Man. Is it hot or what? I mean hot! That sticky, icky, walk outside and you are immediately drenched, drippy wet hot. The 2014 edition of the Farmers Almanac says to “get ready for a long hot summer-hazy, hot, humid and rainy.” (At least one out of the 4 is good!) “This summer will be exceptionally hot with oppressive humidity that will make for many uncomfortable days and nights.” Great. Did we really need another lesson in how to be uncomfortably comfortable?
So what do we do about it? We can’t control the heat, but we can avoid things that exacerbate it.
According to Ayurveda, yoga’s sister “science of life and yogic healing” and the 5000-year-old system of Indian medicine, human energy is divided into several mind-body types, or doshas, which have both positive and negative effects. Balanced doshas create health and happiness, whereas unbalanced doshas create discomfort and disease. Summer is dominated by the Fire element and brings up our “agni” fire-a/k/a fire in the belly. With the earth receiving more sun than any other time of the year, it brings up qualities that are hot, bright, sharp and penetrating. Tempers get short, and we tend to get annoyed for no good reason. Both the mind and body tend to get overheated causing us to be more competitive, self critical, easily agitated and dehydrated both inside and out. We need to work on the mental and physical balance of keeping the “agni” fire going without letting it rage out of control and burn us out.
One of the main principles of Ayurveda states: “like increases like and opposites create balance.” To balance “Pitta”, (the dominant summer dosha comprised of fire and water driven by the solar force), we need to remove excess heat from the body rather than to build it. We can balance Pitta through asanas that place more pressure on the naval center, the seat of Pitta.
- Spinal twists such as Matsyendrasana-Seated Spinal Twists-help release excess fire and toxins from the digestive system.
- Forward bends such as Paschimottanasana-Seated Forward Fold and Janu Sirsanasa-Head to Knee pose, are cooling asana that help to bring the focus inward.
- Mild backbends such as Bhujangasana-Cobra and Matsyanasa-Fish pose, can help us to open our hearts and be less critical and judgmental of others and ourselves.
- This is a great time to balance heat building Surya Namaskara-Sun Salutations, with Chandra Namaskara-Moon Salutations-which emphasize surrendering, forgiving, softening and being gentle with yourself.
In terms of nutrition: Sorry BUT, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol will only increase the agni fire in the body. Try eating a lighter whole-food plant-based diet with lots of yummy fruits and vegetables-cooling foods like fresh salads, mango and cucumbers. And don’t forget the sweet mint teas, cucumber water and coconut water–they are so refreshing!
As my grandmother used to say “think cool thoughts” and you’ll be cool. We’ll get through this summer together and remember fall is just around the corner, which means a subzero Florida winter will be here before you know it!