Living in Tropical North Queensland, it’s been pretty humid and scorching these past few weeks. After a while, the heat get’s to you and you may find yourself irritable, cranky and lacking in energy. I know I have felt myself struggling quite a bit this year because I am pregnant and already have less energy and feel the heat a little more. I also know that my yoga practice is struggling, especially when you find you are sweating profusely at 6am!
Classes in the studio have also been a challenge for students, the little Soulful Yoga studio has become a hot yoga studio and it’s my job to ensure that everybody keeps hydrated and doesn’t overheat (including myself). The best way to do that I have found is to SLOW everything down. That means we start the class with even more awareness and attention. We always start with some meditation and pranayama, however we have been slowing that down and paying even more attention on breathing deeply and slowly from the belly (diaphragm) and allowing the full expression of the yogic breath to expand our awareness of our movement as we develop into the asana practice.
When students get hot, breathing becomes more laboured and it becomes harder to connect with the movement, so we have been taking regular breaks in the asana, and breaking the movement down more than usual with one step at a time and focussing on breathing at each particular moment. We have found space for discussion and deeper learning about core strength and spine extension, and we have even found space for some more restorative practice at the end of the class. Students have reported that although they haven’t felt like coming, they are glad they did by the end.
The heat may continue for a few weeks yet, but if you find you are struggling, slow it down. Allow yourself to be more connected to how you feel, rather than being upset about how hot it is. This is something you can’t change, but you can change your attitude. Perhaps it may be helpful and cooling to spend some time in a cool place just sitting and breathing. I have some suggestions below on how to sit, and how to breathe.
Sukasana (Easy sitting position)
Sit comfortably on floor in a cross legged position Ensure you are seated on your sit bones. Lift tall with the crown of the head and ensure the spine is long. It is helpful to sit on a blanket to help straighten spine and take pressure of the lower back. This is a good position to undertake Pranayama practice (see below).
When you are finished your Pranayama practice (breath work) you may like to stretch the arms overhead and then take a twist (as shown on the right). Ensure that as you twist, your shoulders and neck are relaxed.
The next step is to find some focus Pranayama (breath work) is an important tool in your yoga practice, so let’s learn the simple yogic breath…
Start in a seated position (see below), and ensure that you r spine is long and that you are comfortable. Close your eyes and take a moment to scan your body and notice if there is any tension or holding. Notice the rhythm of your breath, is it smooth, short, disjointed, and then take a moment to notice any tension or fluctuations in your mind that are distracting you. Take a big breath in and then exhale completely, letting go of any tension in your body and mind . You may need to repeat this a few times . Let’s now start the yogic breath by exhaling completely. Then inhaling the belly, ribs and chest. Pausing at the top of the inhale and then gently exhaling the belly, ribs and chest. Pause at the bottom of the breath. Repeat this 6-8 times, ensuring that you are taking your time, and are always comfortable. Variations are to engage the mula bandha by lifting the pelvic floor as you exhale from the belly. You may also like to try the Ujjayi (warming breath) by constricting he back of your throat (sounds like a little snore) as you breathe in and out.
Another option you may like to add to your breathing practice is leg’s up the wall. It’s a light inversion and helps to allow excess fluid to drain away from the feet and ankles and allow more blood flow into the brain and heart. Because it’s an inversion it is calming, yet energising and also cooling. Instructions are below.
Vipariata Karani (legs up the wall pose)
From a lying position, come to sit and find a wall close by, sit sideways against the wall and with your bottom up against the wall, slowly lower to the ground. Lay on the ground with a long spine and palms facing up, legs placed up the wall and feet flexed. Lightly tuck your shoulder blades under your body and tuck your chin slightly. Allow yourself to completely relax here, perhaps you may even revisit your yogic breathing and stay for 5 mins if you can.