Right now, we’re in the middle of a beautiful heatwave here in the UK and after a long, wet winter, the warmth is most welcome. You’re probably seeing many images on social media of outdoor scenes, social gatherings and dancing because this is the time of year when nature supports these activities.
However, on average, it takes humans roughly 2 weeks to respond to new temperatures, with those people who spend more time outside adapting faster due to being ‘outdoor acclimatised’.
The seasons affect our bodies at a cellular level. Research has shown that adapting to our environment alters the structure of our DNA. SOL expert Gemma David wrote in more detail about summer and the effect it has on our bodies here.
Today, Gemma’s back to talk about summer in relation to meditation and the importance of finding your own inner-calm during this time.
Yin and Yang Theory
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yin and Yang theory illustrates the flow of energy as it rises and falls throughout the natural rhythms of the day, season and year, specifically in connection with our relationship to the sun (yang) and the moon (yin).
Overall, Yin represents the feminine, cool, quiet, dark side of the day and year (night and winter) and Yang, the masculine, warm, moving time (day and summer). This theory is used in combination with Five Element theory which gives each season characteristics to further help us understand how our body maintains balance through the natural rhythms of life.
Summer is a time of full Yang when we’re encouraged to move with this more active flow. But what if you don’t enjoy this time of year or have a tendency to burn out? How do you remain connected to your inner, grounded stillness while the energy of the season is rising?
A regular practice of mindful, gentle connection with your breath can help you maintain a strong bond with your quiet centre during this energetic, vibrant time.
Seated or Standing Meditation
During summer, if you tend to feel heat in your body, feel angrier than is normal for you, have trouble sleeping or find yourself feeling anxious, your natural Yang energy will benefit from the cooling and settling process of breathwork.
Bringing the breath into your body and down to the abdomen grounds and stabilises Yang. Seated meditation or standing meditation is an excellent exercise for this deep method of breathing.
- Stand or sit with your feet on the floor and allow the breath to gently expand and contract the diaphragm and the belly if you can. Stay with this practise for at least 2 minutes and more if you can.
- Really notice the top of your head lifting to the sky and the connection with the earth underneath your feet.
- Feel your spine lengthen and extend as the breath continues to travel gently in and out.
If you are lacking in energy, have cold hands or feet, excess sadness or an inability to feel joy and an urge to withdraw, your Yang energy will benefit from the warm and comforting reassurance of connecting with your breath. Breathing will bring rest to the body and walking meditation could also be of great benefit at this time of year.
- Practice some deep gentle breathing while in the garden or outside. As you are walking around or looking at your plants or the sky, label what you can see around you in your head. Take time to notice plants, clouds or birds as you gently allow your breath to come into your body, expanding and contracting your diaphragm.
- As you walk, count your breath in time with your steps. Try to make the in-breath and the out-breath the same length but know that there is no set number to achieve, simply follow the rhythm of your body.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is a great breath technique to balance the Yin and the Yang in your body.
- Sit or kneel and place your first and middle fingers on the bridge of your nose.
- Seal your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril.
- On the out-breath, seal your left nostril with your ring finger and breathe out through your right nostril.
- Keeping your left nostril sealed, breathe in through your right then seal your right nostril again with your thumb and breathe out through your left.
- Breathe in through your left nostril (with the right sealed) then swap again on the out breath, closing your left nostril with your ring finger and breathing out through your right.
This sounds much more complicated than it is. With a little practice, you’ll find this becomes a simple, useful tool for balancing hormones and calming the body at any time of day or night.
This time of year affects each of us differently, but the more time you can spend outside, the faster you will adapt. Try to find your flow along with the rhythm of summer and listen to what works best for you and your body.
Love Lizzie, Gemma and the SOL Team x