Of the two polarities that exist in nature, summer represents the maximum yang. Theoretically nature is at its maximum yang at summer solstice (June 21st). In reality though, the very hot days of summer may start sooner or later. In summer, the energy is rising, expanding and going outwards and upwards. This is a very active time of the year, as opposed to winter (yin) when everything is contracting and going inwards and downwards. While this expansion is full of life and energy, it does pose potential challenges that can affect our health either during the season itself or further ahead when it comes to the change of season to fall.
By virtue of its expansive and outward nature, summer energy has the potential to make us a bit ungrounded as it takes us away from the yin polarity (earth). This, of course, can be a blessing after the long winter months and for those with sluggish state of health. For those, however, who are already fairly yang in nature or generally very active and on the go (whether naturally or with the help of stimulants and at the expense of their deep resources), the yang energy can push them over the edge. This can happen as they tend to get more and more active into the summer without giving their body a chance to rest.
Tips for Transition from summer to fall
The following are a few general guidelines towards having a smoother summer experience in preparation for the fall:
- With the longer days of summer, we can actually start our days earlier. When feasible, wake up early in the morning and go to bed ideally no later than 11pm. This, of course, means a fairly long day and full of activity, which is what summer is all about. Therefore, not a bad idea to have a little break sometime in the middle of the day. This need not be a full siesta but more like a short retreat, especially when the heat is at its maximum.
- In terms of diet, there is a general tendency to go for cool, cold, iced and raw foods and beverages to combat the heat. To some extent this makes sense; so a bit more salads and fruits go with the season and help us keep our systems cool. The problem arises when we overdo this. There is an excitement to take advantage of all the great seasonal fruits but this happens as we also tend to increase our consumption of cold drinks (alcoholic or otherwise), ice creams and salads. Gradually over the few months of summer this can build up an excess of cold and damp in our gastrointestinal system by having a net cooling effect in our body. Those with already cold systems are more negatively affected.
- By the time fall comes around, we have far too much of these two factors in our system weighing down on our immunity (yang), making us more susceptible to the variety of viruses that usually strike with the change of season.
- Take advantage of the sun but be smart about it at the same time. Given our climate and the fact that sunshine can be a scarce commodity for at least half the year, it is definitely a good idea to expose ourselves to some sun, especially those with a cold constitution. However, this does not need to be an excessive amount. Half hour of sun exposure daily goes along way. Exposing your legs, feet, arms and backs all at once or even just in parts is still better than not taking advantage of the source of life and energy. This need not be when the sun is at its hottest; mid-morning or late-afternoon are also great times for this practice. DO NOT cover yourself with chemical sunscreen as you are not staying in the sun for an extended period of time. If you need to do that, simply wear thin natural fabric and cover yourself up that way rather than with sunscreen. Our bodies need to be exposed to sun, just not an excessive amount of it!
- Sit cross legged or on a chair in a quiet, cool and peaceful area of your home.
- Close your eyes almost fully but leave them open about 15% to allow some light in. This will help you stay awake, focused and not get carried away with too many thoughts.
- Overlap your hands and place them over your lower abdomen between navel and the pubic bone, just where they would land naturally. It does not matter which hand is on top!
- Breathe normally while having your attention and focus where your hands are. You could visualize breathing into the general area of your lower abdomen or simply breathe normally if you are not good with visualization.
- Having the intention of the focus on your hands and abdomen is enough to bring you from your head and thoughts into your body! This will ground you and in essence is going inwards which offers a bit of balance to the yang of summer.
- Do this once or twice daily for five minutes each time. Anytime is good.
- When you are done, open your eyes, take a moment or two and then slowly proceed with your daily life.
Enjoy the summer!
Armin Madani-Nejad R.Ac