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Feeling frazzled, frustrated, or simply out of sorts?
A lot of things could be contributing to that, among them the relentless heat of summer. Although you probably tend to stand in front of the fan or lower the thermostat when you’re feeling overheated, turning to certain yoga poses can bring about an internal cooling that’s more profound than any blast of cold air.
According to yoga tradition, different postures cultivate different qualities in your subtle, or energetic, body. Intense standing postures, backbends, and binds that demand physical exertion exacerbate internal heat, whereas soothing forward bends and reclining postures bring about a cooling response from within.
Here are an array of poses you can practice, individually or in succession, whenever you’re feeling overheated. Let yourself linger in stillness while exerting barely any effort. As you slow your movement and bring your awareness back to your breath, you allow the less obvious aspects of the pose take effect, bringing about relief in your body as well your mind.
10 yoga poses that help you cool down during summer
Kneel on the floor. Bring your big toes to touch and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Exhale and lean forward to bring your forehead to the mat, a block or a folded blanket. Walk your hands toward the front of the mat or reach back toward your feet and rest your arms on the floor alongside you, palms facing the ceiling. Allow the weight of the shoulders to pull the shoulder blades wide across your back. Sink your hips toward your heels and release any effort. Stay here for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Breathe.
Stand facing the long side of your mat with your feet 3 to 4 feet apart and your hands on your hips. Inhale and lift your chest away from your hips, exhale and slowly fold forward, bending from your hips instead of rounding your lower back. If your back starts to round, stop folding forward. Place your hands flat on the floor or blocks, shoulder-width apart. Release your head toward the floor. Ground down through your feet, firm your leg muscles and activate your inner thigh muscles. Lengthen your entire spine from your sitting bones to the crown of your head. Stay here for at least 1 minute. Breathe. Exhale and bring your hands to your hips, inhale and slowly lift yourself to standing.
Stand on your knees. You can take a folded mat or blanket beneath you for cushioning. Straighten your left leg out to the left, with your ankle in line with your left hip and your knee facing the ceiling. Ground down through the outer edge and big toe mound of your left foot. Keep your right knee directly beneath your right hip. Exhale and bend at the waist, lowering your left palm to your left leg and stretching your right arm up and, if it’s comfortable for you, overhead. Turn your gaze beneath your right arm or gaze straight ahead. Stay here for at least 1 minute. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the mat to the outside of your left knee. Press down through the base of your right big toe to ground your foot. Keep your left leg straight or bend your left knee and bring your left heel near your right hip. Place your right hand on the mat behind your right hip. Make sure you are sitting evenly on both sitting bones. Inhale and raise your left hand to the ceiling. Exhale and bring your left elbow down to the outside of your right knee or hook your left elbow around your knee. Press your knee and elbow into one another to create some resistance. Turn your head to the right, looking past your right shoulder or simply keep your chin in line with your chest. Stay here for at least 1 minute, lengthening through your back on each inhalation and gently twisting a little more with each exhalation. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.e
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and bring the bottom of that foot toward your inner left thigh. Keep your right leg straight. If you feel strain along the back of your left leg, place a rolled blanket beneath your knee. Inhale and lift your chest as you press actively through your left heel. Exhale and start to lean your chest forward over your left leg. Think of bringing your chest toward your toes rather than your thigh. You can wrap a strap around your right foot, or hold any part of your foot or leg as you maintain length in your torso. Engage your core as you fold, and lengthen through your upper body rather than rounding or hunching your back. As you descend, bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor. Stay here for at least 1 minute. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Start seated with your legs extended straight in front of you. Sit directly on your sitting bones, leaning slightly forward rather than slouching or leaning backward. Bend your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall open to the sides. Use your hands to draw the arches of your feet apart, as if you were opening the pages of a book. Inhale and press your shoulder blades against your upper back to lift your chest. Exhale and start to lean forward, whatever amount is comfortable to you. Keep a loose grip with your hands and release your shoulders. Stay here for at least 1 minute. Breath. Slowly lift your chest and straighten your legs.
Lie on your left side. Flex your left foot and press through your left heel. Use the outside of your foot to stabilize your position. Bend your left elbow, slide your elbow away from your torso to stretch your armpit, and support your head in your palm. Draw your right knee toward your chest and take hold of your right big toe with your index and middle fingers or loop a strap around the arch of your right foot and hold the strap with your right hand. Externally rotate your right leg and reach your right leg toward the ceiling. Stay here for 1-2 minutes. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
From lying on your back, bend your knees in toward your chest and then take them off to one side to rest on the floor. Reach your arms straight out from your shoulders and release them into the mat. If you know you’re sensitive to twists or if you’re feeling a lot of sensation there, wedge a rolled blanket or towel under or between your knees to bring you out of the twist a bit. Remember a little goes a long way. If it’s comfortable for you, turn your head the opposite direction of your knees. Stay for 1–2 minutes. Breathe.
From seated, bring one hip as close as possible to the wall. Slowly swing your legs up the wall as you start to lower yourself onto your forearms. Make your way onto your back with your sit bones close to the wall and your legs hip-distance apart and resting against the wall. You can bend your knees slightly, especially if your hamstrings feel tight. Relax your arms alongside your body. A folded blanket can feel nice under your lower back and sacrum. Breathe. Stay here for 5-20 minutes.
Place a rolled blanket or a couple pillows beneath your knees and lower yourself to the ground. Relax and release into the pose for 5-20 minutes (or longer!).