Thanks to Ali Cramer, our guest blogger.
Send summer out being calm, cool and collected with this Ayurvedic approach to asana from Ali Cramer.
This is about the time of year where even the most diehard Pitta people are starting to feel a little beat down by the summer. Ayurveda asks us to honor the cycles of our lives and the seasons and situations that we find ourselves in. It’s up to us to be conscious enough to recognize when we need to shift our routines. Thankfully, we can help balance our bodies by bringing an Ayurvedic approach to our yoga practice.
An Ayurveda approach to late summer asana:
Breathe before you move
Starting at the beginning of your practice, or before your class starts, do ten rounds of Sitali or Sitkari breathing. For Sitali, if you can roll your tongue, do that and purse your lips around it. Breathe in through your rolled tongue, then close your lips and breathe out through your nose. If you can’t roll your tongue (it’s genetic) try Sitkari: flip it back in your mouth so it almost looks like a horizontal straw and open your lips. Breathe over your tongue (it will almost make like a slurping sound) and then close your mouth and breathe out through your nose.
Slow flow is the way to go
If you practice Vinyasa, a couple rounds of sun salutes just to get moving is sufficient. Don’t go too crazy with Utkatasana and a lot of jumping forward and back. Too heating. Stay with mostly open standing poses, revolved poses just build more heat.
Back off backbends
Heart openers are great, but be careful of too many strenuous backbends, as they are also heating. Think more Anjanayasana (Crescent lunge) and Salabasana (Locust pose) as opposed to Wheel or Scorpion (I know, it’s my favorite pose too, save it for Vata or Kapha season).
Forward bends are cooling, so be sure to include plenty of them in your practice. Uppavista Konasana is a good one as it cools off the Pitta fire in the pelvis area. Pascimottasana, Pigeon with a forward bend and Tarasana are all good forward bends to do this time of year.
Do this inversion
Shoulder stand is the most cooling and calming inversion. Try to hold it for at least three minutes.
Meditate like this
Finish your practice with some nadi sodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and a seated meditation. The Maitreya Meditation technique is about loving kindness. The big secret with Pitta is that if you can get past the impatience, temper, and feeling hangry (hungry and angry at the same time) you will find a big marshmallow heart. Maitreya meditation is a great way to access that.
Restore with restorative
Try a few restorative yoga poses while you are feeling peaceful. I like restorative child’s pose, with a bolster and/or a bunch of blankets under the belly, Viparita Korani (legs up the wall), restorative Uppavista Konasana, and restorative fish pose with a block behind the sternum on the middle height (some like it horizontal, some vertical, try both to see which feels better to you) and a block behind the head on the highest height.
If you have never checked out a Yin yoga class, now would be a good time to try that. The Yin tradition of holding poses for anywhere from one minute up to twenty minutes is very balancing, as impatience can be a manifestation of too much Pitta.
Lastly, if you are practicing at home, play yourself some sweet, soft music as accompaniment. Leave the pumping rock, hip hop or dance music for Kapha Season. Devotional music is great (I love Masood Ali Khan and Craig Pruess), or any sweet folk music like David Gray, Beth Orton, Morley, Carole King, Indigo Girls and James Taylor.
About the Author
Alison Cramer is the Co-Creative Director at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center NYC and one of the core teachers for their acclaimed Teacher Training Program, both at the 200- and 500-hour level. Ali has taught workshops and retreats on Yoga and Ayurveda both nationally and internationally and continues to be inspired by this Practice and Community both on and off the mat. Her passion for Yoga and Ayurveda led to the creation of a 100-hour Ayurveda and Healing certification program at Laughing Lotus NY, where she acted as both Director and Teacher. Ali recently returned from Africa, where she was honored to be chosen as the lead teacher of the very first Yoga Teacher Training in the Sudan. Find out about her upcoming yoga and Ayurveda trainings at Laughing Lotus here.