Summer is all about the heart. It’s a time of outward expansion, a true expression of all that we have been working towards this year. Ideas are flowing, creativity is peaking and our energy is on high most of the time. Recently I shared some of my favorite remedies for getting quality sleep in this intense season. Today I’ve created a gentle yoga sequence to help balance summer energy and calm the nervous system.
All ancient medicine practices are about creating harmony in the body. When we’re balanced on the inside our outer world directly reflects this. Lately so much has been going on in my life and I needed a major slow down. We’re living in a house that still isn’t finished and I’ve been feeling super ungrounded. Summer is a funny time because I feel the creativity and excitement of the season but I also find myself feeling dark, overwhelmed with all of this house stuff and easily frustrated with things that I could normally just brush off.
I always tell my yoga students that we cannot expand fully without being grounded in something. Think of a tree with its roots growing deep into the soil. The tree is never static, its branches have an upward movement towards the sun and it has the ability to sway with the breeze without falling over. We are the same. If we’re not rooted, all of the upward summer heart energy will blow us over in flames. We all need to slow down and tune in. One of my favorite ways to come home to myself is through yoga.
I’ve created a very simple sequence to help balance and ground summer energy. The poses are cooling in nature and provide gentle stretching for the body. They are soothing for our nervous systems which can get out of whack this time of year and can be practiced any time of day. This is my first time posting a yoga sequence so I would really appreciate any and all feedback, especially if you would like to see more posts like this in the future.
A few notes about the practice before we jump in:
Find a space that feels comfortable. Burn a little sage to clear the energy of the space. Practice on a yoga mat or blanket. Take this practice slowly. It is not meant to be a workout, it was designed to slow us down. Breathe deeply during the poses, keep your breath full and soft. Do as much or as little as you like in each pose, this practice is for you – adjust to your needs each day. Now. Let’s get started!
Start in a comfortable seated position (see image at top of post) with your palms open, facing the sky. This helps to clear heat in the hands and opens us to universal energy.
Breathe fully in and out through your nose for a few minutes until you are ready to move into the next pose. Keep your face soft, gaze steady and relax a little deeper with every exhale.
Next come on to your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Arms are down by your sides. Inhale and gently lift your hips and back up off the ground. Exhale slowly come back down. Repeat this 12 times, connecting your breath with the movement. Rest for a few moments before moving on.
Keep your left foot on the floor and inhale stretch your right leg up. The sole of your foot is open to the sky, toes are spread. Press your shoulders into the earth and keep your left foot rooted on the ground. Straighten your right leg as much as possible without forcing anything and draw your right thigh towards your chest. Breathe fully into the back of your right leg. 1-2 minutes per side.
This time repeat the stretch with your left leg extended on the floor. Keep the left foot flexed and the back of the left leg drawing down towards the earth. 1-2 minutes per side.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Both feet are flexed here to protect the knees. Release your low back onto the floor with every exhale. If you are tight in the shoulders place a blanket or yoga block under your head. Breathe here for 1-2 minutes per side. This is a favorite stretch of mine for the hips. It’s also great to relieve low back pain.
Draw both of your knees into your chest and gently move side to side, forwards and backwards. Eventually rock yourself up to a seated position.
Take your legs wide. Keep the knees as straight as possible. Feet are flexed. Sit up tall with your hands behind your hips on the floor. If this feels like enough stay here for 1-2 minutes with your legs engaged, breath steady. To go deeper lean forward. If you are tight be very careful in forward folds. Trust the signals your body gives you and move deeper on the exhale. Keep your face and eyes soft.
This is one of my favorite hip stretches. If this isn’t available to you right now, take pigeon instead. You could also do the figure four position we did a few poses back.
Right foot on top of left knee, left foot under right knee. Shins are parallel, feet are engaged. Spine is tall, breath is full. Stay on each side for 2-3 minutes breathing deeply into the hips.
To take the pose further bend forward. Keep breathing into your hips.
Come down to your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Take your feet wider than your hips and gently drop them down to the floor on the right. Stretch your arms overhead and clasp your right wrist with your left hand.
If it’s available to you cross your right foot over your left knee.
Begin to lengthen your exhalations in this pose. Make your exhales 2-3 counts longer than your inhales. This extended exhale is very cooling for the body and will slow you down even further and prepare you for rest. Use this breathwork any time you are feeling anxious, stressed or worried. It is also great to use if you want to focus and connected more deeply to your feminine side.
Stay on each side 1-2 minutes.
Supported rest. This is the most important pose of the sequence. Do not skip it! Place a bolster, rolled up blanket or pillow under your knees for supported rest. Allow your body to sink deeply into the earth. Let go of any remaining tension in your body, mind or energy field.
Take a deep inhale through the nose and long exhale out of the mouth. Repeat this 3 times then return to breathing in and out through the nose and rest for 10 minutes.
When finished stretch your arms and legs. Draw your knees to your chest and roll to the right side and the fetal position. Take a few breaths here before returning to a comfortable seated posture.
Check in with yourself and notice how you feel after practice. Send yourself some gratitude for making the time to ground your energy and take care of yourself. Lastly send some loving energy to someone in your life that really needs it.
Close your practice with your hands in prayer position in front of your heart. Bow to the teacher within.
Photos by Marielle Chua