Yoga for Summer

May 30, 2022

Yoga for Summer

Summer is just around the corner. Officially June 21st marks the first day. Does this mean you may need to make some changes in your yoga practice? Yes!

As the seasons change, so does our yoga practice. That doesn’t mean a whole re-do is necessary, but how we approach each practice may need to be revisited. For example, in the chilly winter months, when kapha qualities rule, a heating practice is welcome. Lot’s of rounds of a powerful pranayama (breathing practice) may have felt just right. But if you keep that up during the summer (and your pitta gets out of control), you’re likely to bite someone’s head off as soon as you're done. That, or overeat at the next meal because of the tremendous appetite you feel… sure signs of high pitta.

Where a sun salute was a perfect asana (posture) warm up in the winter, slow deliberate movements working with each joint might serve you better in the spring (where there is often excess vata from the air element) and summer. Holding Plank or Mountain (known as Downward Facing Dog off of our lovely mountain), is perfect for winter and okay for spring and fall, but for summer, better to spend extra time in Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of class to let everything (body, breath, mind) come back into homeostasis. In the summer months, challenge yourself with slowing down the breath and making smaller, more careful movements. Consider turning a 10 minute vinyasa practice into a 30 minute hatha practice.

What about your meditation? Whereas it is best to find an object of meditation that agrees with you and your dosha, getting to that part may provide a challenge. You may have enjoyed a guided beginning during the kapha time, primarily to keep you awake. As spring came, less was more. Maybe a sentence or two followed by a period of silence; then repeating it again. Patterns and routines are good for reducing the air element. For summer, the spark is already there (plus the eyes are the doorway to pitta) so perhaps a visualization might do the trick. Whatever you choose to initiate your meditation practice, the object of concentration should stay the same, day after day, month after month, year after year. It is a yoga of the mind.

Just like there are particular heating practices, there are cooling practices, too. Sheetali (cooling breath) for those who can roll their tongue and Sitkari (hissing breath) for those who can’t. (It’s genetic; nothing to do with your talent!) It’s a belly breath wherein you inhale through the mouth with either a rolled tongue or a smiling face as the belly expands; and you exhale through the nose as you draw the belly toward the spine. Pause 2-3 seconds between the inhale and the exhale as you lay your tongue in the mouth and enjoy the coolness in the head region. (Sitkari video can be used.)

As you plan your time on the mat or on the cushion, it's always good to revisit the Five Elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) and the Three Doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) to influence your choices. Remember, vata is composed of space and air (think mobility); pitta of fire and water (think sauna!); and kapha of water and earth (think mud). Put into play the basic Ayurvedic principles of “Like increase like.” and “Opposites decrease”. If you are feeling spacey and airy, look for stability; if you are feeling lethargic, add some movement, if you are feeling hot and bothered, cool it down. Listen to your body, let the breath be your gauge. Try things on and adjust accordingly. Your practice is yours and yours alone. Enjoy it to the maximum to receive all of the benefits that it has to offer.