If you’ve read my seasonal living blog posts before, you’ll know that each season holds a very different energy, and in order to feel our best year-round, we benefit from shifting our lifestyle habits season-to-season. Living seasonally doesn’t mean you have to make huge life changes every few months, but small and simple yet impactful changes that benefit us on every level. As we move from Spring to Summer, you may already be feeling the need to switch up your morning routine, food choices or weekend plans, or perhaps you feel you need a change, but don’t know where to start. In this post, we’ll explore a few easy everyday holistic ways you can prepare your body and mind for the Summer (no, there’s no ‘beach body’ workout here!), and start reaping the benefits of seasonal living.
The Yin & Yang of The Seasons
Summer is the peak of ‘yang’ energy; think of those bright, hot sunny days when you’re full of energy and have a day packed with fun plans. That’s the energy of Summer. Just as the plants and trees around us are in full bloom and at the height of their seasonal growth, we too would naturally feel more energized in Summer if we were living seasonally. Maybe this sounds like you? Feeling more energetic during the sunnier months is indeed linked to the longer hours of sunlight, and the effects it has upon our hormones and circadian rhythms, otherwise known as the ‘body clock’. Sunlight can increase a chemical within us known as ‘serotonin’, which increases mood and energy levels, and aids in helping us feel calm and focused. The reverse is true in dark Winter months, when the low levels of sunlight causes a lack of serotonin in some people, known as SAD or ‘seasonal affective disorder’.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is governed by a different energetic movement too. Spring is ‘upward’, whilst Summer is ‘outward’ and expansive. You might recognize this by watching how plants grow – upward from the earth in Spring, and then expanding outward in Summer. The movement of expanding outward is also mirrored in our social interactions, which evolutionarily would have been much more expansive in Summer than in Winter. Cold months are more suited to huddling in our homes with close family and loved ones, whilst warm Summer months are made for meeting lots of new people, traveling away from home, and saying ‘yes’ to more invitations.
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda (yoga’s ‘sister science’) recognizes Summer as the season highest in ‘Pitta’ energy, related to fire and water. When in a healthy balanced state, Pitta energy helps us feel confident, energetic, strong, focused, able to complete tasks efficiently and aids in a strong metabolism. When this fiery energy becomes excessive however (known as having a ‘Pitta imbalance’) we may feel irritable, inflamed, angry, obsessive, we may over-work and over-do physical activity, try to tick too many things off the to- do list, experience blood sugar fluctuations, and eventually burn out. Ayurveda often uses the principle of ‘Like increases like, and opposite brings balance’, so advises that in these hot Pitta Summer months, we choose cooling, calming activities that allow us to take a break away from working and ‘doing’, and focus more on simply ‘being’.
So, it seems there’s a lot more to Summer than simply warmer weather – as we shift into this season, the energy changes dramatically, so choose your favorites from these holistic tips for a healthier Summer to help you feel your best!
Yogic breathing practices can help us feel calm, energized, focused, and can even be used as a meditation practice. Light on Pranayama by BKS Iyengar is a great resource for learning lots of different pranayama practice with big benefits, and understanding the technique and meaning behind them. To keep the body cool during hot Summer days, use the breathing practice Shitali pranayama, translated as ‘cooling breath’. To do this, roll your tongue into a tube shape (if you’re unable to do this, simply stick out your tongue), and inhale the air through the ‘tube’ like a straw. Close your mouth, then exhale slowly through the nose, and repeat two more times. This practice is effective for cooling the body if you feel over-heated or irritated. Other mammals like dogs also stick their tongue out to cool the body, as they’re unable to sweat through their skin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often recommend an acupuncture or acupressure treatment at the beginning of each season to help the body’s energy flow harmoniously from one part of the year to the next. In TCM, Summer is governed by the fire element, which is related to the heart and small intestine, so pressure points related to these organs are used to help keep them healthy. The point SI 5 (small intestine 5) can help with mental clarity and calmness, whilst a pressure point located in the center of the palm known as Lao Gong can help remove excess heat from the body, relieve mouth ulcers, increase energy and calm a restless mind. The soles of the feet also contain many acupressure and reflexology points, so try using a mat like the Scentered Foot Mat with De-Stress Aromatherapy Balm to soothe and stimulate 42 points on each foot to de-stress and prevent burnout.
Take Your Practice Outside
Our bodies only know what time of year it is if we actually get out into nature and immerse ourselves in the season! The amount and intensity of sunlight on our skin sends signals to the brain indicating what time of year it is, and when we step outside in the morning, the natural sunlight our eyes are exposed to signals to the brain that it’s morning, and time to feel more energized too. Getting out into natural daylight early in the morning helps set the body clock at the correct time, encouraging us to feel alert in the daytime and sleepy when it gets dark at night. One of my favorite ways to get the benefits of my yoga practice and morning light exposure, is to take my mat outside for a few rounds of sun salutations. The Yogamatters Eco Travel Yoga Mat is incredibly lightweight and super sticky, so you can take it to the garden, balcony, and even pack it easily in your case for Summer holidays!
Even slight dehydration can cause brain fog, dry skin, constipation and fatigue, so when the days are hot and dry, it’s even more important to stay hydrated. The versatile, specially designed Hydro Flask keeps water icy cold until the end of your morning run or yoga class, and can also be used to keep tea toasty warm too. If you struggle to drink water because it’s ‘boring’, be inspired by Tori Holmes’ Beauty Water book, with 50 recipes to super charge your water through herbs, adaptogens, crystals and other natural ingredients.
Switch To A Summer Yoga Wardrobe
We all love a pair of yoga leggings, but for those super sweaty mid-Summer classes, sometimes shorts are a must. Especially if you enjoy a dynamic vinyasa class or gym workout, wearing shorts can prevent you from over-heating, and enable you to get more benefit from your session (rather than collapsing into a puddle of sweat…). The Girlfriend Collective Float High Rise Shorts are designed with soft, breezy fabric made from recycled bottles, are sweat-wicking and fast-drying, and perfect worn under a skirt for cycling commutes on sunny days too.
Which tip do you need to take the most this Summer? Have you already started making changes to help you live more seasonally this year?
Emma is a 500hr qualified Yoga teacher, musician, massage therapist, cook, and writer. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma began her practice at a young age and has continued to study and develop her understanding of Yoga on a daily basis. Training internationally with inspirational teachers, Emma’s passions her now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma currently teaches regularly in Sussex, co-leading teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and also manages the Brighton Yoga Festival.