For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is on its way and the heat is kicking up! For hot yoga fans and those people who live in traditionally warm places year-round, 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 a 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 might 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.
Can’t curl your tongue? Some people are genetically unable to do so. In this case, practice Sitkari pranayam. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air. Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath. Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.
Find many more supportive pranayamas in the Kundalini manual Praana Praanee Praanayam.
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.
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.
You can also chant the mantra Sat Narayan Wahe Guru to connect with the water element. Ram Dass has a beautiful version on his album The Alchemist’s Prayer, as does Mirabai Ceiba and Simrit Kaur, on her new album Songs of Resilience – which we can’t wait to hear songs from at Sat Nam Fest Berkshires.
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. A delicious and refreshing tea, which can help to decrease the Pitta dosha (think fire!) in the summer time can be made with the following ingredients:
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
10 fresh mint leaves
juice from one lemon
raw, organic sugar to taste
Place ingredients in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil for 5 minutes and then let steep for 2-5 minutes. Always add the lemon while the tea is steeping. Strain and cool.
Some of the content in this post was originally published on the Spirit Voyage Blog by Liz McCollum Lord. Edits and additions were made by Puranjot Kaur Khalsa. Top photography by Kristina Clemens.