The summer season is characterised by Pitta, the Ayurvedic body/mind type associated with the element of fire. As outside temperatures rise, we crank up the air-conditioning but as we all know, that can be very dehydrating – in fact doctors are now saying that air-conditioning causes more harm than good! But fear not because here are 4 eco-friendly and natural ways to keep you cool and calm through the season. If you already practice yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises), then adjusting your practice with these tips will ensure that there isn’t excessive production of heat in the body.
Our body temperature is essentially maintained via the movement of air through the right (pingala) and left (ida) channels (nadis) of the body. The right is associated with the sun and masculine energy and therefore with heat and vigour, while the left is associated with the moon and feminine energy and therefore with coolness and calmness.
In the summer, our left nostril is naturally more active than the right to help normalise the body temperature. Deliberately activating the left channel helps to effectively cool down the body. Blocking the right ear (by inserting a cotton plug) automatically activates the left nostril. More effective however is the Chandrabhedi pranayama. (1)
Unlike the Anulom-Vilom pranayama technique where breath is taken in through alternate nostrils each time, in the Chandrabhedi pranayama, inhalation is only through the left nostril and exhalation always through the right. The pranayama should be carried out gently, slowly and soundlessly. This video provides a demonstration.
Sheetali and Sheetkari pranayama
Sheetali and Sheetkari pranayamas are two types of pranayama that are extremely effective in cooling down the body and their effect is immediate. In Sheetkali pranayama, air is taken in via the mouth through an extended and rolled tongue, held for a short while and then exhaled slowly through the nose. If you are not able to roll your tongue, you can try the Sheetkari pranayama where air is inhaled through the teeth instead. The pranayamas can be done for 5, 7, 11 or 21 breath cycles (1). This video provides a demonstration.
Chandra Namaskar or Moon salutations
Yoga students are usually more familiar with the Surya Namaskar (or sun salutations) practice. However, Surya Namaskar may tend to be too heating for some people during the summer. Chandra Namaskar or moon salutations on the other hand are cooling and calming as they incorporate sideways movements as opposed to the more invigorating forward-backward movements of the Surya Namaskar. This video provides a demonstration.
Adjust the time of practice/exercise
It is advisable to do yoga or other exercise in the cooler hours of the day, avoiding the heat between around 9 am and 5 pm. In general, the twenty minutes before and after sunrise and sunset are considered best for yoga practice. With the longer summer days, tweaking your yoga sadhana times to align with the earlier sunrises and later sunsets is beneficial.
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