Are you noticing more irritability, frustration, and difficulty being productive and creative this summer? Chances are, you’re not alone; these things go with the territory as the temperature rises (and I know whereof I speak, writing this in the sweltering heat of August in Austin, Texas).
According to Aruveyda (which is the sister science of yoga), late spring through summer is a time of year where the Pitta dosha—or predominant pattern of energy—is most likely to come out of balance. The Pitta dosha is assocated with an imbalance of the “fire” element, so we may feel dehydrated, drained, and lethargic or overly agitated, rigid, and frustrated, depending on the direction of the imbalance. When Pitta is in balance, we tend to feel nourished, creative, efficient, and passionate.
Yoga offers ways to bring regulation to the heat associated with Pitta season:
Put an emphasis on the second and third chakras, since these chakras are associated with creativity and willpower. Please take note that an imbalance in Pitta can manifest in too little or too much focus on creativity and will.
Take it down a notch. Expend less effort. You can perhaps do poses at 75 percent of the full intensity.
Practice the yogic concepts of santosha and ahimsa. Santosha translates to “contentment,” and ahimsa is the principle of nonviolence. Turn these concepts toward yourself in your yoga practice as well as in your everyday life. You can turn away from criticalness and a need for perfection, while acknowledging your efforts and gifts with compassion.
Enjoy more playfulness during your practices while having less repetitive routines. This may mean trying a new type of class, varying practices from a rote form (like Ashtanga), or just putting more focus on your internal experience during your practice.
Pay attention to the balance of effort and ease, particularly ease. Allow time for rest and for playfulness, including during your asana practice. For instance, you can seek curiosity and joy in balance poses as opposed to gripping and over-efforting to avoid falling out of the pose. To cool the fire element, you can also add in more restorative poses like Bound Cobbler’s Pose or Legs Up The Wall.
Focus on cooling, calming breathing techniques. Here are several examples:
Even breath: Start with noticing your breath. Observe your inhale and count how long it tends to be. Without force, see if you can get your exhale to match the length of your inhale. Breathe in the nose. You can exhale through the nose or sigh the exhale out the mouth for more cooling and releasing of energy.
Sitali: Inhale though a curled tongue, then close your lips and exhale though your nose. You can sip air in through your mouth if you cannot curl your tongue with ease. If you cannot curl your tongue, then pretend you are inhaling through a straw instead.
Left nostril breathing: This is a variation of alternate nostril breathing. Valve off your right nostril by gently pressing the nostril closed with a finger and breathe in your left nostril. Pause and switch the valve, then exhale though your right nostril. Repeat.
Overall, ask yourself: “Do I need to add this ‘heat’ in?” This could refer to opting out of “hot yoga” practices, modifying poses more to decrease heat in the body, using cooling breathing techniques, meditating on loving kindness, taking points of rest during the day, not spending extended periods outside during the heat of the day, not overextending your summer activities, eating cooler and sweeter foods, or having less self-criticism.
This list may sound focused on the formal time where you practice yoga, but many of the items can apply to your yoga both on and off of the mat. I hope that these tips will help to guide you in turning your external heat and energy down a degree or two.