I don't know about your part of the world dear friends, but summer is in full bloom in Croatia! I already took a few dips into our beautiful Adriatic sea this month and have a nice tan that I acquired while working (!) at our yoga retreat in Istria. Yes, I am spoiled now and will only do teacher trainings in bathing suit next to the pool:).
Dolce far niente
Summer is my favorite season for more reasons than one. I love sunny, long days. I love being able to ride my scooter everywhere. I love how summer brings people outdoors and out on the street. To parks, beaches, bar and restaurant terraces, open air concerts and festivals, parties etc. and how we all want to socialise more. It's the time of the year when people are generally more relaxed and enjoy life more. As it should be all year round!
It is also a season of my favourite outfits – flip flops, dresses and shorts. There is so much freedom in not wearing too much clothes. I also love summer drinks – lemonade, mint water, iced tea, cool beer… And, of course, summer food – I binge on salads, veg, fruit and smoothies. One doesn’t really crave heavy junk food in summer months.
But what I love most of all is my time off work when I can enjoy weekend escapes and a long summer vacation somewhere along our beautiful Croatian coast.
For a recovering workaholic like yours truly, this time off is crucial. It takes a while to adjust as my workaholic mind always wants to do things, but my body is more like:
- No, it’s too hot, let’s just sit in the shade, drink lemonade and chill.
- Chill? As in, do nothing? – the mind wonders.
- Yes, as in do nothing. I have just about energy enough to breathe! And to lift up this glass of lemonade!
My body wins this argument every summer and I spend at least a month doing nothing much. And do I enjoy it ones I get used to the sweetness of not doing much at all. Or what Italians would call – Dolce far niente. I love that they actually have an expression for this!:)
You CAN have it all!
So, the summer is finally here and I have adjusted just fine. I spend my days wearing dresses and open shoes and make my meals light and fresh (check). I socialise more, go to events and see my friends much more (check). It’s the end of June and I am on my way (on a train to Milano as I write this) to do my last workshop until the end of summer, so I will be working much less starting next week (check).
And, what about my yoga practice? Should that be adjusted as well? Of course it should!
If you are into a dynamic challenging asana practice and / or are a stubborn ashtangie who thinks modifications are for losers, the only advice (at least related to this post:) I can give you is – go to bed before 10 PM, get up at 5 AM and do it than! Attempting to practice as you do during cooler days when it gets hot is like going out in UGG boots and winter coat on 35⁰C.
However, if you (as I would be if reading and not writing this) are now thinking - ‘’wait a minute! Who goes to bed at 10 PM in July? It’s barely dark out. Plus, didn’t you just say we should socialise more?:)’’ - than we do need to modify and adjust a bit. I say WE as I don’t get up at 5:00 to practice. I’d rather socialise. And adjust :). You actually can have it all if you're willing to be more.. hm.. fluid?:)
Summer yoga practice
Summer is Pitta time. So, what you don’t want to do is aggravate your Pitta. As Pitta's element is fire, aggravating it basically means - a burn out. When this burn out occurs, all of your systems overwork themselves to the point of a possible shut down. You can get dehydrated, get a heat exhaustion with severe symptoms etc.
Your yoga practice can help you stay in balance if done in a right way, and make it worst if not done mindfully. So, let’s see how we can accomplish this.
Pick a good practice time
Ok, we’re not getting up at 5 AM, but even if we get up at 8 AM it should still be ok to practice. You'll see how it feels ones you step on the mat. Don't plan ahead. Go with the flow.
If you work in the morning, aim for late afternoon. If you chose to do a more intense practice, make sure you finish by 8 PM.
Prepare for practice
Make sure you are well hydrated before you unroll your mat. If you can, take a nice cool shower before you begin. Wear something light and preferably made of organic cotton. Our pores are more open when hot and sweaty and we don’t want those chemicals from textile dyes in our blood stream! It is also important to prepare your practice space – air it out before you begin and make sure it’s cool as it can be without using air conditioning.
Pace and breath
Choose a slower pace. If you feel shortness of breath, slow down or relax in Balasana or Prostration. Always watch your breath and let it be your guide. Use Ujjayi pranayama when you practice! It has the power of cooling the body down when needed. Exhale trough the mouth three times whenever you feel the need to during the practice. It has a very calming and grounding effect.
We use Sun salutations to warm up and prepare our joints and soft tissue for a deeper practice. However, during very hot days our bodies already feel open and warmed up and don’t need five Namaskar A’s and five B’s. Adjust. See how you feel after doing 3 A and 3 B for example.
During summer months I will almost never use Uttkatasana at the beginning and end of Namaskars B. Why? It works two largest muscle groups that create much heat – gluteus and quadriceps. And too much heath is what we’re trying to avoid here, right?
Use Balasana or different variations (hans and knees, Anahatasana, prostration…) instead of staying in Adho Mukha Svanasana every time. Adho mukha is an inversion, and inversions are not the best summer practice.
Modify. Adjust. This means you don’t need to do every vinyasa and jump around. You can step back and forward and use Ardha Vinyasa (going back to Adho Mukha) any time. Use Ashtangasana instead of Chaturanga ones in a while. Or all the time!:)
Pick your asanas wisely
Use asanas that ground and don’t overstimulate. Work more with forward bends and hip rotations. Twists are good to detox but pick ones that are not too challenging. For example, instead of Parivrtta trikonasana or Parivrtta Parsvakonasana twist from a low lunge or modify with back knee on the mat.
If you like to work your core (for that new bathing suit:) - pick wisely! Remember that working with the core means working with Manipura chakra and with the fire element. Again, we don’t need too much fire. Stay closer to earth and choose variations from hands and knees, forearms (like forearm planks and side planks) etc.
Same goes for backbends. They are working with Anahata chakra and the Air element. And fire and air don’t always go well together. Especially when you’re trying to keep that fire from spreading uncontrollably. So, stay close to earth and don’t go too far back (baby cobra, shalabasana etc.)
Our muscles and joints feel more open and fluid as it gets hot. Use that openness your body feels and go deep, but don’t overdo it!
Finish in style
Don’t stay in Sirsasana (head stand) too long. But, how long is too long you ask? Well, you know that better than me. Follow your body and your breath and you will get your answer. I’d say 5-10 breaths tops. Or avoid it all together. Rather stay longer with your legs lifted up on the wall to release that summer heaviness from them.
If you know how to do Sitali pranayama (the one when you roll up your tongue and inhale trough it) do three breaths to cool down before Shavasana.
Take longer Shavasana! Again, grounding is the key. If you haven’t been very smart about picking your sequence and you feel like you did too much, stay in Shavasana for 10 minutes.
As always, love your self on and off the mat. Be gentle and kind. Do as much or as little as it feels right.
Avoid fast paste, many vinyasas, asanas that build up too much heath (you can still do tham but don't stay too long), challenging standing sequences, intense pranayama.
And, as you always should - be mindful.
Over and out :)
If I don’t write another post before the fall, it means I am chilling somewhere nice (so be happy for me:). Who knows maybe I get inspired by some beautiful view, sea, wind in the sails or something else and write another blog post during summer.
But, if not, I wish you all a wonderful, relaxing, joyful and worry free summer! Go out, play, be happy, free and laugh much. Engage in rambling conversations, go skinny dipping, flirt, kiss the one you love under the stars.
And don’t worry if all of that kept you form your mat as it did NOT keep you from your yoga. Yoga IS in its essence the state of bliss. The joy and love of life.
As I am finishing these lines my train just stopped in Verona. There are no coincidences in life:).
Sending you all much summer love from the city of love!