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Beat the Heat: 7 Ways to Modify Your Yoga Practice in the Summer

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The season of summer is the Pitta time of the year according to Ayurveda.

Pittas are known for their fiery disposition. They are wildly fierce, passionate, creative and driven. When out of balance, Pitta energy can be manic, excessive, angry, impatient, unreasonable, rash, and/or hostile.

You don’t have to be dominantly Pitta to have yourself thrown out of balance in the summer. Dosha means imbalance, and we all carry a little bit of all three doshas within us.  During the summer months, it is easy for all of us, vata, pitta, and kapha alike to be thrown into a Pitta induced whirlwind of cray-cray.

By making some small adjustments to your asana and pranayama practice you better prepare the body for any imbalances that the season may bring.

Practice at about 70%: 
If you are a dominant Pitta, this may be the toughest adjustment to make.  Don’t go all out, work with the softness of your body, breath and practice.  I often suggest to my students that they can stop trying so hard to work for the yoga, and simply let the yoga work for them.  Let go of some effort, and notice the challenges and changes that begin to unfold. We can stop trying so hard to become what we already are.

Belly back-bends disperse excess heat in the body mind, releasing excess pitta energy: 
Practice more Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), and variations. But remember, practicing Dhanurasana and holding at your maximum, 100%, for a five count of breath, is heating, not cooling. Try practicing dynamic belly backbends, inhaling lifting up, exhaling coming down, repeat.  Do less, to see more results in the energetic and physical body mind.

Practice a soft ujjayi, bringing the focus more to the upper palette than at the back of the throat:
Ujjayi practiced traditionally is heating energetically, when practiced softer, and with the focus more on the upper palette it is energetically cooling. Ujjayi practiced either way soothes the nervous system and focuses the mind.

Slow down your practice, try adding some restorative and/or yin poses to your practice:
Include a longer savasana.

Add cooling asanas & pranayama to your practice:
If you are practicing heating backbends [Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), even Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose) or Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance) ] add extra cooling asanas (forward folds and twists) and pranayama to your practice. I like to work with pranayama in my asanas:

:: While twisting in Marichyasana, inhale and exhale same count, pause same count after exhale, then see if you can exhale more at the bottom of your pause.

:: While forward folding in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), double the length of your exhale, or create a slight pause after exhale.

:: Both of these techniques can be used interchangeably, and I would recommend practicing them first and getting to know them before you bring them to students.

Cooling pranayama at the end of your practice in general is beneficial to calming pitta:
Doubled ratio exhale, pause after exhale, and sitali breath (cooling breath) are fantastic at cooling elevated pitta.

Last but certainly not least, the mother of all restoring, rejuvenating, and refreshing yoga practices, yoga nidra (yogic sleep):
If nidra is new to you, your welcome, you will learn to love it. If you are familiar with nidra, simply practice it more in the summer.  There are a lot of great resources available, I use Rod Stryker’s Relax Into Greatness.

By being mindful of our behavior we become aware of when we switch from clear, calm, and alert to manic, frustrated, and distracted. Our yoga practice is both healing and transformational.

We are powerful enough and intelligent enough beings to take control of our individual health and well being. When we recognize this, and honor it in ourselves and in each other we cultivate confidence and knowing. This will guide us back to a place of remembering that is abundant with clarity and peace.

Take advantage of the “therapy” that can be your yoga practice.  Have fun, explore and stay cool.

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About

Kim is the PaleoYogaMom. She is a mother, a yogini, a foodie and a lover of life. The practice, the lifestyle that is yoga has reconnected her to the shining light of creativity and clarity that exists in us all. Through yoga she hopes to instill in her students and her family a deeper knowing of grace, love and joy. Through the Paleo diet she has been able to achieve health and all the benefits that health has to offer. If you are interested in learning more about Kim’s personal relationships with her family, yoga, and the Paleo diet, please visit her blog.

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