I love summer. It’s my favorite time of the year. I love the long days, the warm nights, and the unstructured time of it all.
All this said, summer can be a tough time to maintain a yoga practice. Between heat, humidity, travel, more outdoor activities than usual, happy hours and barbecues its easy to get distracted and not want to practice, or to feel less than optimal while practicing. Oh, and did I mention it smells particularly stinky?
Here are my tips of the trade to prepare for and recover from those steamy practices when your mat feels like a slip-n-slide.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – it’s hard to replenish the amount of fluids we lose during a sweaty practice. Sweating is our bodies way of regulating our body temperature. The nervous system works to stimulate our glands to release sweat. When we sweat we release more than just fluids – our bodies lose electrolytes like chloride, potassium, and sodium. To better replenish yourself after practice try drinking a mineral water (rich in legit minerals, read the label) or coconut water. Remember to hydrate all day long. Not just immediately before or after practice. This helps us to avoid the sloshy tummy that happens when we drink a lot right before practicing and it also reduces the need for disruptive potty breaks.
Start Fresh – Sweating is part of the reason why its important o shower before practice. Lotions, oils and makeup can cause blocked sweat glands, which can lead to irritation and heat rash. You want to start your practice with fresh skin – as our skin is a crucial organ for detoxifying.
Caution! When we practice yoga we are typically trying to warm our bodies from the inside out. But when we walk into a 90 degree room in the summertime its hard not to warm our bodies from the outside in. This can lead to over-stretching and possible injury. Be mindful of your body’s limitations and don’t try to push through physical barriers just because you feel extra bendy.
Know When to Dial it Back Are you on flying away on a vacation, camping, hiking, surfing climbing or doing some fun summer activity? These are all good times to dial back your Ashtanga practice. Any time you are traveling across time zones you want to give your subtle body a change to catch up with your physical body. This is a good time to ease into your practice. You don’t want to ruin your vacation by throwing your back out doing drop backs the day after a big trip. The same goes for any break from your routine. If you are sleeping outside, going on 10 mile hikes, or paddling all day, now isn’t the time to try to kill it in your Ashtanga practice. Now is a time to maintain – even if its just sun salutations. I promise you, you won’t lose your practice in a week or two. So give yourself permission to practice less.
Savor your Twists Twists are detoxifying. They massage the internal organs and the digestive and elimination systems. Twists are known to help flush out excess heat and stress from the intestines. So savor them and use them to your advantage.
Don’t Skimp on the Closing I see it all the time in my Mysore room – students rushing off to work and to their days without doing an adequate closing sequence. Heck, I’m guilty of it too. This is not the part of your practice you want to cut short in the heat. Inversions stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This produces feelings of calmness, balance and ease. A long closing sequence will help bring us back down after a vigorous practice. It also gives our body temperature the chance to lower before we get off our mats.
Take (lots of) Rest – Sink into the cooling and grounding qualities of savasana. I frequently start and finish my practice in savasana. Invite yourself to take a longer rest to provide the body and mind with adequate time to unwind, settle, and cool down. Here is when you can let all the hard work of your practice settle in and assimilate so you can feel more at peace and carry the benefits of the practice with you throughout your day.
Cooling Breath – Guruji really did think of everything. Sheetali breath is the last pranayama of the Ashtanga pranayama sequence. Ask your teacher if doing sheetali breath is right for you. It is a cooling breath used to balance the excess pitta, calm inflammation and clear the body of excess heat.
The Post Practice Practice And you thought all the hard work was over after utpluthih. Not so. At this time of year keeping your mat, rug and clothes stink free is another whole practice. Do not roll up your mat or ball up your clothes. Storing a mat or clothes even a little bit damp in the heat and humidity is sure to ruin them. Change as quickly after practice as you can – this prevents your body from getting a rash. Ideally, throw your clothes in the washing machine and dry on a high heat or in the sun immediately after practice. And unroll your mat in the sun to let the heat of the sun kill any bacteria that you might have left on your mat. Now, these are obviously ideal circumstances and a lot of us have to rush to work. If thats your situation, hang anything wet out of a car window or open your windows and let your stuff hang in the car.
And Remember… If you think your stuff might smell bad, ask someone who doesn’t do Ashtanga to give it a sniff test. And if your teacher announces that a mat smells and everyone has to go home and wash their stuff just assume she’s talking to you and give your stuff a good bath in vinegar and the sun. And if you’re creating a sweat moat around your mat wipe it up periodically so no one slips and gets hurt.
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