How to surf summer
The trick to riding a summer high is to just go with the flow, says yoga and wellbeing expert Claire Beeley.
Ahh, summer, the season so many of us look forward as it feels like the one time of year when we can relax, let our hair down and fully embrace the joys of life. It’s hot, it’s sunny, it’s the holidays, what can go wrong? Er, hopefully nothing, especially if you tune into summer with the help of Chalford-based seasonal yoga teacher and practitioner Claire Beeley, a veritable expert at helping people navigate the seasons and live a more balanced life. Here’s her advice on how to reap the benefits of a hot and sultry summer.
Step into the light
Summer is all about emerging into the light. If it was a time of day, it would be 12 noon with a bright sun blazing down from a clear, blue sky. Everything comes into stark view in summer – there’s nowhere to hide! This is happening inside of you too. If spring is about planting seeds, summer is about those seeds coming into fruition. It’s a season of the heart, so all your emotions are going to bubble to the surface and see the light of day. Don’t be frightened of this, it’s natural, you can’t stop it, so better to embrace it and see what’s there. It’s a great opportunity to gently wring out emotional imbalances ahead of autumn, the season for purging and letting go. It’s all part of the process of laying the foundations to create more harmony in your life. And if all’s good with you, you’re going to be vibrating with joy and excitement. Happy days!
Watch out for excess
There’s an intensity of feeling during summer that can make you feel like overindulging, especially with alcohol – sundowner G&Ts seem like a good idea every night of the week and festival season beckons you to throw caution to the wind and go on a massive blow out. Again, it’s perfectly natural to feel like this; alcohol feels like a fast track to summer’s mood of wild abandon and because your feelings are out there front and centre, the temptation for instant gratification that alcohol seems to offer is harder to resist. But try not to go down this route; it’s not about cutting out the fun, just realising that to have fun you don’t need to drink to excess. Be aware of this and you’ll be one step closer to keeping yourself in balance.
When temperatures rise, it’s all too tempting to run out into the sun and soak up as many rays as you can, but as your body heats up, so do your levels of agitation, leaving you feeling hot and bothered and depleted of energy. Ever noticed how you and those around you often have a shorter fuse in the heat? When it’s hot, road rage, stress at work, irritation with your loved ones, even divorce rates all increase because it’s much harder to control your emotions. This agitation can manifest physically too, with rashes, allergies and food intolerances suddenly surfacing. To counter this, try to keep your body cool. Don’t overload the hours between 10am and 3pm with activities. Stay in the shade and plan activities for the early morning. If you’ve got kids, try waking up earlier than them and carving out some time for yourself before the heat kicks in and they start making demands. And if it’s at all possible take a siesta – children would benefit from one too, even if they don’t nap and just spend a quiet hour in a cool space. If you do find yourself at boiling point, try a half-hour session of yoga nidra, a deep relaxation practice. It’s incredibly soothing; you do it lying down and it feels like having a bedtime story read to you – and 30 minutes equates to two hours sleep.
When it’s already hot outside, you want to avoid working up too much of a sweat, so only exercise at about 50 percent of your capacity and, if you can, try and do it early in the day when the air is still crisp and cool. There’s quite a lot of competitive energy around at this time of year, so watch out for a tendency in yourself to compete with or compare yourself to others, which will throw you out of balance. You want to find your own zone, not anyone else’s. When it comes to yoga, practise flowing sequences rather than static holds. The rhythmic movement of practices such as hatha and vinyasa will improve circulation and help your energy from getting stagnant. Half-moon pose is a good one to incorporate into your practice at this time of year as it creates balance, helps relieve stress and improves digestion which is compromised in the summer months.
Eat lighter, smaller meals
Digestive fire is lower in the summer because all the internal body heat goes to the surface, so opting for light meals will take the pressure off. You’ll naturally gravitate towards foods such as fish, fresh fruit and vegetable and salads anyway, but don’t go exclusively raw, keep some lightly steamed veg in your diet. Stay away from heat, so no cayenne pepper or chilli. Good herbs to cook with include fennel seed, coriander seed and leaf, a little bit of fresh ginger and turmeric root. And swap out olive and sesame oil for coconut oil, which is more cooling. South Indian food is the perfect cuisine for summer; try this recipe for kitchari, which is simple, light and nourishing. Keeping hydrated is important in the heat. As well as water during the day (not ice-cold), have a bedtime drink of fresh mint or lemon balm tea. You can buy pots of mint and lemon balm in a garden centre and then just steep the leaves in hot water. Rose tea is also a good drink at this time of year.
Dress up and have fun
Summer brings with it an increased feeling of sensuality and a natural expression of this is to dress up in beautiful clothes, so ditch the jeans and T-shirts and slip into something feminine and flowing instead. Even if you’re not going out, at the end of a day at work or out with the kids, have a cool shower and change into a pretty summer dress. You’ll be amazed at how rejuvenating it feels, like you’ve changed gear and are ready to savour the long, summer evening with a fresh perspective leaving the day’s stresses behind.
Holiday survival tips
It’s so easy to spend the year looking forward to your summer holiday and then when it finally happens feeling disappointed when it doesn’t come up to scratch. The answer? Don’t overload it with expectation, as you’ll only end up with a pressure cooker situation if you do. The trick, as with life generally, is to live in the moment and accept what each day brings. If it rains, embrace what possibilities that opens up, whether it’s reading a novel, playing a board game, watching an old movie or just drifting off for a siesta listening to the sound of the rain. Don’t feel you have to entertain your kids 24/7. Most children’s lives are so overscheduled, they don’t know how to entertain themselves, but the summer holidays are the perfect opportunity for them to learn. And you’ll be doing them as well as yourself a favour. When kids are let off the leash, they create their own fun and magic, and if it’s free and not a dedicated children’s play zone, all the better. Don’t feel you need to fill space and time or compete with other parents to show your kids a good summer. Better to be a happy mum than a super mum.
Summer is a magical time and if you can keep yourself balanced you’ll really be able to reap its potent energy and go blissfully through the season. It’s a time to savour the joy in everything around you by being present and letting go of desires. And remember, summer doesn’t end with August. September’s Indian summer can be just as magical if you don’t let a ‘back to school’ mentality bring you down. If you tune into it, you’ll feel a beautiful pause at the end of September, a stillness as the expansive yang energy of spring and summer moves into the contracting yin energy of autumn and winter.
Claire Beeley has been teaching yoga for over 17 years. She incorporates the ebb and flow of the seasons into her classes, bringing a deeper understanding of the holistic nature of yoga to those who practise with her, helping them to increase their energy and wellbeing, and find more harmony, clarity and peace in their lives. You can buy her Instant Calm CD or MP3 or 4 file by emailing me her at [email protected]
*Muddy readers can get a third off Claire’s classes over the summer, paying just £10 for a 90-minute class, with the opportunity to drop in rather than book a 10-week course. Times are Mondays 6.30pm, Wednesdays 10am and 7pm and Fridays 8.15am. Claire also does private yoga and life coaching, parents and child yoga and teen yoga. See her website for more details.