Cool Down With Yoga

Yoga Asanas to Deal With Heat

When overheated, we tend to become more competitive, self-critical, and agitated. Ayurveda offers advice on the ways to adapt yoga practice in the summer to alleviate this imbalance by adding Pitta balancing asanas.  These asanas prevent those symptoms I mentioned, as well as hyperacidity, heart burn, skin rashes, and digestion issues.

First off, your our practice should be quieting, cooling, and calming. If you noticed a strong desire to spend most of the time in your last class in Child’s pose, your intuition is guiding you in the right direction. When trying to balance the doshas, remember that “like” increases “like”. Hot Pitta will be aggravated by high temperatures and any sort of fast movement. In other words, yoga class done in a heated room or at a fast paced may be too aggravating to Pitta.

The slower the movement, the less agitating to the body and mind. Calming music can be helpful as well.  Also remember: any movement practiced with great awareness can be calming and balancing. Focus on keeping your attention internally in your body in every asana and every transition between the asanas. Strive for achieving relaxed effort in all your  postures, relax all the muscles that are not critical in holding the pose, especially your face, neck, and shoulders. Allow your breath to lead you from one pose to the next one, not your logical mind.

An out of balance pitta may manifest as impatience, aggressiveness, self-criticism, intensity and competitiveness. The adoption of a relaxed, non-hurried, gentle and patient attitude to yoga practice will definitely have a very positive effect. Shift your focus to observing and enjoying the process instead of striving to achieve a specific goal.

Asanas that help balance Pitta are those that place pressure on the naval and solar plexus region, in the small intestine where Pitta resides. There should be enough calming poses included to sedate irritation, anger, and intensity caused by Pitta. In general all forward bends, side stretches, twists, backbends that stretch muscles in your stomach will be beneficial.

Here are some suggestions:

Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – This asana opens up abdomen, solar plexus, and chest, allowing for free movement of energy through these regions.

– Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) – Also excellent solar plexus extensions for Pitta. They activate and support healthy thyroid gland function that is responsible for internal temperature regulation and metabolism. A better functioning internal thermostat will make hot weather more bearable.

- Matsyasana (Fish Pose) – as Yoga Journal notes, Matsyasana is the “destroyer of all diseases.” It stretches and stimulates the muscles of the belly and front of the neck; and stimulates the organs of the belly and throat

- Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) and Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) – are good example of side stretches. Side stretches stimulate the abdominal organs; help relieve stress; improves digestion; and can be used to alleviate anxiety.

- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) and Pada hastasana (Hands to Feet) – all forward bends calm the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression; stimulate the liver, kidneys; improves digestion; soothe headache and anxiety and reduce fatigue

–  Meru Vakrasana (Simple Spinal Twist) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Semi Spinal Seated Twist) – all twists stimulate the liver and kidneys, energize the spine, stimulate digestive fire in the belly; and relieve fatigue.

- Supta Vajrasana (Sleeping Thunderbolt or Diamond Pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), Halasana (Plow), and Mayurasana (Peacock) – are good Pitta balancing poses, as well.

The Following asanas are best to avoid or shorten during steamy Pitta time:

Headstand  is very heating. If you choose to do a Headstand, make sure that your breath stays steady and slow throughout this inversion and stay there only for only as long as it feels comfortable.

– Avoid doing too many Sun Salutations, especially during the day. They create a lot of internal heat and warm up the body very fast. Instead, try Moon Salutations or do Sun Salutations early in the morning for a reenergizing effect to the whole body.

Keeping your focus internally and having your eyes closed will create more awareness and make Sun Salutations less Pitta aggravating. Take time in every asanas and try to make really slow smooth transitions from one asana to the next one. Pay attention to the way your body moves and the way each asana makes you feel. Besides making you more ‘cool’ and calm, practicing in the slow internally focused mode can be an eye opening learning experience and your body awareness will skyrocket!

Struggling to survive last week’s heat and make sure that my students don’t pass out in classes, I used all the above recommendations to make classes more Pitta friendly.

Enjoy every asana!

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