Thursday, August 13, 2015

Beat the Heat: 6 Yoga Postures to Stay Cool

It's August, and for many parts of the country that means spiking temperatures.  I know more than a few friends who are ready for the Fall, dreaming about hoodies and hot cocoa.  Until the first whisper of those cool breezes do hit, finding ways to stay balanced in the heat is key to our overall health and wellness.

Yoga can be a great way to stay balanced throughout the seasons.  According to yoga's sister science, Ayurveda, summer is when Pitta (think hot, fiery, volatile) energy is in full force.  We tend to be more active, social, and have an irregular schedule.  Those who already have a Pitta dominant constitution (motivated, sharp-witted, fiery) need to be especially vigilant to stay in balance this time of year.  If you've been having skin outbreaks, heartburn, or have been especially impatient or angry lately, you need to take a step back and cool down.  Here are some yoga postures to help you do just

Cat/Cow: Place your hands underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips.  Inhale as you arch your back, drawing your chest slightly forward and lifting your tailbone up towards the sky (Cow).  Exhale and push deeply into the earth as you round your spine and release your head towards the earth (Cat).  Repeat 3-5 times, integrating movement with breath.  Moving with the breath helps to regulate the body temperature.

Puppy Pose: Take a deep breath in, and keeping the belly engaged start to walk your hands forward.  You can drop to your forearms or keep them slightly lifted as you exhale and drop the chest down towards the floor.  Keep the thighs vertical as you draw the breath deep into your belly.   Allow yourself to get grounded here, drawing the cooling, nourishing breath in and releasing heat with each exhalation.

Cobra Pose: Draw yourself forward through the crown of your head and come onto your belly.  Place the hands under the shoulders, elbows in closely to your sides. With a deep inhalation pull the chest forward and through the hands, coming up any amount that feels good.  Keep the tops of the feet grounded behind you to stabilize the lower back.  This gentle backbend can apply beneficial pressure to the belly to release heat from the abdomen. Press back to Puppy pose to release the lower back.

Seated Forward Fold: Come to a comfortable seated posture.  Extend the legs long, about hip distance apart, and ground down through your tailbone.  Engage the deep belly as you extend up through the crown of your head. Inhale and reach up, elongating the spine.  Exhale and slowly fold forward, bending the knees as much as you need to.  Place the hands on the thighs, shins, or feet.  Let each inhalation come in like a wave, lengthening the spine, and each exhale softening into the posture.  Forward folds cool the mind and body, allowing yourself to go inward in a time of transition.

Bridge Pose: Make your way onto your back.  From here, bend your knees and place your feet about hip distance apart, fingertips just grazing your heels.  As you exhale, push down and away through your feet to lift your hips off the ground.  You can stay here, or inhale and reach your arms up and over your head, hips still lifted.  Slowly draw the arms back up, through center, and down to the ground as you slowly melt the hips down.  Integrate this movement a few more times, pulling cooling breath up to the top lobes of the lungs.

Reclined Twist:  Extend both legs long, and reach up and over the head.  Extend through fingers and heels. As you exhale, curl into both knees, hugging them into you.

Let your head and shoulders rest on the ground, arms out wide to the sides, palms facing up. Take a nice deep breath in, slowly lower your bent knees over to the right as you exhale, shifting your gaze to the opposite hand.   Hold for 2-3 breaths, and repeat on the other side. Twisting helps to cool the blood, releasing heat from the intestines and the liver.

Stay Cool!

Kristin Henningsen MS, CH, RYT


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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