Summer has arrived and in many parts of the county, the temperatures are rising into the high 90’s. We all know the feelings that come from the heat and its affect on our daily routines and rhythms. Some of us avoid going outside or plan our daily activities around the hottest part of the day to avoid the discomfort. Others plow through the day as if nothing has changed. A healthy approach to the heat is to align our activities with the elements in order to stay balanced.
Staying cool also helps us to stay calm.
Time to Slow Down
Even though some of us naturally enjoy the high temperatures, when we’re exposed long enough, we start to wilt and feel the drain on our energy levels. In many warm cultures, there is a natural attention to staying cool. Taking a siesta or afternoon rest is one way to go with the flow and not fight the slower pace that the heat demands. If you’re someone who tries to keep up the fast pace even when the heat is telling us to slow down, it’s important to focus on making a shift. If we slow down just a little and try not to push too much, we can actually find more energy and less resistance.
The tradition of yoga makes some suggestions for doing a yoga practice that helps you to stay balanced in the hot weather and decreases the chances of reaching your boiling point.
Two Yogic Breathing Practices to Cool Your Body Temperature
This is a breathing practice that cools the brain and the body. It strengthens breath awareness, moistens the airways and serves as an internal air-conditioning system. It is particularly helpful when you start to feel overheated.
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor.
- Begin to bring attention to your breathing.
- Start to imagine seamlessly weaving the in-breath and out-breaths together.
- Start to curl the tongue like a straw.
- Inhale as you breath into the curled tongue slowly and smoothly.
- Exhale close the mouth and breath out through the nose.
- Repeat this for several breaths as you notice the sensation of cool air coming in through the tongue.
- Repeat up to 3 to 18 times and then close the mouth and rest.
- Notice the cooling effect and sit quietly for a few minutes before resuming activity.
This is another version of the same practice but for those who can’t roll the tongue. Side note: about 30% of us can’t curl our tongues.
- Follow the same steps from above, but rather than curling the tongue, start to smile with your teeth together.
- Breath in through your teeth.
- Close the lips and breath out through the nose.
- As in Sitali, this can be done 3-18 times before resting.
Adjusting Your Yoga Practice for the Heat
Your Yoga practice should change with the seasons. There are recommendations for all the different seasons and these adjustments can help you to get the most out of practice. Yoga recognizes that heat can collect in the body and the tissues from exposure (both external and internal). This can have an inflammatory effect on the body and mind. Staying cool also helps us to stay calm.
Practice early in the morning – before the heat of the day. Include a healthy dose of meditation and cooling breaths.
Let your yoga flow – try to create a slow flow to your practice, weaving one pose to the next without holding each pose for more than a breath or two. The poses start to take on a watery feeling and become less intense and more cooling.
Let go of your effort – don’t work so hard. Try using less effort in everything you do. This will keep you from getting overheated. One suggestion is to work to about 70% of your capacity. This will ensure not over exerting. Another suggestion is to practice surrendering while in the poses. Things like forward bending helps to encourage this kind of deep release.
Soften your gaze – the eyes are the seat of the fire element because they burn images so we can see. When they are overly busy we can have the experience of feeling hot or stressed. If we soften the gaze in our yoga poses (and our life) it can affect our overall feeling of calm and cool. It takes the pressure off and lets us relax. This is why when we wear sunglasses it not only helps the glare but it keeps us cool.
Using just a few simple tools can keep you from reaching your boiling point so you can enjoy the restful feeling of the warm weather.
What do you do to stay cool?
This article is re-posted from Ornish Living with permission from Susi Amendola. View original publication here.