As we enter the month of August, oftentimes the hottest month of the year, our bodies naturally adjust to the intense heat and sunlight of the summer season. Actively help to balance your inner body against the outside warmth by incorporating some cooling movement and nourishment inspired by Ayurveda, the Indian system of alternative medicine.
If you practice yoga, now is the time to explore restorative and yin-style classes and postures. Instead of performing Sun Salutations, which are used to warm the body, discover Moon Salutations to relax and cool it. Release tight hips and hamstrings with both standing and seated forward bends; Instead of intense inversions like handstand and headstand, try Legs Up the Wall and Shoulder Stand, supported with a blanket or rolled mat under the shoulders. Avoid midday activity when the sun is at its peak, as well as hot showers, steam rooms and saunas. Opt instead for walks in either the early morning or late evening and focused, controlled breathing exercises.
To ease into an Ayurvedic summer diet, eat mostly seasonal, fresh or gently cooked light foods and herbs with high water content, such as cucumbers, chard, cherries, kale, green beans, berries, peaches, apples, zucchini, melon, mint, fennel and cilantro. Cold soups and salads are also appropriate. Alcohol and caffeine are particularly draining during this time of year; either avoid them altogether or compromise with white wine or a spritzer. Mint is great for digestion, easy to grow and makes a refreshing hot or iced tea.
*This blog post originally published for the Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing.