Written by Erin Casperson, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
When I craft a yoga class, I always consider the current weather and season. When I approach summertime sequencing through an Ayurvedic lens, I favor the elements of space and earth.
Space offers an opportunity to slow down, reflect, expand, and air out the body. Earth provides the stability that allows for expansion. In yoga, the earth element is accessed through strong standing postures, poses where the hands and feet are rooted to the ground.
The sequence below is designed to balance the qualities of pitta, which are prevalent in the summer. Pitta is a combination of fire and water—responsible for hot, humid days and, in turn, a hot, sticky body.
The pitta-balancing practice here starts strong, then gradually slows down to promote coolness and introversion. This simple, accessible practice can be broken down into 15-minutes segments; the entire sequence takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Mountain with Mudras
Come to stand at the top of your mat in Mountain pose. Bring your palms together in front of your heart for Anjali Mudra. The base of the hands touch at the bend of the wrist; the thumbs and little fingers stay connected.
Allow the index, middle, and ring fingers to gently open into Lotus Mudra. As the name implies, the hands will look like a blossoming flower. This creates space, softness, and openness in the palms, inviting coolness and an open heart.
Standing Sun Breaths
On an inhale, reach the arms overhead; fingertips come to touch. As you exhale, gently press your palms toward the earth; the fingertips stay connected. Repeat this movement three to 10 times, slowing down the exhale as you progress.
Half Sun Salutation
Inhale the arms overhead. Exhale into Standing Forward Bend—knees soft, crown of the head reaching toward the floor. Inhale halfway up to a long spine—hands pressing on your shins, or fingertips on the floor in line with the toes.
Exhale and fold forward. Inhale the arms overhead, and exhale the palms in front of the heart for Lotus Mudra. Repeat Half Sun Salutation for three to five rounds. Move slowly, at your own pace.
In the summer, I tend to favor the softer Moon Salutation over the vigorous Sun Salutation, as the flow avoids heating backbends and Chaturangas.
Inhale the arms overhead. Exhale into Standing Forward Bend; inhale to a long spine. On an exhale, fold forward and step back to Low Lunge, back knee on the ground. Inhale the arms overhead.
Exhale into Half Splits, straightening the front leg and folding over it, hands framing the front leg. If your hamstrings are tight, place your hands on blocks for support. Inhale, and bend the right knee and bring your arms overhead, back to Low Lunge.
Repeat the flow on the other side. Do one to three rounds of Moon Salutation.
Warrior II Flow
Bend the right knee directly over the right ankle and reach the arms out into a T for Warrior II. In this variation, the palms face up to promote cooling. Hold Warrior II for three to five breaths.
On an exhale, straighten your right leg into Triangle. The right hand can reach down for a block, the shin, or the floor. For more heat, float the right hand off the base. Hold Triangle for five to 10 breaths.
On an inhale, move the right hand a few inches in front of the right foot—you can bring your block with you if you’re using one—and lift the left leg into Balancing Half Moon. The left leg reaches back as the right hip stacks on top of the left. The right arm can either hold onto the right hip or it can reach toward the sky. Soften your gaze—which can be down toward your rooted big toe or up toward your extended thumb. Expand through the back of your heart and relish the space around your limbs. Hold Balancing Half Moon for three to five breaths.
Repeat the flow on the other side.
Ground down through your right leg and place the sole of the left foot on the inside of the right leg for Tree pose. The left foot rests either on the shin or on the thigh, above the knee. Just make sure that the foot is not pressing into the knee joint. You can reach your arms overhead or keep them resting on your hips. Whichever arm variation you choose, make sure that the arms are moving away from the midline in order to air out the sides of the waist and your armpits. Hold Tree pose for five to 10 breaths.
Release your left foot from Tree but keep the leg lifted. Reach for your left big toe and extend your left leg out in front of you for Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe pose. If you are new to this posture, bend the left knee and wrap your fingers around the front of the shin. Hold for three to five breaths.
Repeat the flow on other side.
Balancing poses create stability. As you move through this sequence, keep your eyes soft, the back of your heart open, and the breath smooth and silky.
Child’s Pose to Cobra
Now the cooldown begins. Come to rest in Child’s pose.
On an inhale, lift into Table.
Exhale forward into Cobra, expanding through the heart center.
Inhale back to Table, and a long exhale takes you back to Child’s pose, gently rounding the spine.
Repeat this flow three to 10 times. Enjoy a brief pause at the end of the exhale each time you come into Child’s pose and Cobra.
Bring the soles of feet together, about six to 13 inches away from center of your body to create space for air to circulate. Place your sitz bones on the edge of a cushion or on a folded blanket if your knees are above the hips.
Lengthen out from the inner thighs to the outer knees. Ground down evenly through your seat. Soften your breath as you slowly fold forward on an exhale. Hold Bound Angle for five to 10 breaths.
In the summer, allow for a spacious Savasana. Air out the groin and armpits by extending your arms and legs so that they are wider than mat-width. The palms face up. Cover the eyes with a cool sandbag or washcloth. Soften into the earth and allow 10 full minutes for rest and integration.
Keywords; yoga, breathing exercises