Many yogis and non-yogis alike have heard all the rage around the practice of Hot Yoga. All I know is in the summer, I don’t want to be any hotter than I have to be! In the cooler months I found my body responded so well to the extra warmth amidst the cold weather that I enjoyed attending a Hot Yoga class. What about in the summer? How can we “cool down” a practice that creates internal heat? How can we practice yoga with our families while enjoying the outdoors safely? I’ll give you a few ideas.
In the heat of the summer, think cooling practices: meditation, cooling pranayama, Yoga Nidra, restorative yoga, and even just slower flowing movement. Sure, if you are practicing in the air conditioning you can still break out the DVD or music and do some great yoga songs to get the day started. Just remember that any physical activity or exercise increases body temperature—I know those children’s yoga songs get my blood pumping! Be mindful of that when you choose your time and location for your summer yoga practice. Morning and evening are best since they are the cooler times of day this season. We will look at a few practices for you to cool off with on or off the mat in just a moment.
Morning Meditation Anyone?
In the summer kids’ brains are on vacation too. Sometimes it may be difficult to get them to focus on that summer reading list or Summer Bridge activities. What can you do? Start a morning meditation practice! I know it is VERY hard for me to get my five-and-a-half year old to sit for meditation lately. However, when we do institute that morning “quiet time,” we both have improved focus, improved moods, and just better behavior. Who wouldn’t want that? Maybe movement is what your high-energy child needs first to settle down or burn off some energy. Try a few rounds of Sun Salutations before your morning meditation. Encourage your child to move a little more slowly as their body wakes up, and let them listen to their breath. These are important tools off the mat they can use during the school year: slowing down before taking action, checking in with their bodies, and focusing on the breath.
“Sheetali” in Sanskrit means cooling, and is taken from the root meaning “soothing” or “cold.” This is a breathing practice that calms the mind, lowers blood pressure and body temperature, reduces the stress response in the body, and can even help control hunger and thirst. Of course, we encourage packing plenty of water and snacks for those hot days outdoors, but in the event you were without and thirsty, maybe this pranayama technique would help! Here’s how it is done:
- Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, or meditation posture that allows the spine to be erect. Begin slowing and deepening breaths here for a moment or two.
- Begin breathing with the tongue rolled, checking in to see the air is cooled by the tongue as it enters the body.
- Start with whatever breath length you can handle, but suggested is a 4-count inhale with tongue rolled, and a 4 or 6-count exhale through the nostrils.
- Practice this for up to 5 minutes. Beginners may just want to start with 1-2 minutes or until they feel some relief.
- For more information on this practice (and many others), see the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
**Precautions: This practice will lower blood pressure so if you have low blood pressure, avoid this practice and practice Alternate Nostril Breathing instead. If at any time you feel the breath is forced or become dizzy, let the practice go and resume normal breathing.
Restorative yoga can be done in many ways with various props. If you check your local studios or fitness centers, you will likely find a restorative or gentle yoga class on the schedule. You can attend one of these to allow your mind and body to rest and regenerate, or get creative with some props around your house and watch a video of a restorative practice from the comforts of your home. Surprisingly, kids crave true relaxation and my classes would take their Savasana VERY seriously! Think building forts with couch cushions, pillows, tables or chairs, and let them lay underneath with you to relax in their own little “cave.” Take this time to use a flashlight and lead them in a guided meditation, listen to one, or just turn on the Secret Garden music on repeat. Either way, get comfy, put your legs up the wall (or prop feet up on pillows if you have high BP), and get some blood flowing back up towards your heart. This is a great time to show your children that slowing down is important, especially when you do it in a way that allows the body to really relax (unlike watching TV).
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
Last but not least, we must remind you to drink plenty of water during these summer months. This becomes extra important on physically active days or times of day as we lose so much fluid through sweat. It is crucial to maintain a level of balance on the inside in order to maintain a safe body temperature and blood pressure (as well as energy levels and moods). Don’t like the taste of water? Try infusing it with some strawberries, lemon, oranges, herbs, or even cucumber for an added fresh flavor! Do whatever it takes to keep the whole family healthy and cool this summer.