By Erin B.
We often look to yoga to heat up our bodies, but during these hot summer months, yoga can actually be a great way to cool down! Check out the following poses and breath practices to cool your mind and body, while still building strength and flexibility!
Cooling Summer Flow
Sitali (cooling) Breath
Start sitting with your legs crossed or outstretched- whichever is more comfortable for you! Take the time to situate yourself so that your sits bones are evenly touching the floor, spine tall, shoulders soft, neck neutral.
Take a few deep belly breaths here, dropping into your body and the space. Give yourself the gift of being present. When you have arrived, start by sticking out your tongue and curling in the edges (like a hotdog bun!). Don’t worry about looking silly! Breath in through the tube you’ve created with your tongue, which will pass through the moisture and create a cooling sensation throughout your body. Hold for 3 sec, then bring your tongue back in, close your lips, and exhale through your nose. Continue this practice for 10 breaths.
If you’ve read any of my other yoga posts, you know that Sun Salutations are one of my go-tos! But it creates a lot of heat in the body, and we are trying to cool down. So instead of a full Sun Sal, try this modified version:
Begin in Tadasana, mountain pose. Again, take the time to arrive- feet hip width, soft knees. Lift your toes, spread them wide, and intentionally place them back on the ground. Feel yourself grounded through all 4 corners of the soles of your feet. I like to always start in the same place and go in the same order, so it becomes a habit: upper outer edge (under pinkie toe), lower outer edge (outside of heel), lower inner edge (inside of heel), upper inner edge (under big toe/ball of foot). From this place of strength and groundedness, you’re ready to begin.
Inhale and bring your arms overhead, extended, fingers tips reaching to the sky. Exhale, hinge at the hip, sweeping arms down, coming into a forward fold. You can stay here a few breaths if you like, ragdoll style. I love a few inverted breaths! Of you can continue with your next inhale. Whenever you are ready, on an inhale come halfway up, exhale fold forward again. Inhale, rise back up to Tadasansa, bring your hands to the side, then overhead into prayer position. Exhale, bring your hands, still in prayer, to your heart center. Continue for 5 cycles.
Anjaneyasana (low lunge)
This heart opening, hip opening pose is a great addition to any practice, as it promotes both strength in the core and quads, as well as flexibility in the hips. The added heart opener is the perfect way to feel open and breezy on a hot summer day!
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Remember, the focus here is on a long line from the tips of your fingers all the way through your tailbone- NOT on straight legs. If you need to bend your knees in order to elongate your spine, please do.
From here, step your right foot between your hands and lower your left knee to the floor. Here, you can use a blanket or the folded edge of your mat to cushion your knee, if needed. Bring your hands to your right knee, or bring them overhead, palms facing, fingers tips to the sky. Allow your shoulders to soften and slide down the back, looking up and creating a slight backbend. Pause here for 3 breaths (or longer, if you’re feeling it!). When you are ready, exhale your hands down to the floor, on either side of your right foot, curl your left toes under, and step back into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the left side.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Tree Pose allows you an opportunity to quiet your mind while strengthening your body. This simple pose improves your balance, mental clarity, and perseverance.
Begin in Tadasana, taking the time to properly root your feet through the four corners again. I like to do Tree Pose standing next to a wall, about a foot away, with the left side of my body facing the wall. This gives me a point to reach out to, if I lose my balance!
Inhale, and bring your right knee up toward your chest, then butterfly it out to the side. Bring the sole of your foot either to your left ankle, calf, or use your hand to pull it up against your left thigh. Do not rest your right foot on your left knee- you can injure yourself. Once you’ve found your comfortable spot, find a point in front of you to focus on. It can be anything, but it should be about eye level to keep a neutral spine. This will help you find your balance.
Hands can come to heart center or rise up to the sky, palms facing each other. Another version brings hands to the sky, palms facing, then cross your arms, right over left, and bring the backs of your hands together. From here, rotate just your wrists, so arms stay crossed, but palms come together again, and interlace your fingers. You can remain here or bring your arms forward so they are out in front of you, fingers still interlaced. Then, bending both elbows, bring your interlaced fingers down, and then sweep them in and up, until they come to rest at your heart center. You’ll feel a little like a pretzel!
Once you’ve settled in, take 5 deep breaths, focusing on your balance. You may fall, and that’s ok! Be kind to yourself, and just come right back into the pose as many times as you need to. When you are finished, bring your right knee back to the chest and slowly lower the right foot back to the floor, coming into Tadasana. Turn and face the opposite direction, so your right shoulder is facing the wall, and complete the movements on the opposite side.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
People often think they don’t have time for Savasana, or that it is a luxury that they can cut out of their practice- NO! Savasana is your opportunity, every practice, to reintegrate your body, mind, and spirit, and also to thank yourself for showing up to your mat. And during the steamy summer months, what’s better than lying still with a cool washcloth on your forehead? I mean- sign me up!
Give yourself AT LEAST 10 minutes to enjoy the full benefits of this resting pose. If you are outside or the room is warm, forgo the blanket (in the winter months, we cuddle up under blankets far Savasana), and instead, put a cool, damp washcloth over your forehead. You can also place a little eucalyptus oil at your temples and on your inner wrists, for extra cooling effect.
Take a moment to scan your body. Begin at the toes and move methodically up to the top of your head. Notice any tension you are holding onto and release it. Allow your whole body to melt into the mat. Then your only job is to breathe and rest.
When you are done, wake your body up gently by first wiggling your fingers and toes. Then stretch your arms overhead, and do a big full-body stretch. Bring your knees into your chest and roll over onto your right side. From here, push yourself up into a comfortable seated position. Don’t come up too fast, you might feel a little dizzy!
Bring your hands to your heart center in prayer, and take a few deep breaths. Thank yourself for showing up today.
Stay cool out there, friends! Namaste.