Aligning Yourself with the Rhythms of Summer
Celebrations are synched with the Summer Solstice. June 21 is the peak of the light, the longest day of the year. Sites are built in alignment with the Summer Solstice with their architecture aligned with the cosmos. These include: the Great Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, Callenish in Scotland, Newgrange in Ireland, Macchu Picchu in Peru, Ajanta Caves in India, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the serpentine burial mounds in Ohio, and the California Chumash’s hidden cave paintings
During this Solstice, the Sun is at its peak in the Northern Hemisphere. This reflects the peak of fruits and fertility of the Earth. In Ayurveda, rtucharya describes the cycle of the seasons through the year. The word is based upon the root rtu from the Vedic rtam, meaning “cosmic rhythm.” The Summer Solstice marks the peak of the uttarayana. This six-month period that begins with the Winter Solstice. The plant world grows from seed to fullness with the waxing light of the Sun, which strengthens and intensifies until the Summer Solstice.
Summer Solstice Sacred Retreat – Natural Light
The outdoor festival season is ancient and is initiated by the tradition of lighting bonfires at the Solstice. Harnessing natural light—solar power—is an essential component of the season. But we need to take care to not to overheat our fire in these times of record-breaking temperatures. Incorporating a few suggestions from Ayurvedic rtucharya and giving space to Summer in your home can align you with the Summer ritam—the syncopation with the cosmic light.
Aligning with the Solstice
Create your home altar with the colors of the sun. Choose brilliant golds, reds, and oranges in fabrics, fruit, and candles. Adorn your body with the Sun’s colors to bring brightness and radiance into your being.
In a journal or while in meditation, reflect on your journey over the past six months. Remember the intentions you planted at Winter Solstice. What has transpired for you in this first half of the journey around the Sun?
Place a jar or bowl filled with water in the Sun to be energized by the Solstice rays. Drink it in the afternoon to receive the vital energy of the Sun. Place any gold jewelry you may have near a window to be recharged and blessed by the Solstice Sun.
The many music festivals around the Summer Solstice period, from Glastonbury to Wanderlust, awaken the ancestral memory of all-night celebrations where there is little darkness as the Sun sets late and rises early. Evoke this energy by finding a place in the urban environment (or outside it) where you can create a bonfire or simply enjoy a great outdoor party, with fire represented in torches. Enjoy the collective celebration with your whole being on this holy day of the peak of light.
Balancing the Fire—Summer Ayurveda Rtucharya
Summer initiates a time when the earth is most dry and arid, receiving maximum solar energy. All the radiant light is activating but depleting, and so our digestive fire is also at its weakest.
Ayurveda considers Summer a pitta season, with emphasis on the elements of fire with just a bit of water. Pitta dosha is a radiant solar force, hot and sharp. And at this time of the year it is important to balance pitta because we can easily become dehydrated.
The gunas, or qualities, of summer that we seek to balance are the following.
• Hot and sharp—balanced with relaxation.
• Oily and liquid—balanced with things that are dry but nourishing.
Five Anchors for the Summer Season
In summer, when your gaze dissolves in the endlessly clear sky, penetrate this light that is the essence of your own mind. —Vijnana Bhairava Tantra
- Balance the excess fire that over-stimulates the pitta dosha by staying relaxed, calm, and cool, and tending fiery emotions like impatience and irritation.
- Shift your rhythm from manifestation to celebration. Take time to slow down. Enjoy life outdoors, but avoid activities that are overly exerting between 11am and 3 pm. Stay cool and indoors or in the shade during these hours of peak sunlight.
- Enjoy sleeping outside to breathe the fresh air and absorb moonlight, or stay up moonbathing. Sit outside under the moonlight and absorb the watery, cooling nectar from the moon.
- Focus Summer body care on cooling the skin with calming and soothing practices (see Body Rhythm).
- Choose foods and drinks to balance the pitta dosha. Enjoy cooling fruits and vegetables in season (see Food Rhythm). Sip on warm water or herbal water to maintain and regulate body temperature.
Due to the strong properties of the Sun and the body’s need to stay cool and release internal heat, our inner fire, agni, is pulled to the extremities to keep the body cool. Therefore digestive agni is compromised, weakening our digestive capacity. That is why in the Summer we are often less hungry and want to eat less. So it is recommended in Ayurveda to eat lighter and smaller meals during this time of year. Additional suggestions to balance pitta include the following.
- Drink a brew of cumin, coriander, fennel, and rose or mint tea to pacify the heat, improve digestion, and calm the mind.
- Increase sweet, bitter, and astringent foods that are light in nature. Eat plenty of bitter salad greens such as lettuce, arugula, radicchio, basil, and endive, all of which are particularly pitta balancing.
- Favor: coconut water, watermelon, cilantro, leafy greens, okra, zucchini, asparagus, olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, ghee, cucumber, soaked/peeled almonds, kale, broccoli, pomegranate, apples, cranberry, mint, dill, fennel, cardamom, coriander, and saffron.
- Avoid or limit: tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, garlic, dry ginger, black pepper, fermented foods, spicy foods, sour fruits, heavy proteins, mustard oil, molasses, or coffee.
- Include cool drinks and raw foods in your diet, such as cucumber, mango, and coconut water; natural fruit juices without added sugar, mint teas, and raw berries are also good choices.
- Reduce sour, salty, and pungent tastes.
- Give yourself a slow and loving full-body massage before taking a shower. Use pitta massage oil, coconut oil, or sunflower oil. Pitta season can create conditions for inflammation and over-activity of certain metabolic processes and secretions. Massage helps things move through the body and can be soothing.
- A rosewater mister is a wonderful refresher for the face and body, as are a cooling milk and mint bath, or milk with rose petals. Make a sandalwood face mask with rose water. Have fresh aloe nearby for any pitta skin conditions that may arise, from sunburns to rashes.
- Summer essential oils / scents include: sandalwood, rose, lavender, jasmine, lotus, gardenia, khus, and vetiver.
- While we may choose to wear the colors of the Sun to honor and enhance the energy of this time of year, when we notice the fire increasing beyond a level that is comfortable and we need to cool the body, we are served by cooling hues of white, blue, or green. No matter what color we wear, light textures of cotton, linen, or silk allow us to move easily throughout the season.
Energetic Vinyasa for the Summer Season
Continue to synch with the Sun, gradually getting up earlier before the sunrise; this is the peak time of growth, so synch your movements with that waxing light. Offer yoga outdoors in the shade so you can take in the fresh prana of the elements at this time.
If you are already experiencing the heat of Summer, be aware of the effects of Summer on excessive fire in your body. Begin to wear more cooling colors and white to stay in the bhava of Summer.
Bask in the Summer joy but be aware that the Sun has reached its peak in the Northern Hemisphere and has begun its journey of waning for the next six months. The relaxing, easygoing quality of a more lunar, fluid nature can be integrated into the expansiveness of summer qualities—celebratory, sukha (intrinsic happiness), loving appreciation of the best of life, and the ease you feel in your body.
The Summer Season is time when those who did not cleanse fully in the Spring are most vulnerable to experiencing accumulated ama, or toxins, which can burn “impurely” during the excess heat-related imbalances of Summer. Summer yoga practices and a proper clean-food sadhana can, with some mild cleanses, help you feel more balanced and clear in the prana flow of your body, which is the most open during the Summer.
This is the best time of the year for Sringara Rasa, practices to nourish the water element to balance excess heat as well as to tend the fires of love and appreciation. Cultivate lunar or Shanti Rasa practices as well if you are feeling the blissful lazy quality of a natural shift into ida nadi or the lunar current. This is the best season for flexibility and ease of range of motion, which can be enjoyed in fluid backbends, namaskars to increase flow and agility, and Sringara Rasa circular movements for increasing the love flow.
- Enjoy stimulating cooling practices at this time: sitali (hissing breath), slow and deep ujjayi pranayama, and nadi shodhana.
- Asanas that remove excess heat from the body, such as forward bends and mild backbends, are most suitable. Avoid asanas that build heat. Do cooling pranayama such as sheetali, sheetkari, chandra bedhana, and nadi shodhana.
- Enjoy solar mantras at sunrise such as the Gayatri mantra or the simple Om Suraye Namaha to align with solar energy.
Allow the Summer Solstice to penetrate your awareness of how extraordinary our journey on Spaceship Earth as we begin the second half of the year.
Our Extraordinary Sun
One of three hundred billion stars of the Milky Way galaxy, the Sun each and every second transforms four million tons of itself into light and emits energy that we receive some ninety-three million miles away—a continuous process of creation/dissolution.
Through the magnificence of solar power, and the process of photosynthesis, we are given the air to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink. Sunlight is indeed the divine source of prana. We are literally made of the Sun, our great star.
We live in an abundance of energy. The Sun’s radiant energy produces six thousand times the amount of energy used by all human beings worldwide, and it would take only 0.001 percent of its energy to power all of the world’s current energy needs for a day. One hour of the Sun is enough for a whole year of power.
Consider solar power to balance your carbon footprint – natural light, solar lamps, putting solar-panels on your house, using solar lamps or cookers or supporting solar-aids.com project.
Tending the Heart Fire
Article adapted from Tending the Heart Fire: Living in the Flow with the Pulse of Life by Shiva Rea. Copyright 2014 by Shiva Rea. Published by Sounds True in January, 2014.
Shiva Rea is a shaktidasi—servant of the life-force. She is the dedicated founder of Prana Flow—Energetic Vinyasa and Samudra Global School for Living Yoga offering pilgrimage and yogadventure retreats, teacher trainings, and online programs in collaboration with teachers, artists, and activists around the world: pranaflowyoga.com.