It’s the height of summer in the Deep South. That means hot nights, rotisserie chickens eaten with salads, eating peaches over the sink while sticky juice runs down my chin and arm, stopping by the store daily for yet another box of popsicles, sending kids outside to eat lunch so I can hear myself think. It’s driving down River Road with the windows down and singing aloud to one of my daughter’s playlists—heavy on the 80s, it’s feeling the kiss of the sun on my freckled shoulders. It’s trying to find the one shady spot at the park while the kids try to decide if they’re going to play or melt or maybe do both. It’s inhaling books and lingering in bed a little longer than necessary in the mornings listening to the hum of the ceiling fan. This time of year I find myself caught in between being languid and hot, remembering the summers of my youth with fondness while simultaneously resenting the duration of this current season. Summer, especially the last few months of a southern summer, confirm my suspicion that it’s not just the days that are long, but life too.
What I’m doing to keep my cool this summer:
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And not necessarily ice cold water. I drink at least half my body weight in ounces of room temperature water every day. Adding the juice of a lime adds a little favor and lime is more cooling than lemon.
Exercise in the morning, the coolest part of the day.
In these warmer months I use coconut oil for my abhyanga practice. Coconut oil is calming, cooling, and soothing.
Eat foods that are cooling and offer relief from excessive heat. Foods like watermelon, plums, berries, cucumbers, broccoli, and salads. Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar.
Use rosewater mist liberally. I use this one.
Practicing sheetali or cooling breath. Sheetali breath can be used any time there is excess heat—in summer, after intense physical exertion, during hot flashes, or heated emotions. To practice sheetali breath:
Sit tall. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath.
Curl the sides of your tongue up and in, as though you were creating a straw with your tongue.* Breathe in slowly, pulling the air across the surface of your tongue and exhaling through the nose. If the throat feels dry, swallow now and then. Continue this cycle for 3 breaths, 1 minute, up to 5 minutes.*
Sit in silent meditation for several minutes, noticing the soothing benefits of the practice and allowing the benefits of the practice to be integrated.
If you are unable to curl your tongue, practice a variation known as Sitkari: Inhale through the teeth, with lips parted and the tongue floating just behind the teeth.