Sizzling summer temperatures, while exotic for those of us based in the United Kingdom, can be a bit enervating and leave one lacking in energy. How best to adapt your yoga practice so that the practices chosen help cool and soothe rather than exacerbate the heat? According to Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga, in summer the pitta dosha (one of the three ‘doshas’ or constitutions) can be aggravated, leaving us feeling extra hot and potentially short-tempered. Adapting your practice for summer according to Ayurvedic principles involves choosing cooling and calming postures and practices that will help soothe and balance rather than aggravate excess pitta.
If you’re not able to get away to the beach just yet, here are a few yoga tips for keeping cool this summer:
- Keep it fluid: channel the cooling water element with gently flowing movement rather than holding static poses for long periods;
- Twist it up: practice twists that are believed by some to be detoxing. Try a simple seated twist: come to a seated position (on a block or cushion if it stops you from rolling backward). Find a nice tall spine as you breathe in; as you breathe out, gently twist to one side (repeat on the other side).
- Calm it down: forward folds are energetically cooling. Try a soft seated forward fold: sitting on a support if it helps you sit tall, as you breathe in, find a nice long spine and as you exhale, gently fold forwards keeping your knees bent. You can rest your arms by your sides palms facing up for a more open arm variation;
- Legs up!: Viparita Karani or legs up against the wall can also be practised lying on your back with your legs raised towards the ceiling above your hips. Try gently rotating your ankles in each direction and only stay for as long as is comfortable. You could pop a block under your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of your spine) for a supported bridge instead with your feet on the floor (hip-width apart with knees over the ankles). If in a supported bridge, enjoy the sensation of breathing into the open chest area.
- Enjoy the stillness: summer to me often has a super still quality. Even if for just a moment, let yourself enjoy the extra stillness in final relaxation (Savasana) and surrender to the moment.
- And if the heat of the day all seems a bit much, try walking outside at night and enjoy the peaceful rays of the cooling moon. Perhaps take your shoes off and enjoy the cool earth below.
Practicing yoga in accordance with the seasons can help us feel connected to nature and more in tune with ourselves and how we are feeling. Wherever you are this summer and whatever the temperatures, enjoy the summer season!
Sian O’Neill is a BWY accredited yoga teacher and teaches a gently flowing and mindful yoga class. She is the Editor of Yoga Teaching Handbook and Yoga Student Handbook, published by Singing Dragon, and the Series Editor of the Yoga Teaching Guides. Go to www.yogawithsian.co.uk for further details or to make an enquiry about corporate classes, workshops or one-on-ones.
*Seek medical advice before practising if you are working with any injuries or conditions*