Saturday, 30 July 2016

Blossoming Yoga Summer Newsletter

Harmonizing with the season: SUMMER

Here’s how to get attuned to summer’s energy and feel your physical best

The abundance of summer can be really breathtaking: flowers everywhere, leaves blowing in the breeze, warm sunshine and summer showers. It's like a perfect invitation to get into healthy habits for body and mind. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the summer is a yang season, meaning it has an expansive, outwards energy. Most of us naturally feel more sociable and buzzy in summer.  To make the most of it, it’s important to find a balance between being outgoing and joyful with keeping cool and calm. There are plenty of ways we can do this; from eating certain foods to working with yoga poses and essential oils.

What to eat
In Ayurveda (the sister science of Yoga), the summer is associated with the pitta (fire) element. Whether you’re in England or on holiday somewhere warmer, you can pacify too much rising heat in the body by reaching for cooling foods such as coconut, cucumber, coriander, mint and celery. Coconut oil is also a soothing, effective moisturizer – and particularly good for heat rashes.

Drinking lots of water is essential in summer and you can make it more tasty by adding some twists of cucumber, a squeeze of lemon, or throwing in a few raspberries. Delicious! It’s also a good time of year for crisp, raw, fresh foods like salads and green juices.

Essential oils for summer
When the weather gets hot and humid, clear the air (and ease headaches) with rosemary oil. For a sweet, soothing  lift, I find citrus oils like bergamot, neroli and orange to be especially good. Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are great for clearing congestion from hayfever. Also, for a natural insect repellent, try citronella or tea tree oil.

Yoga and exercise
When everything is in full bloom, it’s like nature is encouraging you to get outside! Hiking can be a great way to exercise in the summer – you’re breathing fresh air and stimulating the senses, getting some cardio exercise in, but also not overheating and overdoing it. Moderation is your friend in summer.

In TCM, Summer is associated with the organs of the heart and the small intestine, with the sound of laughing, and the emotion of joy. The heart meridian (energy line) is also connected to the hands, hence the wonderful feeling of a good hug! When these organs are in balance, you are likely to feel affectionate, optimistic, communicative and generous. Signs of heart-mind imbalances can include a scattered mind, excessive talking, poor circulation and memory loss. Happily, there are many ways to keep these meridians running smoothly: acupuncture, Qi Gong, eating well, singing, getting regular hugs and yoga will all serve you well here.

For yoga practitioners, there are specific poses that can open up these meridians. To make space and bring ease to the heart center, backbends are wonderful. They’re generally easier to do in the summer, because the body is warmer and more supple.

If you already have a steady home practice, warm up for backbends with sun salutations, followed by poses that open up the quad and hip flexors, such as crescent lunge (1); this will facilitate deeper backbends, later. Try working with poses like locust, bow, bridge (2), wheel and camel. Backbends are energizing. So, if you’re feeling hot and bothered, opt for restorative heart-openers like supported fish pose. Balance your practice with gentle twists to reset the spine after backbending, and cooling forward bends, such as a seated forward fold (3).

For beginners and seasoned yogis alike, two of the most wonderful restorative poses for summer are reclined bound-angle (4) and legs-up-the-wall (5). Finish with a lengthy Savasana (resting pose) – see if you can stay lying down for 10 minutes. Please note: If you're unsure about any of these postures, let me know. Private sessions are a great way to devise a personalized home practice sequence for you. Here are those poses:

1.          2. 3.

4. 5.

Meditation and lifestyle tweaks
Take time to do things that bring you joy, whether that’s singing, dancing, frolicking around the garden in fancy dress – now is such a good time to do what you love! If you find meditation helpful, try practicing gratitude while you’re sitting: Let your mind quietly scroll through the things you’re grateful for. Nature, in all its summer bounty, is great place to start.

Enjoy this beautiful season!

Group classes resume in September.

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