As we adapt to the hot season by shifting our lifestyles to acknowledge the power of the fiery summer sun, we can reflect this on our Yoga mat as well: focusing on cooling, nourishing practices that keep our energy reserves filled for summer fun
In Ayurvedic philosophy, Summer is correlated to the dosha of Pitta. In order to maintain balance in our system, it is important to not further aggravate our internal Pitta during this season. Pitta's element is fire, and aggravating or stoking this fire through heating practices can lead to a sort of burn out. Yoga is a healing art, a medicine that helps us remain balanced natures cycles. However, like any medicine, if not taken responsibly, it can do more harm than good. As we adapt to the hot season by not wearing boots and jackets, we can adapt our Yoga practice too, during the sultry days of summer.
Prepare for practice
If you’re not an early bird, choose late afternoon or early evening for your practice. Make sure that you are well hydrated before you unroll your mat. Wear something light and preferably made of organic cotton. Our pores are more open when hot and sweaty and we don’t want to invite the chemicals from textile dyes into our blood stream! It is also important to prepare your practice space – air it out before you begin and make sure it’s as cool as it can be without using air conditioning.
Pace and breath
Choose a slower pace. If you feel a shortness of breath, slow down or relax in balasana or prostration. Observe your breath and let it be your guide. Use ujjayi pranayama when you practice. It has the power of cooling the body down when needed. Exhale through the mouth three times whenever you feel the need to during the practice; this has a calming, cooling and grounding effect.
We use sun salutations to warm up and prepare our joints and soft tissue for a deeper practice. However, during very hot days our bodies are already warm. Do less, and adjust - focus on integrating cooling and restorative poses even in your sun salutations. For example, during summer months I rarely practice poses like utkatasana. It works two of the largest muscle groups that create much heat – gluteus and quadriceps. Instead of long holds in downward facing dog, you can try Balasana or other variations (hands and knees, anahatasana, prostration…). downward facing dog is an inversion, and long held inversions build heat in the body.
It may not be necessary to practice every vinyasa fully - try softening the practice here a bit, cutting out some chaturangas and replacing with knees-chest-chin or simply resting in childs pose as a transition.
Choose your asanas wisely
Use asanas that ground, cool and soften; work more with forward bends and hip rotations. Do a longer restorative sequence at the end of your practice. Twists are good to detox but choose the ones that are not too challenging as these will again build heat in the body. If you like to work your core - choose wisely! Remember that working with the core means working with the manipura chakra and the fire element. In order to soothe our Pitta, we don’t need too much extra fire. Stay closer to the earth and choose variations from hands and knees, and forearms (like forearm planks and side planks).
Same goes for backbends: they stimulate the anahata chakra and the air element, and air aids fire. Our muscles and joints feel more open and fluid as it gets hot. Use that openness your body feels and go deep, but don’t overdo it!
Finish in style
Avoid long sirsasana (headstand). Instead, stay longer with your legs up against a wall to release that summer heaviness.
If you practice sitali pranayama do three breaths to cool down before savasana. And take a long savasana - 10 minutes at least - allowing the body to cool and soften towards the earth.
As always, love yourself on and off the mat. Be gentle and kind. Do as much or as little as feels right.
Photography: Sanjin Kastelan