It is no surprise that the predominant element in summer according to the ancient system of Ayurveda is fire or ‘pitta’ so keeping cool, eating salads and not too much hot spicy food is naturally what most of us yearn for. We all enjoy a nice cold glass of wine, beer or pimms in the sunshine, but you may notice alcohol and caffeine causing more heat at this time of year than usual. This is due to pitta levels in your body being increased in summer. Keep the alcohol light and of course hydrate. Coconut juice is a perfect hydrating drink not only is it packed with more potassium and electrolytes than most sports drinks on the market, but also has no added sugar. Rubbing coconut oil into the skin is another cooling therapy to add to summer your routine.
In terms of our yoga practice here are a few tips to help keep the fire energy balanced in your practice.
* try moon salutations as a cooling alternative to sun salutations
* weave plenty of forward bends into your sequence
* twists are good neutral, pitta balancing poses and excellent for the circulation.
* incorporate sitting or prone postures
* practise gentle backbends
* choose a cooling shoulderstand over a heating headstand.
* practise shitali pranayama- cooling breath
Of course it is natural to build heat in a varied practice, but by interlacing enough cooling postures you can keep the energy balanced and not excessive. Remember the breath is a powerful tool that can if you want completely change the effect of a pose. For example sitting postures can become heating if you practice pranayama with breath retention whilst holding them. However holding the breath after exhalation becomes cooling. Heat expands and cold contracts. Heat makes us sweat and cold causes us to shiver and stop sweating. Expanding postures are initially heating, but long term can be cooling. Contracting postures initially cooling, can long term preserve heat. That’s why with some poses can work both ways. As always listen, observe and adapt your practice accordingly.
In Dr Frawley’s book Yoga for your Type the Ayurvedic signs of a successful yoga practice should leave you with a “feeling of coolness, calm, openness, patience, tolerance; reduction of inflammation and acidity”