Article originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press (co-authored by Helen Maupin, Candace Propp, Stacy Schroder)
Each season brings its own benefits and challenges. Hot humid summer days help to unwind tension and tightness built up from fortifying against the blustery chill of winter. However, too much of a good thing also takes a toll. Prolonged heat spells can dehydrate and fatigue shifting our physical and mental well-being out of balance. Excessive heat increases our body temperature, which pressures our heart to pump more blood to the skin’s surface where heat is released as sweat. The higher the outside temperature, the harder the heart as well as the nervous system must work. When these systems are overworked, our responses can be irritability, anxiety and anger. Fortunately, specific yoga asanas help us, from the inside out, to warm up during winter and to cool down during these hazy, hot summer days.
Yogis rely on the cooling and calming effects of forward bends to prevent overheating the body and mind. Not only restful for the heart, forward bends free the breath, which is often shortened and confined to the upper chest. In addition, our spiritual well-being is enhanced by the forward folding postures’ effect of turning us inward thereby returning our focus to our inner experience.
Practicing forward bends enables us to regain our mental, physical and spiritual suppleness and flexibility. These inwardly focused postures relieve stress or tension in our back, chest and hamstrings allowing the breath to fully penetrate our back body. Manage your energy, your anger and your temperature by applying the following action to the three illustrated poses.
Action: Sit on the centre, not the back, of your sitting bones (ischial tuberosities) and balance your weight evenly left and right. To do this, you may have to sit on a height (blanket) or bend your knees slightly. Note: Resting on the back of the sitting bones rounds the back reversing the lumbar’s natural inward curve. For more advanced practitioners, keep the inward curve of the lumbar vertebrae as you move into the forward bend. When the torso is close to the thighs, the lumbar will round slightly.
UPAVISTHA KONASANA (Wide-angle Seated Forward Bend pose)
Come to sitting with your feet a comfortable distance apart, and your toes and knees pointing upward. Find the action. Bend forward and rest your head and arms onto a chair.
JANU SIRSASANA (Head-to-shin pose)
Sit with both legs extended forward. Bend your right knee and place your right foot along the inside of your left thigh. Support your right knee if it doesn’t rest on the floor. Find the action. Bend forward and rest your head on a height. Repeat with the left knee bent.
PASCHIMOTTANASANA (Intense Forward Bending pose)
Come to sitting with your legs extended and your feet into the wall. Find the action. Bend forward and rest your head and arms onto a chair.