Summer is Fire, one of the Five Elements. It is symbolic of the maximum activity and the greatest Yang; a time of heat and movement, nature at its peak of growth. Summer heat is expressed in the body as well as in nature. Fire is associated with stability of mind, and the heart is the “seat” of the mind, with its highest expression of love, joy and spiritual awareness.
When Fire is balanced, sensitivity and expression, true fulfillment and the equilibrium between heart and mind are our greatest rewards. In Chinese Medicine, the heart, mind, and spirit are ruled by Fire, so priority is given to the Heart for staying healthy in summer.
All seasons have associated flavours, tastes, colours, body systems, disease and emotions which effect health. We can balance our diet and activity patterns by looking to Nature and learn how to balance ourselves with environmental and seasonal changes.
Chinese Medicine is based on balancing opposites in nature; dark and light, hot and cold, masculine and feminine , Yin and Yang. And in the Chakra system, the Anahata Heart Chakra is the center and the integrator of opposites: mind and body, male and female, ego and unity. So this season is about finding balance in the heart, mind and spirit.
In asana, forward bends can be calming to the nervous system and cooling to the body’s core temperature. Forward bends are also beneficial for digestion, high blood pressure and toning thyroid by massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs. In diet, a lighter one feels better, and it’s the perfect time for cool Yin foods to balance the outer Yang. Chinese classify food according to energetic qualities of temperature, taste, and ability to strengthen the body. Food with cool/cold properties can clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate body fluids. Ive listed some cooling foods for your easy reference.
The best form of medicine, is preventative, and there are many practices that can help cool and balance the mind and body. Changing your diet and activities can help you feel more energy and vitality, and strengthening the immune system can be a part of any seasonal ritual. A practice that strengthens the essence, nourishes Life-force and regulates the heart is appropriate.
So this summer, keep moving, stay cool, help your body cleansed and toned. These yoga postures during hot summer days will help to avoid overheating. Enjoy the benefits and stress reduction that comes with practicing yoga in our busy times!
5 Yoga Asana to Cool Down – Nourish your emotional, mental, and physical body with these cooling poses for summertime
- Standing and Seated Forward Folds like Prasarita Padottanasana – This pose stretches hamstrings, calves, hips and back, and relieves stress, anxiety, mild depression, and neck and shoulder tension. Paschimottanasana or Janu Sirsasana have a cooling effect on the body, and in seated forward bends, the back of the heart and body are exposed. Supported poses can be done by adding a bolster and blankets.
- Inversions like Viparita Karani – this pose cools the body by allowing it to relax, and is an inversion which has a cooling effect on the body.
- Twists like Marychiasana – Spinal twist brings flexibility to spine, tones and strengthens abdominal, rejuvenates organs, opens chest, and increases mobility in shoulder and upper back. Twists can gently release tension in the body, aid digestion and help to quiet the mind.
- Baby Backbends like Setu Bandha – Baby bridge is great to help cool the body when the weather is hot outside, and backbends can work to tone kidneys and adrenal glands
- Savasana – there is nothing like a long, slow, deep Savasana to cool down, the body and mind. Savasana is the digestion, the silence that allows you to absorb the sensations, feelings and sacred state of Being, that rejuvenates body, mind and spirit. It is an experience of letting go completely, and provides deep rest and healing for the body and soul.
5 Things to Help Keep Cool – To prevent summer ills and remain in harmony with the season:
- Hydrate More – Drink plenty of clean, pure water water. Try to avoid cold or iced water. Excessively cold or iced drinks chill the throat and stomach too rapidly, and can contract the pores. The body has to generate more heat to warm the water for absorption, heating you up more. Accent your water with cucumbers, hibiscus, lemon or lime, and mint to replenish and refresh.
- Cover Up – If the sun’s out, you need clothing to protect skin from burning. Wear light and loose items which allows air to pass along the skin and exit, speeding evaporation and carrying off excess heat.
- Eat Cooling Foods – Cooling foods tend towards green; lettuce, cucumbers, and watercress are some of the coolest. Fish and seafood are cooling, while most meats are warming. Fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets are good choices, while spicy foods, alcohol, or caffeine are heating to the system.
- Do Less – In Summer, the body undergoes vigorous metabolic processes, and the season is filled with abundant energy, long days and sunshine, so it can lead us to do too much. We can over do and get exhausted with so many extra events and activities like gardening, hiking, biking and vacationing along with a normal workload.
- Connect with Others and Laugh More – Scientists tell us that laughter, humor and joy are an important part of life. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion. It increases the circulation of antibodies in the blood stream and makes us more resistant to infection. Healthy relationships are a vital component of health and wellbeing, and the connections through communication and sharing ideas with others. Take time to see friends and family this summer!