Why you should adjust your yoga practice in summer.
The delightful thing about Yoga is there are very few, if in fact no barriers to incorporating these wonderful practices into your life. No matter your age or ability, Yoga is for everybody. The other thing about Yoga is that you can adjust your practice to suit your current mood, time of day and also to the season. This is why you should adjust your yoga practice for summer.
Summer is the hottest part of the year, so, it’s important to change your physical yoga practice according to the characteristics of the season. It’s a little like diet, you adjust and change certain foods accordingly to the time of year, the same applies to your yoga practice.
Firstly, the best time to practice asana (postures) in summer are during dawn and dusk. Secondly, slow down your asana practice and adopt more cooling pranayama (breathing) practices. Try to avoid extreme active asanas when it’s dramatically hot outside. Physical, dynamic asanas increase the body temperature and overheat the body and mind.
Let me explain a little further…
How Ayurveda (Yoga’s sister science), approaches the seasons
According to Ayurveda, there are three primary life forces in the body, called ‘Doshas.’ Vata, Pitta & Kapha are the three main doshas that create the constitution of our bodies.
The doshas are very strongly linked to the 5 elements and the four seasons of the year. As you can see in this little diagram.
Ayurveda is a holistic health system that looks at all aspects of our life in order to balance body, mind, and spirit. It also aims to prevent disease by adjusting and managing our diet and lifestyle choices. Ayurveda teaches us how important it is to adapt our lifestyles according to the seasons.
The summer months are a time of light and warmth and the energy of summer radiates at a high vibration. Summer is a period of intense heat, which can boil our bodies and our minds!
The season of Pitta
You may have experienced moments where you are a little impatient? Or you get irritable very easily or quick tempered. Perhaps you feel the effects of the heat and humidity during the night, you feel restless and don’t sleep as well. Do any of these symptoms sounds familiar to you? It’s an indication you have an excess of Pitta.
Pitta is the main dosha in summer, it is the one that can get aggravated and out of balance very easy during this time of year. So, you must be sure that its element “fire” doesn’t get triggered. The way you manage this is through your lifestyle choices.
Being very mindful of your diet, daily activities like yoga asana and other exercises, so that you don’t stimulate, accumulate, and increase your body’s fire.
Take at a look at our recent blog post that explores this topic in more depth, including tips to keep cool during the summer months. How to keep your cool during summer
So, what does Ayurveda say about your yoga practice?
The starting point is to look a little more closely at the different aspects of the Pitta dosha. Pitta is the fire element mixed with a little bit of water!
Its attributes are hot, slightly wet, light, subtle, flowing, mobile, sharp, hard, soft, smooth and clear. To balance these out and create an equilibrium in our practice, we need to incorporate the opposite attribute
Any practice that we do during the heat of summer should be done to 75% of our capacity, using the breath to monitor the intensity of the practice.
Practise asana postures that reduce the excess of pitta. Incorporating postures that are cooling and grounding and that are practised in an unforced manner.
Forward bends and spinal twists work very well to help balance the excess of pitta. Hold postures for longer periods of time, without strain also helps to reduce excess pitta.
Pranayama (breathing practices)
Incorporate practices that are calming and cooling. Which means practices like Khapalabati (Fire Breathing) or Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), which are vitalising practices, are contraindicated for the summer season as they aggravate Pitta. The best pranayama for this time of year are practices that are cooling and calming like Nadi Shodhana (Alternative Nostril Breathing) and Sheetali (Cooling Breath).
Summer Yoga practice.
I’ve put together a short yoga practice that will help to reduce excess Pitta to help keep you balanced during this hotter period of summer. You can access your ESSENTIAL SUMMER YOGA PRACTICE by following this link below.
A list of the practices included in the practice plus their benefits are also detailed below.
- Surya Pushpam (sunflower or lotus opening pose) A lovely practice that is balancing for the nervous system. it is a beautiful chest opening practice that also fills the lungs with air and at the same time loosen knees & hips joints.
- Supta Udarakarshasana (sleeping abdominal pose) This asana provides a massage for the abdominal organs. By twisting and stretching through the whole spine, releasing the strain and stiffness that can be caused from sitting for long periods.
- Marjariasana (cat pose) This amazing asana improves flexibility of the neck, shoulders, and spine, also helps to release tension that can often accumulate in this area.
- Ardha Chandrasana (crescent moon) Incredible asana to improve circulation of the blood and relieve mental and emotional stress calming the mind.
- Parvatasana (mountain or down facing dog) A very grounding earthy pose. This asana strengthens the muscles and nerves from the whole back and limbs.
- Shashankasana (child pose)Who doesn’t love child pose? It is a very cooling and calming asana, helps to control anger bringing about a relaxed mind and body.
- Padhotanasana variation with (legs up the wall) This easy and comfortable variation allows to enjoy the practice for long periods of time, in a completely relaxed manner. It is incredibly relaxing for the nervous system. Also helps to tone the digestive organs and is excellent for indigestion, and acidity in the stomach. A very common pitta imbalance. Alternatively, try Viparetta Karani asana.
- Viparetta Karani (inverted pose) It’s one of the most wonderful practices to improve blood circulation. Your legs are elevated above the heart, sending old blood to the heart, which means the heart needs to work a little harder to pump new blood up there. It also improves flexibility of the neck vertebrae.
- Shavasana (corpse pose) My favourite posture! The queen of relaxing asanas! It relaxes the whole psycho-physiological system, it is the best counterpose after dynamic asanas, and the best choice for relaxation after the asana session. The important thing is to remain present.
- Paschimothanansa (back stretching pose) A forward bending asana that is wonderful for activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Inducing a deep state of relaxation. A posture that can be modified using props. Ben the knees if needed to avoid strain in the lower back.
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (half spinal twists) A delightful practice that stretches the muscles on one side of the back and abdomen whilst contracting the muscle on the other side. This popular spinal twist is both internalising and calming when practised with the eyes closed and the focus is on the natural breath.
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternative Nostril Breathing) It’s a miraculous practice with cooling effects in our nervous system. Improve awareness and sensitivity of the breath in the nostrils, it balances the right and left hemisphere, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
- Sheetali (Cooling Breath) It’s what we really need in the hottest days of summer! Mind-bogglingly Cools the body inducing mental and muscular relaxation, it’s an amazing natural tranquillising for the mind.