With its long sunny days and warm balmy nights, summer is the season of activity. It is the time of year when the heat of the sun makes its powerful presence known and we, as part of nature ourselves, also reflect on the hot qualities of the season. Ayurveda explains this principle as pitta, the dosha (or bodily humor) that is comprised primarily of fire. And just as the seasons are constantly changing, we too must adapt to our environment. With the proper tools, we can guide our students to make adjustments in their routine, diet, and practice to stay cool throughout the summer.
Honoring the Role of Opposites
As summer is the season of pitta, it is no surprise that our environment becomes hot and bright, reflecting the fiery nature of the season. But our activities also take on the transformative qualities of summer. We go on vacation—a time of exploration, adventure, and outward movement in the world. Our social life booms with barbecues, camping trips, and concerts. Through all the fun and creative transformation of summer, these same qualities accumulate and express in our physiology.
If you notice a shift in the attitudes or energy level of your students during this time of year, it can probably be attributed to the Ayurvedic adage that similar qualities will increase one another and opposites will provide balance. During the expansive, dry, and hot days of summer, similar feelings of intensity, impatience, or anger can quite easily manifest in our practice. To cultivate a sense of balance, we can invite opposing qualities that are soothing, fluid, and soft, and incorporate practices that support a cool, calm, and relaxed demeanor.
Create a Seasonally Appropriate Routine
Maintaining a consistent rhythm to the day creates an incredible foundation for, not only balanced health, but the opportunity to truly thrive amongst the constant activities of summer. These daily routine practices help the body expel excess heat and encourage the subtle surrendering that is so often needed when the mind and body become too fired up.
Yoga for Summer
The bright summer days naturally call for a soothing, nurturing movement practice to counterbalance the intensity of the climate outdoors. This is the time to dim the lights, keep a soft gaze, and encourage fluid and playful movement in your class. Target the areas in the body where heat and stress tend to accumulate. Twists and side-body openers like Revolved Side Angle, Revolved Chair, and Bicycle are excellent because they activate the liver, one of the primary seats of pitta and heat within the body. One of the most cooling, soothing, and infinitely inspiring influences found in nature is the moon. The moon is symbolized as all things nurturing—the love of a mother, the graceful movement of the ocean tides, and even the source of immortal nectar, described as ‘soma’ in classic Yogic texts. An ode to the coolness of the moon, a Moon Salutation offers dynamic movement that remains mellow enough for the summer. Beyond these specific postures, simply encouraging your students to get out of their brains and into their bliss will profoundly impact their experience in class.
Pranayama for Summer
Slow and simple breathing practices serve as an entryway for prana and an exit point for stress. A few silent moments of pranayama offer the nervous system a chance to reset and release any possible tension, anger, or worry that may have accumulated throughout the day. Sheetali is almost immediately cooling, and a great way to quickly release heat. Alternate Nostril Breath and Ujjayi Breath are highly versatile practices, comforting and grounding in nearly any situation, and they are especially helpful for regaining balance during times of stress or energy depletion.
Dietary Strategies for Summer
During the summer, the farmer’s markets are overflowing, gardens are flourishing, and we enjoy a natural abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our bodies intuitively crave smaller, lighter meals and an increase in raw, sweet foods. Tastes to favor during the hot months of summer are sweet, like fresh berries, bitter like dark leafy greens, and astringent, like a pomegranate. Limiting sour, acidic, spicy, or stimulating foods and drinks can also help to keep the internal fire at bay. Herbs and herbal blends like Amalaki, Healthy Pitta, and Liver Formula are another great way to keep cool and maintain optimal health throughout the summer.
Remember to Celebrate
Because every person has a unique constitution, the way to find balance throughout any season must be adapted to each individual. Our Summer Guide offers specific insights and information tailored to each constitution, if you’re curious to learn more. However you choose to incorporate cooling influences into your life or with your students this summer, remember to celebrate. Summer is inherently an explosion—an abundance—of life itself. So remember to play, to be free, to dance, and trade your stress, frustration, or judgments for pure summer bliss.
About Banyan Botanicals
Banyan Botanicals was founded in 1996 with the mission to help people achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being. As an Ayurvedic lifestyle company, we specialize in products made from Ayurvedic herbs that are organically grown, sustainably sourced, fairly-traded, and made in the U.S. Banyan is committed to providing exceptional customer service, inspiring educational content and the highest quality Ayurvedic herbs that are safe, pure, and effective.
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This article was written by Banyan Botanicals and does not necessarily reflect the views of Yoga Alliance.