A yoga year: July


Power. Self-regulation. Appropriate action.

As the summer gets into its stride, many of us experience a corresponding surge of energy. Long, sunny days can make us feel invincible.

Of course, for others it’s miserable. We wilt in the heat, long for a cooling shower of rain. The oversupply of solar energy feels too much.

And some of us flip-flop between the two, depending on the day and what we’re called upon to do.

Whether you’re a sun worshipper or a shade-loving plant, I encourage you to honour your body’s needs on this particular day.

Feeling sunny?peacockbutterfly
Practising in the heat can be wonderful. Warm muscles stretch further, and there’s a whole mess of sensory rewards for doing yoga outside. So this is a great time to go for it: step up your practice, whether that means working towards a peak posture that previously seemed out of reach, or increasing the frequency and duration of your practice sessions. A number of my students choose to book a private lesson over the summer, while they’re not too busy at work. It’s a chance to hone elements of their technique, or commit to starting their own personal practice while their energy is high.

The flipside of hot yoga is that warm muscles don’t say “stop” as soon as cold ones. It is possible to overstretch, risking permanent damage to the ligaments that support your joints. To stay safe even when you push yourself, stick to the ABC of good asana technique.

A – for ATTITUDE: am I bringing the right intention to this pose, or am I showing off?
Beware of getting hung up on how you look, not how you feel.

B – for BREATHING: am I still able to take steady, even breaths? If you can’t, ease off until you can.

C – for CONTROL: do I have mastery of my body right now?
If you can’t move smoothly out of the pose whenever you choose, consider dialling down the intensity until you’re back in control.

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Craving shade?
Try the cooling breathing practice called Sitali Pranayama – and its sister, Sitkari.

  1. Sit comfortably with a straight spine, knees relaxed and no higher than your hips. You can sit on a firm chair or stool, with feet flat on the floor and your spine upright and free (not leaning back). Or try cross-legged or kneeling on the floor with appropriate support under your hips.
  2. Take a few breaths while you establish your seat. Now, either roll your tongue (Sitali) or gently bite your teeth together while slightly parting your lips (Sitkari). Draw the breath in through your mouth, sending cool air over the surface of the tongue. Exhale normally through your nose.
  3. Take six to twelve breaths in this way, enjoying the cooling sensation. Then return to normal breathing for a few moments before you go about your day.

You can do Sitkari surreptitiously at work or on the tube; please note that Sitali, the rolled-tongue version, is a little more conspicuous 😛

A final note: Summer time is when many of us have the chance to go on a yoga retreat. An intensive immersion like this can be life-changing, and I should know: I wouldn’t be a yoga teacher today if it wasn’t for the weeks I spent in Spain and Italy studying with James Jewell in the mid-2000s. But watch out for that horrible flat feeling that descends about four days after you get home again. Yoga in a gym suddenly seems thin and watery compared to the full flavour of your holiday practice. I recommend soothing the re-entry blues by reading Jack Kornfeld’s “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”: an inspiring book (with a great title) about bringing spiritual practice and daily life together.

My guided relaxation for July encourages you to claim your power and let your inner light shine. I hope you enjoy it.