We’re heading into the warmer months, and if you have a significant dose of pitta in your constitution, like me, you know that excess heat can be imbalancing. However, us fiery spirits also loooove our high-intensity, challenging practices. So how do we continue to enjoy these kinds of sequences through the summer (especially if you live in the South and don’t have air conditioning)?
Keep it short. Today i did an agni practice with lots of lunges, twists, and vira mudra, but i only practiced for half an hour.
Slow down. Lengthen your breath, and you can still revel in lots of surya namaskar, just at a slower pace. Remember, at this time of year, your body is receiving lots of heat externally – you’re not losing anything by slowing down.
Sandwich the heating elements of your practice with plenty of cooling. If you want to practice for more than half an hour, start slow, and ground. Keep your challenging, sweat-inducing vinyasas to half or less of your practice, and enjoy a long wave of lunar poses. Take a lengthy savasana.
Drink water. Some yoga traditions advise against drinking water during practice, but i’ve found it a good way to keep my fire from rising too high. Avoid ice water, but definitely don’t deprive yourself of water if your body asks for it.
Air flow. Practice near an open window, and/or have a fan going nearby.
Breath! Of course, breath – but take deep belly breaths, and allow yourself to exhale slowly through your mouth. You can also try sitali pranayama.
Herbs. My favorite cooling herb is lavender – many eye pillows have lavender, which is a blissful addition to savasana. You can use lavender essential oil on your body or in a diffuser. It’s also a lovely post-practice tea. Other cooling herbs include hibiscus, lemongrass, passionflower, lemon balm, mint, elderflower, and borage.
Massage. Slather yourself with coconut oil after practice, pre-shower. Make sure to give special attention to places that seem to get overly heated – for me it’s my forearms and my face. Use a gentle, brushing stroke as if you were wiping dirt off. This will help the heat circulate and move out of your body.
Keep it fluid. When you’re doing asanas that challenge you, when you feel your internal heat rising, soften it a little bit. In utkatasana, let your arms rise and fall with your breath. In lunge, let your hips rise and fall subtly. Circulate that heat, don’t let it “rev” in your core.
As you practice, no matter what the season or circumstance, pay attention. When you pay attention (without judgement!) you can perceive clearly what your needs are. That’s the first step towards balance!