Summer is finally here and boy is it heating up outside. This is my favorite season for it is a time of long, sunny days, time out in nature, strolls on the beach, park picnics, outdoor concerts, and cute summer clothes. Unfortunately, it also is a time for some scorching temperatures.
High temperatures can wreak havoc on your body in many ways and I am not just talking about sunburns and excessive sweating. Perhaps you’ve noticed an increased heart rate with outdoor activities, insomnia, allergy symptoms or increased irritability.
Cardiac Effects. Rising temperatures have both direct and indirect effects on your heart. If you have noticed a faster heart rate on your heart monitor, this is probably a normal physiological response to the heat. Your heart beats faster to pump warm blood from your body’s core out to the surface of the skin.
Heat normally leaves the body when sweat evaporates. However, sweat also pulls out sodium, potassium, and other minerals needed for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, and water balance. To counter these losses, the body begins secreting hormones that help the body hold onto water and minimize mineral losses. For healthy individuals, these changes are well tolerated. Cardiac patients, however, may have a much harder time and should avoid high temperatures.
Allergies. Flowers are in bloom and the grass is a beautiful green. But with this comes more pollen in the air which can lead to allergy symptoms of stuffy nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Insomnia. As the temperatures go up, sleep quality tends to go down. Reportedly, the most favorable temperature for a good nights sleep is 68-69 degrees.
Irritability. The heat also has an effect on our minds. It is no coincidence that you may be feeling a bit hot-headed these days. Science has shown that hot weather can lead to hot tempers, aggression and a lower mood in general. Summer is notoriously the time of riots in our country.
How to safely enjoy the summer
- Stay cool. Seek air-conditioned spaces as much as possible. This is a great time to go to the movies
- Plan your outdoor activities either early in the morning or toward the end of the day when pollen counts go down
- Use caution with exercise.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cold water throughout the day. If you have congestive heart failure, please ask your doctor for the recommended amount
- Limit heating foods and drinks from your diet. Spicy foods, chiles, onion, peppers, corn, ripe bananas, most nuts, butter, cheese, beef, chicken, pork to name a few
- Eat more cooling foods. Apples, avocado, dates, berries, watermelon, asparagus, beets, cucumbers, summer squash, quinoa, chickpeas, coconut to name a few
- Relax. There are a variety of mind-body techniques that you can use to relax and shift your mood, including yoga, meditation, deep breathing and guided imagery
Our mind-body needs are different depending on the seasons yet we tend to practice yoga the same way all year round. We would all benefit more from our yoga practice if we honored what our bodies and minds are really asking for in order to stay balanced and peaceful.
Rather than taking that Hot Power Vinyasa class, consider a slower, cooling practice, like slow-flow, restorative, Yoga Nidra or meditation.
Yoga & Ayurveda describe heat in the human body as agni which is contained in our navel center, our third Chakra. Think of your navel as an oven door. When practicing yoga in the summer, poses that open the oven door release heat and are considered cooling. Examples of cooling postures are gentle backbends and open twists. Rather than moving quickly in a sequence into the next pose, pause for a full breath or two and be mindful of relaxing and letting go of tension.
Cooling pranayamas such as sitali can help with further balancing, allowing you to step off your mat with a calmer, clearer mind and a lighter, more relaxed body.