10 Tips to Keep Your Cool in the Heat of Summer
Summer can mean different things to different people. For the sun worshippers out there, you may relish the heat of the season and come alive under the sun's vibrant influence. For others, the unrelenting heat of summer can eventually become almost too much to bare. If this sounds like you, I imagine you're beginning to "feel the burn."
When I was in college, this phrase was associated with Jane Fonda and her famous “donkey kicks” on her aerobic fitness videotapes. I used to put on my spandex, headband, and leg warmers and set up my TV so I could work up a sweat with Jane. I can still hear her voice—"Can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it? Feel the burn!"
These days, I am hearing clients and students tell me they "feel the burn" from a different point of view—on their skin, in their digestive tract, or as anger rising.
When I hear this, I can't help but admire these wise souls for being so attuned to their inner experience. It tells me they are developing an awareness of what they eat, how their bodies react, and what they can do to return to greater balance.
In 1984, I had no idea that my digestive health might impact my thinking or my skin. After years of yoga practice, Ayurvedic school, and lots of hours of self-investigation, I can now easily recognize the signs of heat in my body and how it impacts every cell, thought, and action.
This information is available to everyone. With the language of Ayurveda, we can all tune into what's happening in our bodies and minds, and learn to adapt appropriately.
So what to do when you feel the burn? Here are my top 10 tips for staying cool as a cucumber as the heat of the summer season reaches its peak.
10 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat
- Take an afternoon nap. Summer is a great time to embrace the power of a late afternoon nap. Resting for about 20 minutes will help you interupt the stress and momentum of your day and recharge your battery. Especially for those who read this and say "That is a waste of time," this one is for you!
- Sunbathe in the morning. Reserve your sun exposure for the kapha time of day—in the morning before noon. It is lovely to be in the sun for a bit and soak up the vitamin D, but we don’t want to heat up too much. Often the morning air is more moist from the night, so this time of day is a better time to catch the sun's rays than the late afternoon when even the breeze is hot.
- Freshen up your water. Try drinking room temperature water with some cucumber and mint, or a dash of aloe vera juice, to cool you down and offer some alkaline qualities to your digestive fire.
- Add a squirt of lime. Switch that lemon to a lime in your morning water, and add a little honey. This will cool you down and sweeten you up while supporting the body’s natural cleansing system to remove toxins and excess heat.
- Practice pranayama. Bhramari pranayama provides a soft and calming experience for your mind. The subtle effect of this "buzzing breath" or "humming bee" breath creates a gentle vibration that softens the sharp quality that excess heat can bring to our thoughts. Even one minute will have a soothing effect.
- Snack on fresh fruit. Yes, ice cream is fun—but not to cool us off! Oddly, the cold quality of ice cream requires the body to heat up in the central channel and does not promote cooling. Fresh fruit on the other hand is generally sweet (a natural cooling taste) and enjoyed at room temperature, so when we eat it the body doesn't need to heat up to digest. Hello, watermelon!
- Skip the ice. The same concept applies for ice in your drinks. Though it may seem counter intuitive, drinking beverages that are warm or room temperature will actually promote a gentle sweat, giving the body a longer-lasting cooling sensation.
- Smell the flowers. Jasmine, magnolia, chamomile, and rose all have sweet and cooling scents. Try adding one of these essential oils to your favorite carrier oil when you practice abhyanga to soothe your senses and calm your mind.
- Immerse yourself in nature. Watch the water, sit under the moon, or take a walk in the forest. Gaze out over the ocean, take in the view from a mountaintop, or watch the sun set over the horizon. Being immersed in the vastness of nature automatically creates peace and spaciousness in the mind.
- Incorporate cooling herbs. Last but certainly not least, remember the power of the plants. Summer is a wonderful time to work with cooling herbs and spices, such as brahmi, amalaki, fennel, hibiscus, and neem. Sip on some Mellow Mind tea anytime you need a moment of calm.