Time for the final installment on how to stay cool this summer by calming your internal heat, or pitta dosha. The first two posts were related to food and drink. This one talks about what yoga asanas or poses you can do to stay cool in this heat. If you missed the first two posts on this topic, do check them out here.
There are many poses that help you beat the heat, but before you go trying any poses, always, always remember to WORK WITHIN YOUR LIMITS! It is not a competition with anyone, not even yourself. Just do what you can, but do it mindfully, and remember to breathe.
One of the most important asanas I like to practice in this weather is the Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana).
- You start off by placing the left leg either tucked in under the right hip, or stretching out straight ahead, which is easier for anyone with bad knees or tight hips.
- Next, bring the right leg across the left knee and set the foot flat on the mat. Gently place the crook of the left elbow OR the left palm over the right knee.
- Use the right hand beside you or behind you depending on your flexibility, and press it firmly into the ground to give you support as you slowly start to twist the torso toward the right.
- With every breath keep twisting a little bit more till you have reached your comfort level. Stay there and breathe and hold the pose for 10 seconds. Make sure your back is nice and straight and you are not straining any part of the body.
- Slowly, unwind by turning the gaze and chest toward the center. Release the legs and switch them up to do the pose on the other side.
The twisting action of this pose helps release your toxins and any pent up heat in the body. The more you breathe and relax into the pose, the more the release. It also tones the abdominal organs and strengthens the core. The shoulders also get a nice opening.
An alternative to seated twist is supine twist: You simply lay on your back and bring the knees into the chest. Slowly drop both knees on the right, while extending the left arm out. Place the right hand on top of the knees and turn your gaze to the left. Repeat on the other side.
You can do this pose every night in general do calm the nerves and relax the spine. Follow it up with Seated Forward Bend or Paschimottanasana:
- Sit with a nice, straight spine and stretch your legs our in front of you. Take a deep breath in and slowly slide your hands down the legs and see what you can grab comfortably. It could be your thighs, your calf, your ankles or maybe your toes.
- Slowly HINGE FROM THE HIPS....do not fold with your neck!
- Using your hands as traction keep extending your spine out and forward as you gently fold over the legs.
- If your hamstrings are tight, DO BEND the knees as much as you like. The most important thing is that your belly gets a good squeeze against the thighs. With more practice, which can take years sometimes, your legs will eventually straighten.
- To release the pose, gently relax the fingers and slide the hands up the legs as you straighten the spine back to a nice, upright position.
The squeezing action releases toxins and internal heat, similar to the twisting action in the previous pose. The pose also releases any tension in the lower back and neck, provided you breathe into these spaces.
There are more poses that you can look into if you are interested in adding to your practice. Do try to keep in mind that summer is a time to slow down on strenuous yoga poses, and focus instead on gentle relaxing asanas. If you feel comfortable, add meditation and breathing techniques or pranayama. A great example of a breathing technique that helps you cool down is the Sheetali pranayama. Here is a great article that explains the technique with a picture so you can see how its done.
I trust you are all sensible adults and do not need a disclaimer, but I have to say it anyway: These poses are just a suggestion and not a prescription. Please check with your doctor if you have any serious conditions before you try any of them. Also, avoid them if you are pregnant, have had abdominal surgery, hernia, slip disc, recently.