Cooling Summer Yoga Sequence With Sheetali Pranayama and Summer Ayurveda Guide
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC
Summer is a beautiful time of year when we get the chance to soak up the sun and spend more time immersed in beautiful nature. But some days, the heat can feel unbearable! With a regular summer yoga practice focusing on cooling and calming your body, you can stay balanced no matter what the temperature. Cooling Summer Yoga Sequence
The principles of Ayurveda and yoga teach us how to balance the body energetically and even make small shifts in body temperature. With a mix of cooling yoga poses and the powerful cooling breath or sheetali. pranayama, you can use your yoga practice to cool down from within. See below to find out more! Cooling Summer Yoga Sequence
Have you ever gotten angry or afraid and felt that flush of heat through your face or chest? That is your nervous system response! When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it needs more energy to fight off stressful attacks, which often causes your body to become hotter. In contrast, when your nervous system switches to rest-and-digest mode, your body heat generally goes back to baseline, and the energy in your body can focus on the functions that it needs to. Cooling Summer Yoga Sequence
Yoga practice directly works at balancing your nervous system, which is the central part of your body that controls body temperature regulation. Yoga teaches us how to be more aware of these subtle changes in our nervous system so that we can begin to find balance physically, mentally, and emotionally. With regular mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, and calming yoga poses, you can support your body’s ability to switch back into rest-and-digest mode and remain in a more regulated temperature.
No matter what is happening around you or within you, yoga teaches us how to stay anchored in that calm, cool, and peaceful place within. Additionally, certain yoga poses and breathing techniques can actually directly shift your body temperature by influencing the energetics of the elements in your body and causing subtle changes in the doshas or Ayurvedic body energies. Cooling Summer Yoga Sequence
One of the main principles of Ayurveda is how each season is governed by a different dosha or combination of elements. The summer season is also known as pitta season, which is the fiery dosha. Due to the predominance of this heating dosha in the environment, this can increase the likelihood of causing your own pitta dosha to go out of balance, leading to heat-related issues.
Due to this excess heat all around us this time of year, it is even more important to emphasize cooling and calming in your yoga practice. Pitta dosha has a natural harshness, competitiveness, and intensity to it, so an excellent way to balance these qualities is by inviting more creativity, fun, and gentleness to your yoga practice. And remember, always work at a maximum of 80% of your full effort during the summer season or times of pitta aggravation!
Additionally, the main site of pitta dosha in your body is the stomach. So, any yoga poses that gently cleanse your stomach without too much stimulation can be wonderfully nourishing to help your body release any excess pitta. You can also support this gentle cleansing process by emphasizing longer exhalations.
What is Summer Solstice and how does it affect my yoga practice?
The simple cat and cow flow sequence is one of the best ways to relieve tension in your spine and get a nourishing full-body stretch. Additionally, this pose combination is excellent for balancing pitta dosha and cooling off your body and mind.
Cobra pose is a gentle back bending posture that is often incorporated into cool-down sequences in a yoga class. This pose subtly stimulates your kidneys and helps them flush out the buildup of toxins in your body. Additionally, the pressure on your abdomen is balancing for pitta dosha.
Butterfly pose is a wonderful stretch to open up your hips and calm your mind at the same time. The grounding nature of this yoga posture makes it an excellent option when you need a bit of relief from the heat but still want to get in a nice stretch.
Whether you are seated or standing, forward folds are downregulating for your nervous system, which is why they are often recommended as an excellent way to calm anxiety. This subtle shift in your nervous system helps your body switch into a rest-and-digest mode which automatically triggers more cooling from within.
Another excellent pose to balance your pitta dosha during the summertime is the supine spinal twist. This reclined posture is a calming way to gently stimulate your stomach and intestines to flush out any excess heat in your body that tends to build up this time of year.
Perhaps the best practice for the summertime is meditation in any form, and what better way to do that than to practice a long savasana! While you relax in your savasana, try to focus on releasing tension in your muscles through a nourishing body scan meditation to deepen your experience and cool down from within.
If you are still craving more of a flowing yoga sequence but don’t want to get too overheated in the traditional sun salutations, then moon salutations are an excellent option for you! The moon salutation sequence includes many similar poses, but it tends to be more calming, grounding, and cooling overall.
Beyond the many yoga poses that can help you cool down in the summer, sheetali pranayama, or the cooling breath, is a supercharged way to deepen these benefits even more! Sheetali pranayama is a breathing technique that was specifically designed to bring more cooling energy into your body and mind, making it an excellent practice for both summertime and any pitta imbalance. See the steps below to practice sheetali pranayama on your own:
1. Get into a comfortable seated position with a straight spine, ensuring that your lungs feel spacious enough in your body to take a deep breath.
2. Gently close your eyes and take a few natural breaths through your nose to ground your body and mind.
3. Stick out your tongue and roll the sides of the tongue upwards so that your tongue forms into a tube shape. how to practice sheetali pranayama
4. Inhale through your curled tongue as if you were breathing in through a straw.
5. Close your mouth, pause for a moment to hold in your breath, and then exhale slowly through your nose.
6. Continue this practice for 7 to 15 rounds. how to practice sheetali pranayama
If you struggle to roll your tongue this way, you might consider practicing sheetkari pranayama instead. Sheetkari pranayama is also a cooling breath that is excellent for cooling down during the summer. See the steps below for guidance on how to practice sheetkari pranayama:
1. Rest in a comfortable seated position, taking a moment to lengthen your spine and sit up straight.
2. Slowly close your eyes and take a few deep breaths through your nose, coming into a meditative state. how to practice sheetkari pranayama
3. Press the tip of your tongue against the backs of your teeth with your teeth closed. how to practice sheetkari pranayama
4. Gently open your lips slightly and widen your mouth into a subtle smile with your teeth showing but still closed together.
5. Inhale, so the breath passes along your teeth and tongue.
6. Close your mouth and hold your breath for a few moments before exhaling through your nose.
7. Continue this practice for 7 to 15 rounds. how to practice sheetkari pranayama
The directions above are the primary foundational steps to sheetali and sheetkari pranayama. Under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher, you might also consider adding additional body locks or bandhas and more extended breath holds or kumbhakas. But make sure that you speak to your doctor before exploring these more advanced yoga practices.
In addition to these cooling yoga practices, some supportive Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutrition guidelines are an excellent way to cool down in the summer. According to Ayurveda, some essential practices for summer are to focus on cooling your body and mind with cooling foods, aromatherapy, colors, sounds, and self-massage.
So, you might consider using cooling coconut oil for your morning self-massage or abhyanga, along with the scent of lavender essential oil in your diffuser. Or maybe you opt for more cooling colors in your clothing, like blues and greens, along with the soothing sounds of meditation music. But the best way to cool down, according to Ayurveda, is with a cooling diet filled with green veggies and juicy fruits.
Understanding the energetics of yoga can help you take your practice to the next level and truly begin to find balance in all aspects of your life. Each yoga pose, breathing technique, and meditation style has a unique energetic signature that can bring heat or coolness into your body, so it is crucial to understand the energetics of yoga practices before choosing the proper practices for you.
In our online yoga teacher training courses, we go into greater depth to understand the principles of Ayurveda and how to apply this to yoga to create a nourishing and well-balanced yoga sequence for all different kinds of situations. Whether you need to cool down in the summer or warm up in the winter, yoga practices are an excellent way to improve your well-being and find balance in life, and becoming a certified yoga teacher is the best way to learn these principles. So, contact us today for more information on our upcoming online 200hr and 300hr yoga teacher training courses!
Founder of Online Yoga School and Yoga & Ayurveda Center
Steph has over 25 years of experience in yoga and movement. Her understanding of yoga and the human body has been influenced by lifelong dancing and holistic health. She found her life’s purpose in helping people become happier and healthier through her own healing journey. Steph assists her students in knowing the joy and wonderment of integrating the mind and body through accessible yoga. She encourages an authentic and life-nurturing practice, one that brings greater consciousness to each moment and every movement of the body with a heavy emphasis on breath.
With a masters degree in counseling, Steph brings awareness, acceptance and a down to earth approach to her classes. She studied with Maty Ezraty and later completed her second 200-hour training with Nancy Candea at Yoga Impact in New Jersey and her 300-hour training with Chris Loebsack at Boundless Yoga Studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The perpetual student, Steph has studied with Leslie Howard, Travis Eliot, Bryan Kest, Donna Farhi and countless others. She has extensive training in pelvic floor yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, power yoga and accessible yoga. Most recently, Steph was certified as a Grand Master of Meditation through Swami Vidyanand.
Steph founded Yoga and Ayurveda Center with her husband. She later launched Online Yoga School to support her local trainings and has recently launched a virtual yoga studio to accommodate the international community of trainees.
When she isn’t on her mat, Steph can be found volunteering, enjoying her husband and children, dancing and cooking. She currently enjoys serving on the board of World Yoga Federation and Meditation Alliance International and previously enjoyed serving on the Education Committee of Yoga Alliance and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity in her teacher trainings.
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