Summer is the season of fire: in Ayurvedic terms, it’s pitta dosha season. The right kind of summer yoga can help to cool the body and mind, as well as prevent pitta imbalances like inflammation, acidity, and anger. Rather than an emphasis on perfect alignment, keep summer yoga light-hearted with free-flowing breaths.
Elongate this summer yoga sequence with poses that target the abdominal region such as forward bends and twists, as well as those that bring fun and challenge, such as Half Moon pose or Revolved Triangle pose.
Classic Sun Salutations
Sanskrit: Surya Namaskar
Benefits: The classic hatha yoga version of Surya Namaskar lends itself to fluidity, as the spine is alternately stretched between forward and backward bends. Like any warm up, this prepares the body for the movements that lie ahead.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Exhale and bring your palms to prayer.
- Inhale and reach up, arching the back.
- Exhale and fold forward bringing your palms to the floor on either side of your feet.
- Inhale and step your right foot back, lower your knee to the floor, and lengthen your spine.
- Hold your breath and step your left foot back into Plank pose.
- Exhale and lower the knees, chest, and chin to the floor. Inhale and scoop forward into Cobra pose.
- Exhale and push back to Downward-Facing Dog. Inhale and step your right foot forward. Exhale and bring your left foot forward, placing it next to your right foot.
- Inhale and rise into a backbend, then exhale and return your hands to prayer.
- Repeat the entire sequence, stepping the left foot back and forward. This completes one round.
Expert tip: Sun Salutations heat up the body and since it’s already warm in the summer, practice fewer rounds than you would in winter or spring. You should break a sweat but not overheat. Flow through these rounds at a medium pace. Don’t worry about perfection and allow the breath to flow freely. Notice the sensations of heat and focus on the stretch in your spine.
Benefits: Of all the inversions, Shoulderstand is the most cooling. It balances the lunar principle in the body, bringing lightness and serenity to the mind.
- Lie on your back with your arms alongside your body, palms facing the floor. Inhale and lift your legs and hips.
- Support your low back with your hands, walking your hands down your back as you shuffle your elbows toward one another.
- Relax your toes. Ideally the legs are vertical, but they can also shift more toward the head if needed.
Expert tip: Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Focusing your attention wherever you feel a stretch.
Benefits: Like Shoulderstand, Plow pose also balances the body’s lunar qualities, bringing peace to the mind.
- Enter Plow pose from Shoulderstand.
- Keeping the lower back supported, lower your feet overhead and rest them on the floor. Ideally the feet are together and the legs are straight, but until this is comfortable, they can instead be bent or spread apart.
- Release your hands from your lower back and interlace your fingers, resting them on the floor. Shuffle your shoulders underneath you.
- To exit the pose, release your hands and slowly roll down to the floor.
Expert tip: Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Focus your attention on the stretch in your hamstrings or spine.
Sanskrit: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Benefits: In this sequence, Bridge pose acts as a counterpose to Shoulderstand and Plow pose.
- From Corpse pose, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.
- Bring your arms alongside your body, palms facing down.
- Inhale and push into your feet as you lift your hips.
- Deepen the pose by interlacing your fingers on the floor and shuffling your shoulders underneath you.
- To exit the pose, release your hands and lower.
Expert tip: Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Focus on the stretch in the abdominal region.
Seated Forward Bend
Benefits: Seated Forward Bend puts pressure on the navel region and solar plexus. This massages the liver and spleen; helping to purify pitta.
- Sit with your legs outstretched, feet together and relaxed.
- Inhale and reach your arms up.
- Exhale and fold forward, gently clasping your feet or legs.
- Relax your head so that it’s in line with your spine.
Expert tip: Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Focus on the sensations in the abdominal region.
Half Lord of the Fishes pose
Sanskrit: Ardha Matsyendrasana
Benefits: Like Seated Forward Bend, Half Lord of the Fishes pose also purifies pitta. It also balances the subtle form of pitta that acts as the digestive fire.
- Sit with your legs folded underneath you.
- Shift your hips to the right and place your left foot just outside of your right knee, sole of the foot on the floor.
- Use your left fingertips to gently push into the floor behind you as you lengthen your spine.
- Cross your right elbow outside of your left knee, exhale and twist to the left. Change sides.
Expert tip: Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Focus on the sensations in the abdominal region and rhythmic belly breathing.
Sanskrit: Sheetali Pranayama
Benefits: As the air flows in through the tongue or teeth, it brings a cooling sensation to the body and mind.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
- Roll your tongue or lightly clench your teeth with lips open.
- Inhale slowly through your tongue or teeth.
- Close your mouth and exhale through your nose.
Expert tip: After resting in Corpse pose, practice 10 rounds of this breath. Marinate in the cooling sensation that it brings.