My personal secrets of relieving stress in summertime

Aug 1, 2018 | Yoga as support for the mind, Yoga for Stress & Anxiety, Yoga Therapy

Follow your dreams

After 13 years of living in Orlando my husband and I moved to the Sarasota area. We love being closer to the beach and golf. There’s something special about practicing yoga on the beach – fresh air, blue skies and a gentle ocean breeze – ahhh. You’ll still find me in Orlando on Monday and Tuesday but Wednesday through Sunday I’m on the Gulf Coast working and playing.

I’m enjoying the change now but it wasn’t easy in the months leading up to our move. While continuing my yoga therapy teaching and yoga research project at the UF Health Cancer Center and my private teaching of one-to-one sessions, I was also completing the filming and editing of my online course, my new website, and fitting in packing of my home and business. Not to mention the emotional goodbyes such as the last class of teaching yoga after 11 years at Lake Highland Prep School where our two sons graduated from. What an honor it was to teach school teachers and staff who spend day after day nurturing our children.

Honor what nurtures you

As I prepared to move, each project, each class, and each personal relationship required mindful attention and optimal energy. Not being superwoman, there were times when the stress and anxiety seeped in. The deadlines, goodbyes and the summer heat were physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Besides fitting in a few naps in the air conditioning, I’ve been able to keep cool with the summer heat and life’s challenges by continuing my daily yoga practice and eating according to the principles of Ayurveda.

Quality vs. Quantity

My yoga practice varies from day to day based on how I feel and my schedule. It may just be 15 minutes of breathing practices and meditation in the morning or it may span one to two hours of movement, breathing, relaxation and meditation. I love the luxury of a long, mindful yoga session. It’s not how long you practice, it’s your intention to practice every day. Practicing yoga 15 minutes every day provides greater results than a one hour practice once a week.

Soothing sounds of ocean breathing

My favorite yoga breathing technique is Ujjayi Breathing practiced to a count. Ujjayi breathing, nicknamed Ocean Breathing, is a subtle, deep breathing practice where the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. A slight constriction on the back of the throat creates a slowing down of the air flow and in turn causes a gentle ocean sound which is soothing and helps to keep the mind focused. This slowing down of the exhalation helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, or our relaxation response.

To practice Ujjayi Breathing to a count start with slowly counting to yourself 2 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale. Stick with this count for about 5 minutes if you are a beginner. As you continue to practice this breathing and are ready to advance further you can try slowly counting to 3 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale, 4 on the inhale and 8 on the exhale, etc. When I really want to feel relaxed I go up to 8 on the inhale and 16 on the exhale. This longer count is meant for advanced practitioners only. If you would like more information on how and why we do Ujjayi Breathing, and someone to count for you, check out my online course “How to Manage Anxiety Using Yoga Breathing Practices”.

Eat cooling foods

According to Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga, food is an important aspect of staying balanced physically and mentally. Summer is a pitta time of year. Pitta is fiery and intense. Becoming overheated can cause us to experience irritable moods. If you already experience stress and anxiety the summer heat could make it worse. Gentle relaxing yoga practices are best to minimize increasing body heat and cooling foods also play a crucial role.
Depending on your dosha, or your constitution, you may love the summer heat or you may dread it. We are all different. I prefer the warmth over the cold but in the intense heat of the summer, especially in Florida, there are times when I appreciate the air conditioning and know that I should eat foods that are cooling in nature. Do you prefer the cooler climate of the winter or the warmer temperatures of the summer? If you are unsure of your Ayurvedic body type, take Banyan Botanicals Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz to help you determine your constitution. The quiz results will inform you of both your constitution and where you may be out of balance.
Have you ever noticed how your eating habits tend to change in the summer? Not only do we tend to eat foods that are in season but we tend to eat cooler and lighter foods because that is what our body naturally craves. Summer is a time to favor cooling foods like fresh fruits and salads, sweet dairy products such as milk, butter, ghee, cottage cheese, fresh homemade yogurt, and even ice cream (in moderation). Unrefined sweeteners (except honey and molasses) are cooling and can be enjoyed during the summer months. It’s best to avoid ice cold drinks although we are programmed to want them. Ice cold drinks disturb the digestive fire, agni, and create toxins, ama, in the body. Try to avoid extremely spicy foods like chilies or cayenne pepper as they increase heat in the body.

My favorite cooling beverage recipe

I have been enjoying a refreshing Cardamom Limeade beverage this summer. I found this recipe in The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell. Simply combine 3 cups of cool water with the juice of 2-3 fresh limes. Add ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder and if you like it a little sweet you can add a tablespoon of coconut sugar dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water. Mix all of the ingredients in a small pitcher. Makes 2 servings. Enjoy and stay cool!