Chill Out

Aah, it’s that time of year. The temperature nears triple digits, the sun blazes down as though it may never again have the opportunity to shine so bright, and the forecast calls for more of the same through August. The fire element has spoken and we have no choice but to listen and (hopefully) respect it. Or move to northern Alaska.

Here’s some advice for staying cool that’s legal, non-fat and pain-free.

Back off

If your practice is dynamic and athletic – back off (if you don’t have a practice; get one!). Respect the power of the fire element. Adding fire to fire only creates burn up and causes burn out. Maybe yoga is not your gig, but you’re a cyclist or runner or hardcore tree climber. Whatever your passion, enjoy it without overheating/overstraining/overtaxing your body and mind during these next two months. Practice early in the morning or later in the evening rather than in the brilliant heat of midday. Moderation in our practice keeps the fire in balance both physically, mentally and emotionally.

Practice forward bends

In yoga, forward bends are known to be cooling to the mind and calming to our nervous system. They should have a soothing effect rather than one of strain. Interestingly, more people hurt themselves in a forward bend than a backbend in yoga classes. The discs tend to get scrunched between the vertebrae when folding forward if one does not take the appropriate measures of lifting and lengthening the spine before diving forward. Suppose you’re reading this at the office; get up off your duff and stand with your back against the wall. Walk your feet about a foot away from the wall and step them at least hip-width apart. Take a deep breath in (through your nose of course) actively elongating your spine. With slightly bent knees, hinge forward from the hips. Lead with your heart and try to keep a flat back for as long as you can. Your hamstrings will tell you when enough is enough. At that point, allow your back to round slightly and your upper body to gently hang like a ragdoll over your lower body with your arms crossed in front of your bent knees. Keep your bum pressed against the wall for support. Hang here for a minute or two, breathing deeply and smoothly, and then walk your hands up the front of your legs to help yourself back up.

Sitali Pranayama / Cooling Breath or Tongue Hissing Breath

Here’s a simple breathing technique that has been used for centuries to keep one cool as well as to keep ones’ cool! Stick your tongue out a little ways past your lips and curl the sides of it upwards until the sides touch and create a tube. Breathe in deeply through your ‘tubular tongue’ and out slowly through your nose. Continue to breathe in this manner for 2-3 minutes, then inhale and hold the breath, close the mouth and exhale through the nose. I have read that this breath can lower a fever as well as detoxify the body. Hot flashes anyone?? Give this a shot.

It’s an interesting correlation that as the temperature climbs, so does the crime rate. Go easy on yourself and others. Be kind, stay hydrated, spread your toes and breathe deeply. Tuning in to your body and your practice on both a physical and energetic level, it’s easy to see that burning up is indeed equivalent to burning out. Love your yoga, don’t loose it!!

Lisa Bracken owns and teaches at The Yoga Barn at The Canebrake (www.TheCanebrake.com) as well as at NSU. While writing about fire, she found herself singing the lyrics to that classic Ohio Players song, “Well I can tell by your game, your gonna start a flame…”

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