You are the commander of the universe beneath your skin. Sometimes there’s peace in the galaxies: your body feels light and agile, you’re thinking is creative and inspired, you’re emotions are grace-filled. There’s a reverb of radiance in the way you ward off challenging invaders.
Other times it’s different, there’s a black hole sucking your power. You get tossed from the captain’s seat.
The truth is, there will be eclipsed days, aliens, and high speed meteors. Where’s the Jedi training for everyday life?
By studying yoga and Ayurveda you learn to use “the force”. Okay, my metaphor is getting cosmic. But seriously y’all, it’s kind of true. Not unlike the training of a Jedi knight: learning to mold your mind and body into vibrancy amidst the duties of western living is a lifetime of study.
Alas, there is a practical place to start this epic journey. Quite frankly, it’s not going to seem all that heroic (at first).
What you eat, how you sleep, what you listen to, what you read, what you watch, how you let yourself be or how you push yourself: EVERYTHING you do determines how you’ll face what’s thwarted towards you. The more you make the valiant choice regarding the things you CAN control, the more you’ll be able to handle the things you CAN’T control with the skillz of a master.
What I’m saying is that having a bedtime, paying attention to your environment and noticing what’s going on in your body allows you to wield energy, creating days you’re proud of.
Not to say that a static state of perfect balance is even worth aiming for. Heck no, take a sign of relief and give that up now. You’re human, fluctuation in equity is a reality. Think of tree pose, you can be steady and stable up top while your foot is moving all over the place.
You’re not “balanced” when you have all the tasks checked and done, the kids are outfitted with the best gear and you’re still feeling sexy at 8PM.
When I talk about balance or imbalance I’m thinking much smaller than this. Like, sensing overwhelm in it’s earliest of stages, noticing when your dinner feels like a lead brick in your stomach and realizing that you feel tired when you wake up almost everyday.
When you learn to notice these imbalances in their most subtle stages and you learn to reel them back in, you’ll be performing a sort of preventative health care. Consequently, you’ll also be strapping on a lightsaber to your side for later use.
BRINGING THE YOGA DOWN TO EARTH
From an Ayurvedic perspective yoga poses are not only a good means for exercise, body maintenance and mental health, but you can also use them to transform minor symptoms of dis-ease back to symptoms of harmony. Force powers!
Whatever you do on your mat creates an effect in your body. So ask yourself, “what effect will the style of my yoga practice have on my body”? Ayurveda provides a little clue to help you answer that question: like increases like and opposites balance.
Each season of the year, with it’s specific environmental qualities, has the potential to send your body out of whack in a unique way. Therefore, shift your yoga to counter the potentially negative impacts of the season at hand.
The qualities inherent during the season of summer are: light, fire, heat and intensity. Seek to bring the opposite qualities into your body with your summer yoga. Use force empathy to embody self-acceptance, peace, coolness and surrender.
Allow your routine to be guided by relaxed effort: move gently, fluidly, and gracefully. Anatomically, open up space in your abdomen. Twists, forward bends and heart opening poses all help to reduce pitta dosha, which rules the season of summer.
Change up your yoga breathing so that it’s more cooling and relaxed. The whisper breath (Ujjayi) that is often used in yoga has a heating quality, use it moderately if you’re feeling imbalanced in a hot-and-bothered kind of way. Indulge in your exhale, notice how your front body releases towards your core when breath leaves your body.
Attitude and approach matter when you’re working to counter the qualities of fire, intensity and lightness. These basic guidelines will deepen your training:
LIGHTEN UP & LET GO
Summer is a great time to practice having more fun in your poses, don’t take yourself too seriously. Shift your focus to what you’re feeling in your body, resist analyzing yourself and your experience with your thoughts. Do your best to avoid being judgmental or critical of the way you and your body are showing up.
Off the mat and into your day: If you’re feeling edgy, irritated, lack luster or stressed at any time during the day and you want to shift it, take a deep breath, imagine the emotions leaving your body through your exhale.
STAY COOL & CREATIVE
Allow some freedom and creativity to weave their way into your practice. It’s a great time to mix up your routine a bit, avoid continually practicing a specific style or the same series of poses. Seek variety during the summer, choosing options that encourage you to pay attention to your body. Yin, restorative, slow flow, Forrest, iRest, workshops, classes in novel locations: what are haven’t you tried before? Do that!
Aim to practice in a moderately cool space. You don’t want to get cold, but avoid practicing in extreme heat.
Off the mat and into your day: Apply these same principles to all of your exercise routines.
PRACTICE RIGHT EFFORT & RECEIVING
In summer your body and mind will benefit when you practice at a moderate pace, apply 60 -70% of your effort. Less is more – holding back a touch at this time of year will benefit you greatly in the long run!
Your biggest chunk of effort needs to go towards mapping out when you’ll get to your mat. If you simply practice for 5 minutes, that’s a big win. If it’s challenging to motivate yourself to practice at home find classes that inspire you and get to those.
Yoga is not a competition, with yourself or anyone else. Surrender and lean back a bit in summer. A couple tangible ways to do this are: to breathe into the back of your ribs and your low back and to soften your gaze downward, at the horizon or even practicing with your eyes closed at times.
Off the mat and into your day: Be on alert for the competitive mindset that can creep it’s way into everyday interactions with others. When you catch yourself going there pause. Take a few deep breaths and congratulate yourself for noticing, then proceed with a more peaceful approach.
OVER TO YOU
In yoga and Ayurvedic theory optimal health and bikini bodies are made on an annual cycle, it’s a long haul approach. Pushing hard to get your beachbody ready in 10 weeks isn’t a plan that spells success in the future.
Not only that but you may send the delicate balance of your mind and emotions too far off course while you’re working overtime to shape your body — especially if you try to push the intensity during the summer when your body is already experiencing fire, heat and lightness in extreme levels.
A fulfilling and easeful approach includes opening up to the natural world around you and assisting your body to be in harmony with it.
A sustainable approach includes listening for the subtle cues of imbalance that your body is wanting to tell you and learning how to respond to them with care.
A peaceful approach includes practicing self acceptance today, not waiting for a later date when you finally live up to your standards for perfection. Albeit, this is not an easy approach. In fact, it’s somewhat magical, like Jedi training.
In the long run your loved ones and the world will benefit. Hip, hip hurrah! The story ends in heroics after all.
Thanks Sarah. Just what I needed to keep on track for the summer season. Taking some of these ideas to my mat!
Right on Robyn. I know you have a committed daily practice. I think you’re ready for the challenge of “mixing it up”. I look forward to hearing how it goes. Hope to see you soon wilderness woman!
After seeing you at the beach and now reading this, I realize I need to spend 5-10 minutes focused on a yoga pose or two. I didn’t feel ready to practice yoga without a guide (in a class etc.) but I realize – ready or not – I need this! Thank you for your words and inspiration.
Oh great news! I’m am so glad you’re inspired. We have to start somewhere and some is better than none. I remember my first yoga teacher would say, “even if all you do is roll out your mat and do savasana (that’s the final relaxation pose at the end of class) you are still doing yoga. It was great to run into you. I hope to see more of you soon.