Have you ever suddenly felt sleepy in the middle of a particularly hot summer day? Maybe you take this time to sit in the shade, drink a refreshing glass of lemonade, or take a short mid-day nap. This is your body’s natural response to cool off the pitta dosha, which is dominant in the summer months. A yoga routine can be a wonderful way to cool off, reinvigorate the body, and boost your energy levels in the middle of a hot summer day.
In the heat and intensity of summer, a yoga routine with opposite qualities will help balance the pitta dosha. There are three things that can be especially helpful when it comes to a cooling yoga flow. First, it’s all in the breath. The pranayama Sitali Breath (which means cooling in Sanskrit) is a wonderful tool in your practice. The secret behind this breath is to inhale into the moisture of your tongue, which has an immediate cooling effect in the mouth and on the mind. Practice this pranayama by sitting tall with a straight spine and taking a few rounds of breath. Stick your tongue out and roll it into an “O” shape so that the edges of the tongue touch. Take a long, 3 beat inhalation, hold at the top. Then draw your tongue back into your mouth and exhale for the same, even, beat of 3. Try this for at least 10 rounds, until you’ve had a chance to settle into your practice and feel the cooling properties of air and water.
From your seated position, stand up into Mountain pose. A modified sun salutation will calm the mind without creating too much heat in the body. From Mountain pose, inhale your arms up into prayer. Exhale your arms down and hinge at the hips in a forward fold. Inhale and straighten the spine into a halfway lift, exhale, and fold back down. You can linger in forward fold for a few breaths if you desire, making sure to release all tension in the neck and shoulders so your spine can fully extend. Inhale and let your spine roll up each vertebra at a time to find Mountain pose again, extending your arms up and overhead into a prayer. Exhale, and bring your hands to your heart center. Repeat 3 to 5 times. This modified sun salutation is an excellent way to loosen up and get your spine lubricated, without the added intensity of a down and upwards facing dog.
Another excellent summertime pose is Tree pose. After completing your Sun Salutations and find yourself back in Mountain, root through your feet and slowly shift the weight into your right foot. Begin to lift the left knee up, slowly bringing it up until you an reach the foot and place it on the inside of your right thigh. Then place your hands in prayer at the heart center, and take a few grounding breathes. You can even play with the Sitali Breath for extra pitta pacification! In this standing asana, make it a moving meditation where you feel yourself rooted through your standing leg and lifting through the crown of the head. Here, we can learn to be just like trees. Our roots run deep and strong, but we will continue to grow upwards towards the light. After you’ve completed a few rounds of breath, slowly bring your left foot back down, shake out the hips, and repeat on the other side.
Like the trees, it is important for us to feel rooted during the hot, busy days of summer. Malasana, or Yogi squat, is a wonderful pose to finish your practice with as it helps us reconnect to the earth. After you’ve completed Tree on both sides, stand in Mountain with your palms at heart center. Stand with your feet at a shoulder’s width. Take a long inhale, and on your exhale slowly crouch down into Yogi squat with your arms placed on the inside of your knees and palms remaining at heart center. With every inhale, visualize that you are pulling up red energy from the earth through your feet. After a round of 3 to 5 breaths, sit back into a cross legged position. Close the practice with a few more cooling rounds of Sitali Breath to feel the full effects of these water, earth and air asanas. Thank yourself for taking the time to nourish your body!
Santa Cruz Ayurveda