This technique is done by curling the sides of your tongue towards one another and sticking your tongue out through your lips. Inhale through your rolled tongue and exhale out through the nose. Repeat 5-20 times. If you have difficultly curling your tongue, try making a donut shape with your lips instead; inhale through the lips, exhale through the nose.
Single-Nostril Breathing: This technique isolates one nostril. For the summer months we are targeting the left nostril, which is called the Ida Nadi (“subtle channel”), which is the body’s cooling channel and is located on the lunar side of the body. Plug the right side of the nostril and breathe in and out through the left nostril for 5-20 breaths.
Cooling foods, herbs and spices
Food is another essential component to balance the body, as it metabolizes your efforts from the inside, out. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow that will align your eating with the summer season:
- Eat vegetables and fruits that have a high water content: melons, cucumbers, and leafy greens.
- Keep things light and cool — enjoy foods that aren’t dense and heavy, and ones that you don’t need to cook for very long; perhaps even things you don’t have to heat up at all before eating.
- It’s easier to get dehydrated during the summer months. Try drinking electrolyte-enhanced water. If you ever feel like you are over-heating, coconut water is very cooling to the body. (Just be mindful of how much you drink as it is a natural laxative!)
- Incorporate herbs and spices that reduce the pitta dosha, including mint, fennel, cilantro, cumin, and coriander.
Although your body will instinctively crave balance as the seasons shift, it is always a beneficial practice to offer a little assistance. Trust your instincts on these recommendations and always do what feels right for you. Happy summer!
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