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Bryant Park Yoga is back in New York City for its 12th season, featuring teachers curated by Yoga Journal. This week’s featured instructor is Kristen Kemp, who taught at Bryant Park on Tuesday and will teach there again on Sept. 8th.
Part of the fun of steamy weather is finding the best ways to cool off. Sure, you could eat a slice of watermelon or take a dip in the pool, but yoga can also help your body beat the heat (and your mind chill out), says Kristen Kemp of Powerflow Yoga in New Jersey, who taught the Tuesday morning class at Bryant Park Yoga. Try these 7 poses when it’s too muggy to breathe, whether you’re practicing outside or in the studio.
All photos by Rob Quinones, Roqu Photography.
In Sanskrit, the word sitali means “cooling,” and this breath has an immediate cooling effect. Inhaling into the moisture of your tongue makes your mouth—and whole body—feel a nice inner breeze. Sit in a comfortable position with a tall spine. Breathe in and out, and pay attention to the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose. Stick your tongue out and roll the outer edges together so it looks like a hot dog bun. Take a long inhalation—to a count of three—in through the tube in your tongue. Retain the breath for a beat. After inhaling, draw your tongue back into your mouth, close your lips and exhale through your nose, long and smooth, for a count of 3. Try it for a least 10 rounds, working up to 50 breaths for more complete cooling.
A full Sun Salutation will create heat in the body, so try this Sun breath to calm the mind without creating much sweat instead.
From Tadasana, inhale to reach your hands up overhead and place your palms in Prayer. As you exhale, bring your hands down through Prayer and hinge at the hips to fold over your legs. Inhale, lengthen your spine for a halfway lift. Exhale, fold back down. Inhale, rise up to stand as you reach your hands up and out to the sides, finding a Prayer overhead. Come back to Tadasana, hands by your sides. Repeat 5 times.
Anjaneyasana, a low lunge, works to lengthen your muscles while opening your heart. There’s a quality of surrendering to this pose, as if you’re finding peace with the weather—and the world—exactly how it is right now.
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot between your hands. Place your left knee down on the mat. Bring your hands to your right knee or sweep them up to the sky and hook your thumbs. Slide your shoulders down your back as you relax your forehead and jaw and look up slightly. Lift from the back of your heart, from the thoracic spine, to find a small backbend. Stay for 5 full breaths. Bring your hands back down to frame your right foot, tuck your left toe and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the left side.
Tree Pose cools off your mind and gently strengthens your body.
Stand in Tadasana. Lift your left knee into your chest and out to the side. Place your left foot on your right calf or reach down and grab your left ankle and place it on your right thigh. Bring your hands to your heart center. Root down with your right foot and lift up through the crown of your head. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Bound Angle Pose (aka Butterfly)
Too much heat can put stress on the body. Any forward fold can help relieve tension, but Butterfly further releases the upper, inner thighs, much like you just did in Low Lunge. Enjoy the cooling feeling of turning your thoughts inward in this pose.
From a seated position, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together. Heels of the feet are as close or far away from the groin as you like—do whatever is comfortable for your body. Place your hands around your feet. Hinge forward, extending your heart toward your toes, gently rounding the spine until you find the fold that is right for you. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths.
This pose automatically reduces tension in the mind and body while it relaxes every muscle in your face.
Kneel down with your seat resting on your heels, or come to a crossed-legged seat. Place your hands on your thighs or reach to the ground. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through the mouth, making a “ha” sound that reverberates in the back of your throat. At the same time, stick your tongue out as far as possible toward your chin. Inhale, bring the tongue back in and close the lips softly. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
When it’s especially hot, you need extra rest to rejuvenate your body and your brain. Savasana can be difficult if you have a hard time relaxing, so give yourself at least 10 minutes to drop into this pose. It will be a delicious cooling off. To make it extra special, place a cool washcloth over your head (add a drop of eucalyptus oil).
Lie down on your back on a mat in a completely neutral and comfortable position. Let your toes turn out to the sides. Arms are down by the sides with the palms facing up. Close your eyes and relax your jaw, eyes, and forehead. Just rest. Let go of the breath. Let the thoughts pass through your mind like fish swimming past you in a lake. Stay there for 10 to 20 minutes. Add soft music if that will help you relax. Come out slowly and stay cool for the rest of your day.
Bryant Park Yoga classes take place every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 23rd. Follow the Bryant Park Yoga series at #YJendlessYOGAsummer.