Summer has arrived and is here to stay.
We’ve had a couple of sizzlers recently, and along with the beautiful sunshine comes a fresh feeling of peaceful contentment that can only indicate summer. Even though summer doesn’t technically start until the Solstice on June 21, the bright blue skies and scorching temperatures certainly indicate that summer has arrived and is here to stay.
Within the realm of Ayurveda, Yoga’s sister life science, Summer is known as the season of Pitta – the third dosha or constitutional makeup governs the element of fire. Summer for somebody with a Pitta-dominated constitution is like sprinkling cayenne pepper on a campfire (or dumping gasoline on said campfire). Fire is powerful: it spreads, it rages, it consumes. It gives light and can be warming, but can also burn things down. It can give rise to ambition and transformation, but also anger. Passionate and hot-tempered, a Pitta dominated constitution can be inflamed during a hot summer. Yet no matter what your primary constitution is, our contemporary modern society is very much dominated by Pitta qualities. On a daily basis we are driven to push for success and achievement, often leaving us chronically stressed and suffering with busyness or burnout.
Other alternative medicines and holistic systems, such as TCM, can also provide insight and wisdom on navigating the strong summer months. The first portion of summer within the TCM world is governed by the heart energy – essentially leading us into feeling joyful, open, loving and compassionate. However an over-abundance of summer energy can also lead to anger, annoyance, frustration and a feeling of burning the candle from both ends. Within the world of TCM summer is also governed by the element of fire, holding inside of it the power to give light, and to illuminate our inner being as well as our external world. Summer carries with it the feeling of ‘yang’ – the energy associated with doing, achieving, moving, transforming and exerting and can be a time of grand possibilities. This energy is also associated with the sun and therefore creates a new space for us to lean into with longer daylight hours to enjoy. As gorgeous as the summer is – we all love summer sunshine – we can easily become overheated, frustrated and stressed out as the days get hotter and longer unless we learn how to balance the energy of the season.
Luckily, though the wisdom of Ayurveda, TCM and Yoga, we can create more harmony and balance in our lives by understanding how these energies operate within us. We are always working in relationship to and being governed by the movement of our surroundings and the rhythms of nature, no matter how disconnected we may seem from the natural world.
Trust your intuition. The heart rules understanding and intelligence, but not of the cerebral type. When we know something in our heart, we are connected to a deeper part of our being. Try to engage in this deeper knowing, and take the time to listen to your inner voice.
Eat cooling foods, and eat slowly. Enjoy the flavours of the vegetables and fruits in their season and try to get plenty of cooling foods in. The colour associated with summer is red and the taste of the season is bitter, so it is advised to enjoy foods such as watermelon, cucumber, coconut, berries, kale and lime.
Drink lots of pure, fresh water. The sun pulls the moisture from your pores, so it is important that you rehydrate to keep skin healthy and glowing. Drink eight to ten glasses of water a day if possible. Add coconut water for a super-rehydration and electrolyte balance after exercise.
Move Your Body. A healthy heart needs regular exercise to keep the circulatory and vascular systems in good nick. Get some good cardio exercise every day if possible and try to build a sweat routine, which helps to cleanse toxins from the body. Hot Yoga is amazing for this. Depending on your level of fitness, make your workout fit in. If you are out of shape, begin slowly by walking daily. Try to walk fast enough to just break a bit of a sweat, but don’t overdo it. The heart is more vulnerable in the summer, so build your exercise routine gradually.
Awaken. Waking up earlier in the morning and going to bed later may feel pretty natural during the summer. The body will naturally have more energy across these longer daylight hours as we thrive in the fresh supply of vitamin D. Rest at midday where possible, when the sun is the hottest, to improve digestion and allow restoration time.
Cool it down. Pranayama techniques such as Nadi Shodana (balancing breath) and Chandra Bhedana (moon piercing breath) can be extremely effective in reducing stress and inflammation in the body and mind during the warm months. Within ancient Ayurveda the left side of the body is energetically associated with the moon (Chandra) and this has a cooling ‘yin’ effect on our composition. Breathing through the left nostril only has a deeply calming effect on the body and mind, connecting us with the Yin energy and relieving stress and tension.
Yin Yoga. Stretching, calming and soothing the body with some gentle Yin Yoga can be a marvellous antidote to summer burnout. Heart openers like Puppy Pose, Seal Pose and Sphinx are wonderfully supportive to healthy heart chi whilst twists like thread-the-needle and Twisted Tadpole help to open the associated meridians on the chest and down the inner arms. Bliss!