Woman under waterfall cooling herself with waterAfter the ignition of the hottest season of the year in June, most of us now want to calm that fire a bit. Summer temperatures rise, and this causes real problems when our bodies become overheated. Nature, Yoga, and Ayurveda (the health science of India) provide us with helpful cooling remedies for body and mind – often through the element of water.

Water-laden fruits and vegetables are available now to help quench the body’s thirst, and Ayurveda encourages us to eat what’s in season to balance our bodies and minds. Many of us love the taste and experience of cold watermelon on a hot summer’s day. Sweet melons are known to be some of the most cooling foods one can eat. Just remember to eat them alone – melons digest so quickly that they cause indigestion when mixed with other foods that are slower to break down, and can cause toxins to be created in the colon.

It’s no secret that we should be drinking plenty of water itself to keep our inner coolant flowing. We know that if our cars run out of water or coolant, some big damage results from overheating. Make sure you’re taking care of your own internal combustion system and balancing it with plenty of filtered or bottled water.

In India, one of the most refreshing drinks I experienced was fresh coconut water, right from the coconut tree. It’s hard to find the same quality of coconut here in the US, but if you do and can crack open one without spilling the milk, it can go a long way to soothing an overheated body. So can fresh lime-ade. Lime is known to be more cooling than lemon: add some fresh lime juice to water, put in cane sugar or honey to taste, and you have another great cooling option.

For vegetables, sweet and water-laden choices like winter and summer squash, zucchini, sweet potato, and pumpkin are cooling according to Ayurveda. Veggies can be lightly sauteed in olive oil or steamed for easier digestion. But at this time of year, digestive fire is so high that you can also enjoy many salads and fresh, raw veggie snacks, such as carrots, cucumber, and celery to keep you cool. Essentially, even if we are of other body-mind types, when we’re overheated in the summer, following a Pitta-calming diet (Pitta is the body/mind type closely related to the fire element) as recommended in Ayurveda is helpful for most of us.

Some people experience accumulated heat from the day during the evening, often before bed, and can feel feet, hands, and even the face or other parts of the body hot and swollen. Cool foot baths, washing down the face and body with a cold, wet wash cloth, and wearing a wet t-shirt to bed in extreme heat help lower temperatures and improve sleep on those hot summer nights.

Some cooling choices for yoga practice? Think expansion and openness. Compression tends to heat things up (think about pressure cookers!), so postures that gently and passively open the body help cool it down. You can set up a supported Bridge Pose to help release excess heat from the mid-torso region, where it tends to accumulate in the body. Fold a couple blankets so they are long and slightly narrow (but wide enough to cover the width of your back) and lie over them. Slide your shoulders softly onto the floor, until the chest and stomach are receiving a gentle backbend opening. Keep your knees bent to release the low back and keep it neutral.

Wide-leg forward bends help release heat from the body and calm the mind. This includes seated and standing variations of wide-leg forward bends, such as Prasarita Padottanasana (standing) and Upavistha Konasana (seated angle). In general, avoid overheating through your practice!

At the end of your day, you may find it helpful to release the blood and stress that can build up heat in the feet by taking the legs up the wall, into Viparita Karani. This can be done by sitting with one hip against the wall, then turning onto your back as you swing the legs up against the wall. Scoot away from the wall to whatever degree it’s necessary to allow the legs to straighten easily. Then, enjoy the release of pressure in the feet and the reversal of circulation, which can rejuvenate, cool, and calm body and mind. Remember that heat tends to expend our energies, so any restorative poses are generally good at replacing those lost resources from the blazing day.

As you go off to sleep, imagine a cool shower of water, a trickle or a refreshing waterfall, flowing down over you from head to toe, washing out not only the heat but anything you want to let go of, leaving you refreshed and relieved. Let it wash away thoughts, emotions, and worries, allowing inner and outer coolness to prevail.

Thank the water element for giving you this wonderful, cooling reprieve as we continue our journey through summertime.


If you enjoyed this post, you might like practicing my yoga chakra series, moving through all the elements!
Level 1 Chakra Series
Level 2 Chakra Series


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