Although we are technically still in the first third of the summer, we are in the middle of the dog days of summer as children start to plan to return to school next month! And not only are we busy down here on earth moving through the changes that come with summer vacation, but the skies are busy too, with two Eclipses this month and a total of five planets in retrograde. The stop and go type of energy surrounding us this month is encouraging us to slow down. The Universe is conspiring right now to support internal reflection and a focus on what is already right in front of us. At the end of next month, forward moving action will be supported, just in time for the kids to return to school!
And, at this time of year, we begin to experience the heat. Continuing research on climate change has focused on the impact on worker productivity and ultimately, on the effect on the economic status of entire countries. I know I don’t need to tell you that when you feel the heat, your level of motivation to do anything – even fun things – goes way down. So, in addition to continuing to do what you can to reduce your personal impact on Mother Earth, I offer the following intention setting ideas to keep your cool during the dog days of summer:
- Breathe and visualize yourself cool. If you find yourself overheated in the moment (whether body or mind of both!), consider trying a yogic breath practice (i.e. pranayama) such as Śītalī/Śītkarī (Cooling Breaths – pronounced SHEE-tahl-lee, SHEET-kar-ee), which have been shown to cool the body and calm the agitated (AKA angry) mind. To practice Śītalī, open the mouth and form the lips into an “O,” curl your tongue and stick it out of the mouth slightly, inhale through your curled tongue making a (ssssss) sound to fill your lungs. Fill your lungs completely, while focusing your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath, using your tongue like a straw. Withdraw the tongue, lower your chin to your chest, and hold the breath for 5 seconds, while visualizing yourself in an environment that makes you feel cold, like skiing or ice skating. Exhale through the nose slowly and completely, lift the head, and repeat the cycle for five minutes. If you cannot curl your tongue, practice Śītkarī: mouth open, tongue tip at the roof of your mouth. Inhale through the side of your mouth along your cheeks and jaw, following the other steps as described for Śītalī.
- Do Less. When our “To Do” lists are constantly long, the natural, adaptive human response of “flight or fight” turns on in the body and mind, and with this response, your blood vessels tense up, which is called vasoconstriction, causing the body to heat up very quickly. So, consider reducing the number of items your have on your daily list or at least give yourself permission to not complete as many on those days where the thermometer is on the rise!
- Spend more time in savasana. I think we all learned in science that heat rises. And for those of us that have ever been brave enough to enter into a sweat lodge know this personally to be true! So, when you find your temperature rising, let this be a reminder to practice savasana. Savasana, also known as corpse pose, is the Sanskrit name for the final resting pose in most yoga classes. We rest on our backs on the floor, supporting the body in any way needed to find comfort in the body, and we give ourselves permission to stay in the comfort and stillness while it permeates our bodies and minds. Consider placing an ice pack, frozen hot water bottle, frozen bag of peas or frozen wash cloth in a towel and putting it on a strategic body part, such as underneath the back of your neck, on top of the belly or on the wrists, to get an extra dose of “cool down” in this pose.
- Eat more fresh food. If you have been considering a change in diet, the summer months might be a really good time to embark on such an endeavor. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whether whole or juiced, reduce the need to use the oven or stove, two huge culprits for heating up our homes. In addition, there are certain foods that have a cooling effect on the body, such as cucumbers, watermelons, and leafy greens. Considering the mantra for beating the heat of summer is hydration, hydration, hydration, fresh summer fruits and vegetables bring along additional water content to boot!
- Peppermint tea mist. When we find ourselves outside in the heat, with no opportunity to duck inside an air conditioned building, consider carrying a spray bottle to mist yourself with. Even better, add some peppermint tea for a enhanced cooling effect. It’s pretty easy to do. Brew a pot of peppermint tea (before bed when the peak heat of the day is subsiding) and then stick it in the refrigerator. In the morning, pour some into your spray bottle. The menthol in the tea gives you a tingly, cooling sensation on the skin. If you forget to brew the tea the evening before, no worries, just put it in the freezer until it is cool enough!