For eons summer has been both the stay at home growing season, and also the go off and travel season. The summer months call to us to put roots down and to pull ours up. It’s easy to get out of balance. So how do we honour and indulge the desire and the need to tend our fields and go afield? Newton's Third Law of Motion comes in handy: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. He was thinking of objects more that us, but we have velocity, tendencies to rest, and acceleration forces, too. When we go hard, we need to rest hard, and that’s just how nature works. Our minds and bodies call for it. If you don’t hear, you are likely not listening close enough. So if you have been traveling, take some time out to be still. If you have been tending the home place, take a walk. Doing the one will make us long for the other, and if we do both, we will feel more fulfilled in the ways that summer calls for in us.
The Summer weather adds to our imbalance as the long days give us more energy and time to be active. Although the sun certainly lifts our spirits it can also flare our tempers. While too much humidity can make us feel heavy rather than light, especially when riding on the tube in London. We can’t control the weather, but we can regulate our own behavior in response to it.
According to Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga and the traditional system of medicine in India, summer is the season of fire. Ayurveda gives guidance for diet, lifestyle, and exercise. It’s important to bare in mind your personal body type before heeding this advice but generally speaking, it’s good to eat light, crisp and cool during summer. Fruits, salads, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, and easily digestible grains are good. Staying hydrated is important in the dryness, so drink water and eat foods with high fluid content like melons, pears, and cucumbers.
It can feel challenging to do, but it’s vital to give both mind and body deep rest to counterbalance the heat and activity of the day. A restorative yoga pose can be just the thing.
Gather up some supports. It does not matter if they are purpose-made yoga props, or the blankets and pillows you have on hand. What matters is that you put your body in a comfortable and supported position in which you can become more relaxed over the course of 5 to 15 minutes.
- instead of sitting on the couch watching telly, lie on the floor and put the backs of your calves and feet on the seat. A chair will also work but add a blanket or some padding to make it more comfortable. If you are worried about time, set your phone alarm so you don’t stay caught up in deciding how long to stay. Your body temperature will drop if you shift into deep rest, so you will become cooler.
- Support your head with a thin pillow or folded up blanket. Let your hands rest a little distance away from your side with the palms turned up.
- Add a lightweight eye pillow to fully withdraw your senses and cultivate darkness. Make the small physical adjustments that will enable you to feel more comfortable then intend to be still.
- Shift your attention to your breath and watch it progressively become softer, lighter, and less effortful.
- If your mind becomes busy thinking of things to do or that emotionally trigger you, then keep directing your thoughts to the feeling of your body getting heavier and more relaxed and your breathing getting softer.
- Allow your mind to drift as long as it doesn’t pull you into action or strong emotion. If your mind stays too busy to allow you to rest, move your hands onto your belly and make your breath just full enough to feel the rise and fall of it in your belly.
- Feel your breath as a wave that comes in and out soothing your mind into a regular rhythm.
- Bring yourself out of the pose gradually, first by increasing the fullness of your breath, second by wiggling your fingers and toes.
- Hug your knees into your belly for several breaths then roll to a side and take a few more breaths before you sit up.
We are nearing the end of summer now, and summer transitions into autumn in many parts of the world by moving into the rainy season. It’s a cooling off period after the end of the heat. On the British Isles summer sun and rain alternate regularly so our environment can contribute to keeping us balanced. But if the weather does not cooperate matching it’s plans to yours, at least you can use practices to adapt yourself to whatever it brings our way with each changing season.
Lisa Kaley-Isley is an experienced Para Yoga teacher initiated into the Sri Vidya lineage and empowered to impart mantra and meditation practices. She is also a PhD Clinical Psychologist and Viniyoga trained yoga therapist enabled to design personalized practices for individuals to use for their own growth and self-healing. To read more and keep up with Lisa’s classes and workshops, Like her Facebook page Life Tree Yoga or visit her webpage The Yogi Tree