by Karson McGinley: In the hot days of summer…
you can either stand in front of your air conditioner all day long, or you can try some of these naturally cooling yoga poses between your ice pops and cold showers.
As an asana category, forward bends are inherently calming to the nervous system and cooling to the body’s core temperature. Whereas backbends tend to heat and invigorate, forward bends are more easeful in nature, even if they are not always easy to perform.
Try nourishing your emotional, mental, and physical body with these cooling poses for summertime…
1. Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
This pose not only stretches your hamstrings, calves, hips and back, but also relieves stress, anxiety, mild depression, and neck and shoulder tension.
- From standing, step wide on your mat with your feet parallel to one another, and bring your hands down to the ground.
- Spread your legs as wide apart as your hamstrings and back muscles will allow, but ideally are about one leg’s length apart.
- Try to keep your hips in the same plane as your heels, as there is a tendency to lean back, causing undue tension. The idea here is to get your head below your heart, which will reduce “hot-headedness” and invite an introspective quality that is emotionally and energetically nourishing.
- Bend your knees if you need to for this variation.
- When you find yourself in a steady and comfortable position, take 5-10 deep breaths, without constricting the back of the throat. On particularly hot days, try exhaling through your mouth to let go of excess internal heat.
2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
There are several variations of Child’s Pose, but this one is particularly restful, as you curl into a fetal position.
- Keep the knees and ankles close to one another as you sit back onto your heels. If your head doesn’t easily touch the ground, slip a block or pillow under your forehead.
- Reach your hands back to the outsides of your feet, with the palms face-up, and fingers effortlessly curled in toward the palms.
- Allow the shoulders to wrap around the thighbones in a passive and supported manner.
- Gently tuck the chin in toward the chest so the nose is free and clear for a natural breath.
- Stay here for a minute or more.
3. Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Split)
Half-split (or Monkey Pose) enlivens the posterior chain of the body, but continues the action of folding forward, and honoring the interior self.
- From a lunge position, lower the back knee and straighten your front leg any amount.
- Adjust your stance so that your back knee is directly beneath the same hip. Unless you are very open in the hamstrings, you’ll likely want to use blocks to find more ease in the pose.
- Keep the foot on your extended leg active and flexed as you draw the femur back into the socket.
- Inhale and lift your heart, and exhale as you bow forward over your leg. The hamstrings might need 7-10 good breaths before they soften enough to provide the desired effect, so be patient with the pose.
- To come out, pass through lunge again, and return to a Downward Facing Dog or all fours, before moving to the second side.
4. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), or Any Seated Forward Bend
In the seated forward bends, the backside of the heart and body are exposed, making you more vulnerable, but also more trusting.
- For Baddha Konasana, bring the soles of the feet together and ground down through both sitting bones. If your low back is particularly tight, consider sitting up on a folded blanket so your pelvis can tip forward.
- As you bow over your legs, aim to initiate the fold from the pelvis/hips, as opposed to the mid back.
- Keep the lumbar spine long, and then round over with the thoracic and cervical spine.
- Reassure your physical and subtle body with slow and deep breaths as it surrenders to the stretch and you connect to the inner quietude.
5. Supta Jathara Parivartanasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
This pose gently releases tension in your back while also aids digestion and quiets the mind.
- Lie down on your back and hug your knees into your chest.
- Bring both legs to one side, and turn your head to the other side, staying grounded through both shoulders.
- Let your body be very heavy in this variation, so it becomes more about unwinding tension in the spine, than about stoking the inner flame of the belly. Although the legs are stacked, feel free to disorganize your limbs somewhat so you can find more ease.
- Breathe naturally as you soften into the floor like a block of melting ice.
- Try 5-10 breaths on each side.
6. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
It may seem obvious, but Savasana is a perfect pose to practice when the weather is warm and you want to cool off. The ultimate restorative posture for body, mind, and spirit, this asana will help you find equanimity, a sense of resting awareness, and a reduced body temperature, in as little as five minutes. In addition to having naturally cooling properties, this pose is about being just as you are, without interference or manipulation.
- Lie flat on your back and release any tension or breath control.
- When you come out of the pose, roll to the left side (which is associated with the moon, and therefore, cooling in nature), and press up to your seat. Take a few deep breaths, and remember to drink plenty of water.