Ancient practices for a modern world
End of April – Mid June
The energy for early summer is of calmness, feeling relaxed, joy, positivity, having a clear mind and having a feeling of wanting to be more social. An imbalance in energy creates the opposite of wanting to over work, shy away from social events and anxiety.
Assess your energy levels, re-balance and find that happy medium where you are busy but not over-worked.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
The organs related to this season are the heart and small Intestine so we can work with those organs through the energy channels (nadis / meridians).
The heart pumps blood around the body at around 5 litres (8 pints) per minute.
In Eastern traditions, it is believed the heart houses our consciousness and spirit.
The Small Intestine is a long-coiled organ that works hard to digest food
and send nutrients around the body. It is key for nourishment.
In Eastern traditions, it is related to mental clarity. Think of times when you are confused, anxious or tense and you have that feeling of ‘butterflies’ or ‘knot’ in your belly.
Early summer yoga is all about igniting the fire, warming up and stretching the connective tissue, generating heat and circulating energy.
Fascia or connective tissue is a living web and a sensory organ, which permeates every fibre of our body, separating and yet connecting everything within us. It binds, supports and protects other tissues of the body, giving us shape and helps to restrain our movements. The connective tissue acts as a protector in times stress, by freezing and protecting the tissues it surrounds. The freezing part if left, can cause a stiffening and hardening of the tissues, stopping the flow of energy and communication to cells and leaving us feeling stiff and achy.
This is why it is so important to keep the connective tissue moving and hydrated though yoga and movement to helps to stretch the tissues and freeing up of any adhesions or knots within it.
In our yoga practise, the focus for early Summer is stretching the connective tissue - fascia, opening the fabric of the body and creating heat in the body. Sun Salutations!
Include sequences and flows in your practise that take the energy out and then back in again. Flow that open and close e.g.: arms wide to expand the chest and then cross the body to expand through the back. Poses that are expansive, strong and poses that close in for example:
Breath of Joy, Warrior II, Side Plank Variations, Plank, Eagle.
Set positive intentions at the beginning of your yoga practice. Practice with vigour and a sense of joy and to welcome that into your system.
Food in the summer months should be light, fresh, little and often to aid digestion.
The colour for Early Summer is red, so when it comes to food, choose fresh ingredients such are strawberries, beetroot, red peppers and tomatoes but avoid meals and spices that create heat such as chillis, meat and keep the processed sugars which cause inflammation, down.
Increase your Vitamin C intake as this is very important to the heath of your immune system and connective tissue.
Water, water, water!!
Look after your skin at this time of year, as it is the largest piece of connective tissue of the body. Keep hydrated - drink plenty of water. By working on the fascia, we stimulate blood flow and help the lymphatic system to drain waste products.
Brush off winter dullness and try body brushing; exfoliating; moisturising with lotions or oils; have a massage.
Summer Solstice / Litha
Welcome to the summer! - time to embrace the active energy of the season. We need to gather this energy and power and store it for the colder months to come.
The Summer Solstice is a doorway into the second half of the year.
It is a fiery, fertile, passionate time, when the earth’s loveliness just seems to go on and on. the sun appears to stand still before it changes direction. We too stand still, pause, and take time to reflect. there is a shift in the Earth’s energy. We are moving from: Sun to Moon; yang to yin; light to dark; fire to water; action to contemplation; and from outer to inner. We have reached the top of a mountain and stop now to take in the view. We look back over the journey we have taken since the winter and now look ahead to the darker half of the year. we may feel a bit sad about welcoming back the darkness. We balance this by remembering that the dark half of the year gives us the opportunity, to take stock, to plan, and to formulate ideas; ready to be delivered out into the world during next spring and summer’s growing season. It is natural to want summer to go on forever but it’s not over yet at this point, there are still warm / hot, sunny days ahead; however the year has turned, and gradually the days will shorten, and the nights get longer..
According to Tantric scriptures, the sun was nothing more than a garment of light for the Great Goddess. European traditions usually made the sun male and the moon female, chiefly to assert that "his" light was stronger, and that "she" shone only by reflected glory, symbol of the position of women in a patriarchal society. However, Eastern and pre-Christian systems frequently had the sun as a goddess.
In some traditions, Litha, meaning light, is when a battle between light and dark takes place. In this battle, the Oak King and the Holly King battle for control. During each solstice, they battle for power, and the balance shifts. The Oak King, who represents daylight, rules from the winter solstice (Yule) to Litha. During this time, the days steadily get longer. However, during Litha, the Holly King wins this battle, and the days get steadily darker until Yule.
Although few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with hilltop bonfires and dancing and that it was a time to honour the space between earth and the heavens.
Early European traditions celebrated midsummer by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water.
The sun is the inspiration for this yoga practice.
The themes are: re-charge, energise, radiate.
Benefits of this yoga practice: healing, calming, strengthening, stabilising, builds confidence, lifts mood, energising, uplifting, empowering, builds determination and expands your sense of what is possible, strengthens your intention and resolve.
Make your summer yoga practise invigorating and fun - include postures that work on core strength, building internal heat which in turn burns impurities and increases energy. Work on arm balances and shoulders to open up the meridians but remember to create balance with calming breath work and ease in your practice too. When practicing sun salutations, keep the sun in the mind eye.
include postures such as Cobra, Crow, Dancer, Camel.
The core relates to the Solar Plexus Chakra or energy centre within the energetic body. This chakra governs our self-confidence, inner-strength, self-discipline and will power. It is the centre of our vitality and when the energy here is strong and active, it supports good health, balance and strength.
During this busy period of rampant growth, it is important to stay centred and grounded.
At the start of your yoga practice stand in mountain pose, each time you inhale imagine that you are drawing energy up from deep down in the earth, up through the soles of your feet and your legs, to your solar plexus area (above the belly button) Each time you exhale imagine that you are storing this energy in there. As you do your yoga practice keep bringing your awareness back to your solar plexus area as though you are storing that energy there for the months to come.
when you are practising expansive poses such as Triangle, half-moon or warrior poses, fire up your poses by imagining a radiant sun at your centre getting brighter with the inhale and sending it out through your fingertips on your exhale.
For internal heat, you could practice Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) or Kapalabhati and for cooling on very hot days when the heat may be draining, you could practice – Sitali and Shitkari (the sucking and hiding breaths).
Following on from the solstice
Between now and the Winter Solstice is the time to incubate ideas; spending time considering which seeds we wish to nurture in the dark half of the year, ready to send up new, green shoots next spring. The second half of the year is not a time for action; it is a time for dreaming our ideas into being, and our yoga practice can support and enhance self-reflection.
We welcome back the dark-half of the year because it gives us the opportunity to rest, recuperate, and regenerate after the frenetic activity of the growing season. After all the heat and excitement of summer, we begin a return journey home to a peaceful place within, where we can find solace and regeneration. Now is the time to bring our outward achievements inside, to a place of sanctuary, so they can be processed and transformed. Store the energy of summer within you, make plans for the time when the darkness makes it way back and when we want to hibernate. Set in place hobbies and creative things that can be done as we head to autumn.
Celtic Tree For Summer
oak – strength – renewal - generosity
Spending time in nature and around trees in summer connects us to the fertility and fullness of the season. Summer is the perfect time to take a walk in nature and enjoy the shade that trees provide. Use all five senses to mindfully enjoy the scene; colours, smells, sounds, touch and maybe even taste, if you find dome fruits to take home. Maybe enjoy the cooler, quieter time of evening to be out in nature, somewhere where you can sit and be still to notice all that’s around you.