With the arrival of June, we transition slowly into summer
despite what the rain last week would have us think! Along with the sunshine comes a feeling of emergence and vitality as we unfurl our petals into the energetic peak of the year. Daylight hours are at their longest and evenings carry with them a deep sense of contentment as we settle into the comfortable warmth with ease.
After the year we have had, Yin yoga is the perfect complementary practice to a brand-new busy summer social calendar – really helping to restore and balance our more extroverted energies by encouraging us to settle and gaze inwards, towards stillness, as a counteractive force to the late nights, long days, and balmy wanderlust that summer carries.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the season of summer is associated with the element of Fire, which carries with it a great sense of heat, creativity and transformation – and also the organs of the heart and small intestine.
The heart is considered to be the “king” of the organs within the world of TCM – for the role it plays in the circulation of our blood, plus holding space and leadership all other organs in our system. It also plays a crucial role in our emotional and spiritual health, being seen as the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds – governing our ability to love, grow and feel compassion for ourselves and others.
“When heart chi is healthy, we feel warm, nourished, and nourishing, able to contact innate joy, inner peace, and harmony, and able to build healthy relationships.” – Sarah Powers
The small intestine is responsible for releasing that which we don’t need – in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual matter – helping to purify the bodily systems. It receives processed matter from the stomach and sets aside any necessary nutrients and vitamins, releasing anything un-needed down the chain to the large intestine to be eliminated.
Within the wide world of TCM, the organs of the body are thought to play a bigger part than their anatomical functions and are each individually thought to carry bespoke energetic qualities. The flow of life force, or energy/chi/prana, through the heart channels or meridians is associated with a feeling of joy, compassion and enthusiasm for life, and finding the balance between vulnerability and resilience with ease. There is genuine warmth, love and joy in our interactions with ourselves and with others, plus a relaxed and satisfied ease-fulness for life.
However, with the heat of summer comes the possibility of energetic over-heating, over-socialising and over-stimulation. As the energy of the year comes to a peak, our own energies begin to lift – potentially leaving us at a risk of feeling burnt out. This possibility is more real than ever this year – after a whole year of forced retreat during the global lockdowns the want to over socialise can be hugely tempting. However protecting your own energy, learning your burnout warning signs and when/how to say no is a brilliant skill to build. Although it might seem anti-social or closed off to do so, saying no when the energy needs to be protected is incredibly beneficial to the nourishment of the heart chi. Remembering to nourish ourselves first, before extending that favour to anybody else, is self-care 101 – and as Yogis we can’t serve the world if we’re burnt out and depleted.
As summer comes into fruition we can find a balance in our heart and small intestine energies by nourishing the meridian channels. Cultivating a gentle Yin yoga practice can be helpful in supporting the heart energy by cooling and opening the body to encourage a freer flow of chi through the meridians. In nourishing our heart energy we cultivate a feeling of contentment, peacefulness and compassion for ourselves and for others in our lives. Grounding into the body with some Yin yoga, breath and meditation can be incredibly helpful in restoring and protecting energy reserves during these more outward facing months.
Below I have listed a handful of poses to help in nourishing the heart energy as summer rolls in, let me know how you get on in the comments below!