It’s getting hot in here! In the Northern Hemisphere the solstice came and went and now summer is in full swing. The days are long and fast; our calendars filling up quickly with weekend getaways, beach days, and barbecue pits. We recently brought you a summer morning yoga routine to help jumpstart the long days ahead, but let’s not forget the importance of balancing out all that fiery yang energy with some gentler, cooling yin.
Whether you’re a morning or nighttime yogi, here’s a quick routine to help you unwind and cool down from that hot, hot, summertime heat.
Seated Shoulder Stretch with a Twist
Begin in a comfortable cross-legged seated position. Take a deep breath in and reach your arms overhead toward the sky, then exhale and twist from below your navel over to the right; bringing the left hand just outside of your right knee and walk your left fingertips all the way behind you. Use both hands to create more traction along your spine. Take a deep breath in, then exhale to deepen the twist and turn your chin over your right shoulder. Inhale to send the arms back overhead, then exhale to twist to the left and repeat on the other side. Inhale back through center, then exhale to bring your hands to your heart and bow your chin in toward your chest.
Low Lunge with Side Bend
Come to Downward Dog and take a few breaths, pedaling out the feet and gently shake your head and neck. Inhale to step your right foot in between your hands and drop your back knee down; then send your arms overhead for a low lunge (Anjaneyasana). Keep your front knee stacked over your ankle and root down into the top of your back foot behind you. Take a deep breath in, then exhale for a side bend over to the left. Reach your left fingertips all the way down the the floor or a block; your left elbow should frame your outer left hip. Continue arcing your right arm over your right ear. Take three deep breaths, then inhale back to low lunge with both arms overhead.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold with Neck Clasp
From low lunge, exhale to bring both hands inside your right foot, then walk your hands over to the left until they’re in between your legs, as you parallel your feet into a wide stance with straight legs. With your shoulders stacked over your wrists, take a deep breath in to lift to a flat back, then exhale to fold forward and in, hinging at your waist. Interlace your hands behind the nape of your neck and hang out here for several deep breaths. If it feels good, let the torso sway gently to release any tension in your neck and shoulders—especially if you’ve been traveling. When you’re ready, release your hands underneath you and walk your hands over to the inside of your left foot behind you.
Side-to-Side Lunar Stretches
As you walk your hands all the way over to the left, begin to sink low in the left knee and hip and flex your right foot to the sky for a side lunge (Scandasana). Take a deep breath in, then exhale to walk your hands all the way back over to your right foot, and sink low in your right knee, flexing your left foot to the sky. Take a deep breath in, then exhale your hands all the way back to your left foot, sinking low in your left knee. Repeat this side-to-side motion a few times and remember to stay as low to the ground as possible, finishing on the left side. Bring your hands to frame your left foot at the back of your mat, then release your right knee down. Repeat from the beginning of this mini-low lunge sequence on the left side of your body, finishing with another round of side-to-side “lunar” (cooling) stretches.
Standing Backbend with Hands to Sacrum
Once you’ve completed the first part of this sequence on the left side of your body, step your back foot in to arrive at the front of your mat. Inhale to slowly rise all the way to stand. Exhale for a moment with a nice lengthened spine in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with your feet rooted beneath you and crown of your head reaching above. Bring your hands to your sacrum with your fingers pointing downward. Draw your shoulder blades together as you would for Camel Pose, to open through your chest. Inhale to lift your heart toward the sky, exhale to root down through your feet as you send your hips slightly forward and enter the backbend by way of your heart. As your chest continues to open up, gently let your head drop back and stay here for five deep breaths. Breathe in and out deeply through your nose and keep your eyes soft and open. Use your hands at your sacrum for support, and don’t force yourself into a backbend—try to let it happen organically. Inhale your heart forward to return to a standing position, then exhale to hinge at the waist and fold all the way forward.
Forward Fold with Opposite Elbows
In your forward fold position, inhale for a half lift to decompress your low spine and lengthen, then exhale to return to a forward fold. Grab hold of opposite elbows with the center of each of your palms. Gently shake your head and neck out, move your facial muscles and even flutter out your lips to relieve tension. If you like, allow your torso to sway from side-to-side again, as if that cool summer night’s breeze were facilitating it. Stay here for several deep breaths, exhaling with a gentle sigh of release. Release your elbows and inhale for a half lift, then exhale to step back to the top of a pushup.
From a high plank position with your hips in near-alignment with your shoulders, and your shoulders stacked over your wrists take a deep breath in as you extend the crown of your head forward and spread your fingers wide. As you exhale, keeping your elbows hugged in and hips lifted, lower as slow as you can go all the way down to the ground— slower than may have thought was possible. When you arrive to your belly turn one cheek to the coolness of the earth beneath you, and extend your arms alongside you face up to rest here and breathe deeply.
Upward Bow with Sitali Pranayama (aka “Cooling Breath”)
Bring your forehead to your mat and bend your knees behind you to draw your heels toward your sit-bones. Grab hold of the outer edges of your feet and ankles with your hands and exhale to empty out your lungs. Inhale to lift your feet into your hands and toward the sky, as you float your heart away from the ground. Extend through the crown of your head and draw your shoulder blades together behind you for Upward Bow. To practice the “cooling breath” technique, curl your tongue and take a deep, full breath in all the way to your belly, then close your mouth and exhale deeply through your nose. Repeat for up to five deep cycles of breath, then slowly lower back down to your belly and release your feet long behind you. Turn your opposite cheek to the ground and wiggle your hips from side-to-side to release your sacrum. Rest for a few moments.
Supta Baddha Konasana with Cactus Arms
Flip over onto your back and draw your knees in toward your chest. Let yourself rock from side to side to ensure your spine is relaxed. Then release the soles of your feet to the earth and let your knees drop out wide to either side. Bring the soles of your feet together as you scoop your tailbone down and away from you (toward your heels), lengthening your spine and ensuring your sacrum rests to the floor. Reach through the crown of your head, then bring your arms into a cactus shape by bending your elbows and stretching open across your chest. Relax your hands above you, palms face up. Breathe deeply and allow yourself to rest for at least five minutes in this restorative, cooling shape. (Optional: Go for a nighttime swim.)
Andrea Rice is a Senior Writer for Wanderlust Media. She is also a freelance writer, editor, and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, SONIMA, mindbodygreen, AstroStyle, and other online publications. You can find her regular classes at shambhala yoga & dance center in Brooklyn, and connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and on her website.