As the summer heat descends keeping cool becomes ever more important. Both in the physical body as well as in the mental and emotional bodies. Excessive heat can lead to anger, irritability, and impatience as well as hives or other rashes, heartburn, headaches, diarrhea, and dehydration. Caring for our body-mind-spirit as a whole is a necessary part of overall health and well being. Summer requests that we rise early when the temperature is still cool and rest in the middle of the day when the sun is at the highest point, heating the earth and air. The days are longer to accommodate an early rising, mid-day rest, and enough daylight to resume some activity in the evening before sleep. If we are living with the rhythms of nature this seasonal routine change will slowly happen on its’ own. But living in the world that most of live in today, with so much detachment from the natural rhythms, seasonal routine changes may take more effort and intention. Even slight, 1% shifts in routine can make an impactful difference.
For those working or spending most of their day indoors with air conditioning, there is less contact with the heat and other elements outside. It can be confusing to the body if we frequently move from extreme cold to extreme heat multiple times per day. Be aware of your surrounding and dress accordingly to accommodate these situations. If you are spending most of the day indoors, spending some time outside in the early morning and evening will help to stay connected to the natural world.
Keeping cool does not only apply to the summer weather. It applies anytime we experience excess heat in the bod-mind-spirit and in the energy around us. Sitting indoors in a cool room during a “heated” discussion brings heat into the body-mind-spirit. Arguing, resisting, forcing; these are states of heat. Heavy lifting, intense aerobic exercise, and cooking over a hot stove are all warming activities. The concept of like increases like, and opposites balance applies to all of these situations. As the weather changes from cooler days, to warmer, and intensely hot days, the external macrocosm effects our internal microcosm. We bring in cool, soothing qualities to balance out the hot, sharp qualities.
Here are some practical tips to keep cool in body-mind-spirit during times of excess heat:
- Rise early, ideally before the sun and embrace the cool morning.
- Engage in outdoor physical labor or exercise during the early morning or evening.
- Avoid being active outdoors in the heat of day for long periods of time.
- Wear a hat and protect your eyes and skin.
- Go swimming! Emerging the entire body in cool water is a great way to cool the entire system. Cool showers or hosing off outdoors is also beneficial.
- Notice your energy level, and take rest when you need it. A brief lie-down can do wonders to cool the body-mind spirit. If resting outdoors, find shade.
- Bathe in the soft, cooling light of the moon. Sitting outdoors at night before bed with the sky and the moon is a great way to cool down, and prepare for a restful sleep.
- Enjoy cooler beverages during the day, but not with meals or first thing in the morning. Iced drinks are never recommended, but are especially to be avoided around meals. The cold quality will dampen the digestive fire, leading to digestive disorders and toxic build-up.
- Enjoy moist, cooling foods such as cucumber, melons, and other sweet fruits. Cilantro, parsley, and salad greens can be lovely this time of year. Minimize hot, pungent foods and spices such as alcohol, fermented foods or vinegars, garlic, and black pepper.
Śītali – Cooling Breath
Different breathing techniques used in the practice of yoga are called prāṇāyāma. The word śīta in sanskrit means cooling. This breathing technique is wonderfully cooling to the entire system. It helps to cool the fire of judgement, anger, irritability, criticism, hives, rash, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, hot flashes, and is anti-inflammatory. Contraindications for this practice include slow or sluggish digestion, asthma, chronic congestion or cold.
- Stick the tongue out as much as you can and roll the edges toward each other making a tube shape with your tongue.
- Inhale slowly by breathing through the narrow passage created by the tongue. If you are not able to roll your tongue, you will keep your teeth together and open the lips in order to inhale through the teeth instead.
- Close the mouth, retain the breath, and place the tip of the tongue to the roof of your mouth.
- Exhale slowly through the nose.
- This completes one round. Continue as desired, but start off slow and build up gradually.
- Start with 5 rounds, and see how you feel. Rest for a moment after you’ve finished to experience the cooling effect.
Recipe – Lavender Rose Limeade
This cooling beverage calms the nervous system, relaxing the entire body-mind-spirit. To increase the cooling and hydrating effects, you can add one tablespoon of aloe vera juice per cup. This recipe makes 2 cups.
2 cups water
1 Tblsp. dried lavender flowers
1 tsp. dried rose flowers
1 Tblsp. fresh lime zest
1-2 Tblsp. coconut sugar, raw honey, or maple syrup
3 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
- Place lavender, rose, and lime zest in a heavy glass or stainless steal bowl.
- Pour one cup of boiling water into the same bowl, stir, and cover.
- Steep for one hour. Strain out the particles.
- Warm the second cup of water, remove from heat, and stir in the sweetener and lime juice. It is important not to boil honey. The water should be just warm enough to melt the sweetener.
- Pour the two mixtures together and enjoy! Let it cool as desired, but do not drink it iced cold. This beverage will cool the body-mind-spirit without actually being cold upon consumption.