Summer is here in full force, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and the heat is intense! Some parts of the United States are experiencing record highs, and for many of us the thought of crawling into the freezer sounds like a great idea. For Bikram yogis, it may not be a concern, but what about those of us who aren’t used to practicing in intense heat and humidity? When hot weather has you worn out, the thought of yoga practice can be a bit uninspiring. Working up more of a sweat with Breath of Fire, or intense asanas is the last thing we want to do in hot weather. But maintaining a consistent yoga practice is important for our health and well being, so what’s a yogi to do? Plenty! From pranayama to calming postures, doing yoga in the summer is possible. Try some of these yogic suggestions for keeping your cool in intense heat, and keep your practice alive all summer long.
Sitalee Pranayam is the pranayama practice for summer. It is said that this pranayam can reduce fevers, and that it cools the 4th, 5th, and 6th vertebrae of the spine. Yogi Bhajan taught that it affects the kidneys, the adrenals, and the digestive system.
To practice Sitalee pranayam, curl the tongue and extend the tip of the tongue past the lips. Imagine that you are making a straw out of your tongue, and inhale through the curled tongue. Exhale through the nose. Several minutes of Sitalee pranayam can go a long way to making you feel cooler and more relaxed.
Powerful inversions like handstands use a lot of muscular energy, and can make you feel warmer. However, doing a supported shoulder stand or even a gentle legs-up-the-wall pose will give you many benefits of an inversion while also helping to calm the mind.
Forward bends are also great for summer, because they are also considered to be calming postures. If you have short hamstrings, or if you just want to amp up the calming factor, do seated forward bends with a bolster or rolled up blanket under your knees. This will ensure that your pelvis is in a healthy, neutral position and allow you to fold forward safely.
If you’re looking for a more complete asana practice, try Shiva Rea’s Lunar Flow Yoga DVD, which has a series of asanas that will give you a workout while also drawing on more cooling postures.
The Narayan Shabad is a beautiful shabad to chant when the days are hot. “Narayan” is a name of the divine which relates to the element of water. Yogi Bhajan taught that “Narayan is the quality that restores. It allows life to become fresh, lush and green again.” When you’re feeling wilted from summer heat, chant this shabad and let it restore you.
There are several beautiful recordings to choose from so you’re sure to be able one that you connect with.
Staying hydrated is important when it’s unbearably hot outside. Cool herbal or yogi tea will keep you hydrated without tons of sugar. Ayurvedic teachings don’t recommend drinking iced beverages, so keep that in mind while you’re brewing up your favorite tea.