Looking for Healthy ways to Beat the Heat?
Sure, we’ve all heard the Summer advices: drink lots of water, keep in the shade, stay inside where it’s cool… But, how often are we truly in tune with what our own body or our child’s body really needs?
We are at a turning point in the health scene, and more and more, doctors and parents are looking away from what’s always been done, and seeking, instead, the specific, whole, and long term remedy for every ailment- from belly ache to skin disorders.
In my years of exploring health and wellness: teaching yoga, my deep studies of nutrition and healing, and counseling so many individuals on their own experiences, I have had what seems like thousands of conversations about the body and its needs. The system that continues to speak to me most fully is the Eastern science of Ayurveda.
For those who may be unfamiliar, Ayurveda- a Sanskrit word meaning, “knowledge of life” – is a 5,000 year old Science that looks at our bodies in relation to all things: our genetics, our environments, the season, and even the planets. For a wonderful Introduction to Ayurveda, check out Yoga Journal’s article.
According to the Yogic philosophy that inspires Ayurveda, we are all made up of the five elements and their differing relationships in each individual’s body and mind. You may be scratching your head… did she say FIVE elements? Yes. And I’m not calling in Bruce Willis to prove it. Even as kids, we can rattle off the basic four: EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER… And, while I hear all you Captain Planet fans out there screaming “HEART!” I’ll have to let you down. In Ayurveda, the Fifth Element is SPACE- that in which all the other elements arise and with which they are held together. But don’t let the mind turn to knots yet.
As I advise all my students, the only way to believe or buy into something is to test it- try it on for size, and see if it fits your world in a way that helps keep you healthy and happy. So, I’ll start by letting you in on how my playful brain kicks these things around.
First, we’ve gotta figure out which of these elements we are dealing with! So let’s think seasonally. What do you think of when you imagine “Summer?”- the sun, the heat, the long long days! Instinct might already be telling you- Summer is on FIRE.
When I teach students about Pitta (Ayurveda’s word for “fire” or “heat”), I first ask, what is fire in the outer world? We always start with the literal: a fireplace, a campfire, a match … but Ayurveda asks us to think more poetically. That’s where we can really get rolling: the sun, electricity… light… all of these things have the elemental nature of fire.
Ok! Second question: Where is there Fire inside our body? We emit heat, so we must have some kind of inner furnace. One of my favorite questions I’ve ever been asked was by four year old, Sophie, “Why are our bodies hot?” At the time, I was scratching my head with how to answer. Fire relates to our inner energy or prana. And literally is the propellant that keeps us moving forward and helps us to transform.
It may be difficult for some to feel it, but Pitta exists as the energy of chemical reactions that occur when we break down substances in our organs, create and release hormones, and most predominantly in our digestive systems as we convert food to fuel. But, no need to limit it there- we are also constantly emitting energy and electricity as a result of our cells working and evolving to help us grow and function.
Every person’s body has a differing level of Fire (and all the other elements). So, in looking for remedies, we really work on a case-by-case basis. And, the magic is, if we start witnessing this dance between the elements in our body and the elements surrounding us, we may start to develop a relationship with food, activity, and our surroundings that is deeper and more subtle than we’ve ever experienced before.
Now, I’m admittedly extremely Fiery—so the Summer can lead to some extreme discomfort if I don’t balance properly. For me, fire manifests not only as literal body heat, but anger, anxiety, and general irritation with everyone and everything. Not so fun for the vacation months!
Below are some games, exercises, poses and diet tips that may help with regulating your Summer heat. They are easy to practice, and fun for kids. Get to know your balance and what cools you down.
Also, how does fire manifest for you? In your child? LEAVE A COMMENT Below and Join the Community Conversation.
BEAT THE HEAT THE FLY WAY
When we think of balancing our FIRE, it’s helpful to imagine what you might do to put out or get a fire going. Each elemental practice can act as a way to either rev fire up or douse it. See what is necessary for your body!
1. AIR/ WIND
Air can either make a fire flare up (think bellows over burning embers), or blow it out entirely. It’s important to know how much air is needed. Taking deep breaths generally may help cool the body, but our FLY exercise Straw Slurps (also known as Sitali Pranayama), can instantly bring coolness in and let heat out.
Straw Slurps: Roll your tongue up like a straw- if that’s not in your DNA, purse your lips like you have a straw between them. Slowly slurp in cool air like you’d slurp a milkshake. At the top, seal your lips and breathe out through your nose. Repeat 3 times and see if your temperature shifts.
Dousing a fire with earth is a sure way to put out any excess flame. In our bodies, the Earth element is grounding and relaxation. We all have our favorite ways to relax: maybe a long bath, a heavy meal or a glass of wine… but here are some poses that are not only kid-friendly, they won’t affect your waist line!
Royal Throne: Bring the soles of the feet to touch and allow the knees to flop open in a diamond shape (supta badhokanasana), placing a bolster under your shoulder blades and blocks beneath the knees, lay back with your arms stretched out to the sides. This is a yummy hip opener and back bend in one.
Suspension Bridge: This is Bridge pose done with a yoga block or firm cushions supporting the sacrum/ low back. Lay flat with the soles of your feet planted and your knees pointing up. Gently lift your pelvis and slide your cushions or block beneath your sacrum. You can hang hear for 5-10 minutes as the blood rolls back from hips to heart.
Wall Seat: Commonly called “Legs up the wall” or “Supported Shoulder Stand.” Set your seat on a cushion very close to the wall. As you lay back let your legs climb straight up, resting them vertically. You can add a neck roll behind your head for support, or behind your heart for some extra back bend. Hold for 5-10 minutes, and flush away your long hot day before bed. I find this one instantly cooling and mind soothing.
Oh, the fun to be had with Water- Water balloons, water squirters, swimming and thunderstorms!!! But, for a safe and consistent Summer of cool we must know exactly what’s in the water we drink and how we can absorb the correct amount of minerals to keep us going!
While drinking extra water is a given, the right kind of water is essential. Our tap water- whether tasty or not- has fluoride, chlorine, chloramine, and lists of other chemicals that kill bacteria, whether bad bacteria or good bacteria. As a result, most of our water is totally stripped of minerals and electrolytes (especially if we use a handy Brita or Pur filter). A quick fix, if you’re in a pinch, is to add some high quality sea salt or bamboo salt to your water (you won’t taste it, and it purifies and re-mineralizes the water!). But to boost your electrolytes, you may need to get a little more creative, incorporating more coconut, cucumbers, and aloe into your diet.
Try this recipe for all natural and easy popsicles (or smoothies) below:
-2 cups coconut or aloe water
– ½ cucumber
– ½ pint of blueberries or raspberries
– 5 sprigs of mint or peppermint oil
– ½ green apple
– ½ avocado
– Lemon juice to taste
Blend all ingredients in Vitamix or on Super setting of your blender until very smooth. You may want to peel the cukes and apple if you blender doesn’t handle puree well. Drink as a Smoothie and enjoy! OR pour into popsicle forms and let sit for 3 hours in the freezer. Refreshing and Delicious!
We’ve all heard the expression “fighting fire with fire…” And, sometimes, it seems like the only choice may to be to push on through. One thing I’ve learned, is that the best way to get comfortable in the heat, is to balance our inner heat with our outer heat… as long as we’re well hydrated, this will begin to neutralize our reaction to the outside.
Some Fiery Tips:
- AVOID the Air Conditioning. Instead, make a game of making paper fans or sucking on frozen fruit or ice cubes to cool off. The transition back and forth from cold to hot and back again, is one of the major culprits of illness in the Summer months. Give your body a chance to get used to the temperature, and you will be happier!
- HEAT UP with a great sweat early in the day. Go for a family sprint, sit in a sauna or steamy bath, or sun bathe in the morning! This will prime your body to stay cool as the day heats up.
- DRINK warm liquids- hot tea? Why not? I’m a huge fan of hot lemon water, and often I’ll add in a pinch of cinnamon to bring up my inner fire.
The fifth element is the most difficult to settle into, because it requires us to recapture some spaciousness within our bodies and minds. A great yoga class may get you there… or creative practice… or a sweaty run. With even just five or ten minutes a day, the perspective you can take on the heat, may allow you to hold it just a little better.
Try some of these simple meditations with your kids and see what they experience!
Sounds of the Galaxy: When we turn off our sense of sight, our other senses have more ability to work and help us create the world around us. With eyes closed, ask children to listen for as many things as they can hear. Don’t share yet! Just be quiet and hear all the sounds of the galaxy for a full minute. When they sit up from relaxation, ask them to share what they heard.
Cloud Gazer: Lying on your back, look inward at a big blue sky! Imagine that when your thoughts come through, they are like puffy white clouds moving through your brain and out the other side. Imagine what shapes you could see in the sky. Next see a beautiful rainbow leading up a pathway and breathe in all of its beautiful colors. Now, see the sun and watch it get brighter and brighter until you are filled with sunlight- a beautiful golden yellow. Breathe in and out on a stream of sunshine.
Wash Your Worries Away: Imagine you are lying on a sandy beach, super close to the tide. The ocean has the magical power of taking away all your bad thoughts, worries and fears. Imagine your breath is moving up and down your body, just like the waves of the ocean tide. As you breathe out imagine letting go of every singe negative feeling one at a time. When you sit up you are washed clean!
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© Haley Dawn Yoga LLC, FLY Yoga Arts. Any copy, duplication, or distribution of this material is strictly prohibited & in violation of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. Replication/ dissemination of the contents of this Manual in any form is illegal & could result in severe penalties.