Summer is considered Pitta time, so it is important to not further aggravate our Pitta during this season. Pitta's element is fire, and aggravating or stoking this fire through heating practices can lead to a sort of burn out. Yoga is a healing art, a medicine that helps us remain balanced natures cycles. However, like any medicine, if not taken responsibly, it can do more harm than good. As we adapt to the hot season by not wearing boots and jackets, we can adapt our Yoga practice too, during the sultry days of summer.
Prepare for practice
If you’re not an early bird, choose late afternoon or early evening for your practice. Make sure that you are well hydrated before you unroll your mat. Wear something light and preferably made of organic cotton. Our pores are more open when hot and sweaty and we don’t want to invite the chemicals from textile dyes into our blood stream! It is also important to prepare your practice space – air it out before you begin and make sure it’s cool as it can be without using air conditioning.
Pace and breath
Choose a slower pace. If you feel a shortness of breath, slow down or relax in Balasana or Prostration. Observe your breath and let it be your guide. Use Ujjayi pranayama when you practice. It has the power of cooling the body down when needed. Exhale through the mouth three times whenever you feel the need to during the practice; this has a calming, cooling and grounding effect.
We use Sun salutations to warm up and prepare our joints and soft tissue for a deeper practice. However, during very hot days our bodies are already warmed up. Do less, and adjust. For example, during summer months I rarely use Uttkatasana in Namaskars B. It works two of the largest muscle groups that create much heat – gluteus and quadriceps. Instead of staying in Adho Mukha Svanasana every time, you can try Balasana or other variations (hands and knees, Anahatasana, prostration…). Adho Mukha is an inversion, and long held inversions build heat in the body .
It may not be necessary to practice every vinyasa fully, you can use Ardha Vinyasa (directly go back to Adho Mukha) any time. Use Ashtangasana instead of Chaturanga once in a while--or all the time!
Choose your asanas wisely
Use asanas that ground; work more with forward bends and hip rotations. Do a longer restorative sequence at the end of your practice. Twists are good to detox but choose the ones that are not too challenging. If you like to work your core - choose wisely! Remember that working with the core means working with Manipura chakra and the fire element. In order to soothe our Pitta, we don’t need too much extra fire. Stay closer to Earth and choose variations from hands and knees, and forearms (like forearm planks and side planks).
Same goes for backbends: they stimulate the Anahata chakra and the Air element, and air aids fire. Our muscles and joints feel more open and fluid as it gets hot. Use that openness your body feels and go deep, but don’t overdo it!
Finish in style
Avoid long Sirsasana (headstand). Instead, stay longer with your legs up against a wall to release that summer heaviness.
If you practice Sitali pranayama do three breaths to cool down before Shavasana. And take a longer Shavasana!. If you’ve accidentally overdone it, stay in Shavasana for 10 minutes.
As always, love yourself on and off the mat. Be gentle and kind. Do as much or as little as feels right.
Photography: Sanjin Kastelan