As the blistering heat starts moving up the temperature scale, don’t let fatigue get to you, stay fit with yoga in these months and let this ancient Indian science help you keep your cool too.
The sweltering summer routine can play havoc with your fitness routine. The heat, the dust, the humidity make sure that you are sapped of all energy. Just the sheer thought of sweating it out in the gym becomes a low priority. On top of it, most swimming pools are crowded and might just miss the hygiene standard
What is the solution? Why not opt for yoga.
And here we tell you not tell only how great yoga is for you, but how it benefits you to start a yoga programme in the summers.
Why Yoga for summer?
Apart from the obvious fact, that yoga is a great way to stay fit in the summer without dehydrating your body and getting fatigued, it makes a lot of sense to start a yoga programme in the summers. Sanjeev Bhanot, who runs the Yoga Life studio says, “Summers are a great time to start a yoga programme as they help you build gradual muscle flexibility till the colder months.” In fact, he explains that as heat and humidity are both high in the summers, your body can stretch more and don’t have to get into a long warm up, as opposed to the winters. Also, the most important thing about yoga in the summers is that it not just helps you tone up with minimum sweat, but it also helps you to beat the heat. In fact people with bone and joint pains would find starting a yoga practice easier in the summer and it would help them progress in the long months before the weather gets cooler. There is another plus for practicing yoga in the summers; as the season affects your metabolic levels, you require less of an effort to lose weight. Thus a focused and disciplined yoga practice also gives you the kind of weight loss that you require with not the same amount of effort you might have had to put in a claustrophobic gym. And, as yoga helps to clear out the surface layer of your skin by removing toxins, superfluous pigmentation also goes away.
Yoga for beating the heat
It seems the ancient Indian practice of yoga was more in sync with the environment than you thought. Thanks to the multiple benefits of yoga, there are actually asanas that help you keep your cool, even after you have practiced them. In fact, the multiple benefits of certain asanas are such that they can help you naturally ‘air -condition’ your body. Sanjeev goes on to add, “Certain asanas help you cool down the bodies internal processes, while others can actually help you get rid of surface pigmentation and all the other ills that summer brings with it.”
Top on his list is the Sheetali asana (details given below), which actually helps to cool down the body and the blood pressure thus providing a lot of relief in the summer, and the best thing is that this actually helps you keep cool all day long.
Some asanas specially recommended for summer
- One should lie on the ground facing downwards.
- Catch the ankles with hands by bending the legs backwards.
- The body will resemble a bow when you bend the body by resting on the abdomen with the spine arched.
- This pose must be maintained for a few a seconds, then come back to the starting position.
Benefits: This asana is very good for ladies. It cures constipation and removes excess fat. It acts as a cure for dyspepsia, rheumatism and gastro intestinal disorders. It improves digestion and appetite.
It is often seen being practiced in many gymnasiums, beauty salons, and health clubs. But without the deep breathing with this exercise, it does not have much therapeutic value and will not be considered a yoga posture.
- Lie flat on your back. Inhale deeply while raising your legs and spine until the toes point to the ceiling.
- The body rests on the shoulders and the back of the neck. The body is supported by the hands, which are placed on the center of the spine between the waist and the shoulder blades. Keep your spine and legs straight.
- Breathe slowly and deeply with the abdomen and concentrate on the thyroid gland. On a male, the thyroid gland is located behind the adams apple. For women, it is located in the same area which is a few inches above the sternal notch (hollow of the neck where the neck joins the rest of the body.) or approximately half way up the neck from the sternal notch. Stay in this position for about two minutes.
- To come out of this posture, just bend your knees, curve your back and slowly return to lying on the floor while exhaling. First bend your knees, put the palms on the floor, then curving the spine, gradually unfold it the way one unrolls a carpet. When your entire back touches the floor, straighten the knees, take a deep breath and slowly lower your legs to the ground while breathing out.
- If you wish, you may go straight into the next posture (the ‘reverse posture’) instead of lying down.
- Mini Shastri adds, “This is a very cooling asana. It also helps to remove toxins from the body.”
Sheetali or (Cooling Breath)
The word “sheetali” means cooling in Sanskrit, it is taken from the original word “Sheetal” which is soothing or cold. The practice of sheetali breathing calms the mind, reduces the stress or fight – flight response. It cools the body and mind. The blood pressure is also lowered. This pranayama is very effective in hyperacidity or even ulcers.
The purpose of the Sheetali breathing is to reduce the body temperature. This may have positive effect on the endocrine glands and nervous system. This pranayama gives control over hunger and thirst. It has a calming effect on entire nervous system, especially it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces muscular relaxation and is very effective in stress management. If you are stressed then 10 minutes of Sheetali breath can calm you. So this pranayama is very effective for relaxation of body and mind.
Practice – Note (Practice of Sheetali breathing should be done with a Yoga Expert only)
Beginners can start with deep breathing practice in sitting position (Padmasana – Lotus, Swastikasana- Auspicious, Vajrasana – Thunderbolt, Any Cross legged position in which the body can be relaxed and spine is erect.)
Then start inhaling through mouth by rolling the tongue, make sure that the air passing in is cooled via tongue.
Initially 4 seconds inhale through mouth while rolling the tongue and exhale for 6 seconds through both nostrils, this can be practiced for about 5 minutes.
With practice one can increase the counts to 4:8, or 5:10 or 6:12 seconds
Precautions: If you have low blood pressure then this pranayama can bring it further down. So you must be careful.
You may feel little cold or tingling sensation in the throat due to cold air but this is normal.
Under No circumstances the proportion of the breathing should be forced.
If you feel dizzy then please stop the practice and continue normal breathing.
— Rishi Dharmachandra
Tips to practice yoga in the summer
Of course, like everything else, yoga too needs a special care in these months of extreme weather. So, some caution needs to be exercised when you do yoga. For one make sure that you are not in direct heat or sunlight. While there is no stricture on what time of day you should exercise, early mornings or evenings make for a good time simply because the temperature is more moderate then. Sanjeev cautions by adding, “It is also not advisable to practice yoga when there is strong breeze, as it can interfere with your breathing process. Another tip to get the maximum benefit out of yoga in the summers is to hold your asanas for a slightly longer period like 15-30 breaths thus giving you more out of it. And, as any kind of physical exertion does get your body adrenaline pumping and your temperature up, do be sure to give yourself a longer relaxation and cool down phase. Yoga Consultant Mini Shastri has another great tip for ensuring you get the most out of your yoga practice and yet achieve great weight loss. She says, “The best way to use yoga for weight loss is to make sure that you get to do at least a hundred vinyasas (movements getting into and out of an asana) a day. It is ideal to break these up into two time slots, so that you do one early in the morning and one early in the evening.” She further adds, “Break up your practice into suryanamaskar and standing poses in the mornings, while do some stretch exercises, deep abdominal stretches and seated poses in the evening as that’s a better time for it.”