Summer is here. Are you ready?
Summer according to Chinese holistic health/medicine, is linked to the element of Fire. The Fire element is all about heat and energy; the days are longer; nature is at its most expressive and exuberant. Life energy is at its highest and most vibrant. Read on for my 3 tips for a healthy summer so you can enjoy this amazing season.
The Fire Season and our Health
Before we get onto the 3 tips for a healthy summer, it will be useful to get some background into how traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) interprets this season. I have to add that I am no expert at all. This is just the basic foundation of what I learnt during my seasonal therapy course (and my personal interpretation).😁
- In TCM each season is linked with an organ pair; for summer this is the heart and the small intestine. These organs are at their most potent during the time of their specified seasons.
- The heart on a physical level controls our blood circulation and the health of our blood vessels. When we put pressure on or overexert the heart physically, it can show up in our face (i.e. we go red) and make us all hot and bothered. In the summer, there is a greater danger of this happening simply because we can get out and do more. To keep the heart happy we need to find a balance of activity and rest. On a mental level the heart is in charge of our mind – it is the home of our emotions. When they get out of control we can (again) feel hot and bothered and go red in the face! When balanced, we feel joy in life; we are emotionally well, calm, and happy. When unbalanced (as well as feeling hot and bothered), we may suffer with depression, insomnia, nervousness, poor memory and experience a difficulty in communicating clearly with others.
- The small intestine is responsible for assimilating our food, so that the nutrients can be used by the body. Digestive issues are a sign that your small intestine is not happy. In the same way that it assimilates food on a physical level, it is also responsible for assimilating thoughts ( directing supporting the heart). The small intestine helps us to sift through our thoughts so that we can see the more truthful and helpful ones and disregard any beliefs which are doing us a dis-service. When out of balanced we are unable to trust our own judgement.
The following 3 tips for a healthy summer will help you keep these two organs happy and healthy in terms of both their physical and mental roles.
Your Summer Yoga Practise
Think of your yoga practice this season as a way of attending to your own inner fire. Sometimes you might feel that you can just let the fire ebb away gently (so a less invigorating practice might suffice). Other days you might feel that your fire needs a little fanning so try a more invigorating practice.
Play with Surya Namaskar (sun salutations)
This is the perfect well-rounded sequence which improves circulation, lifts the heart rate, and improves your energy flow around the body. There are plenty of variations to play with (e.g. classical sun salutation or the more calming moon salutation). Repeat the sequence you choose at least 3 times to get the most out of it.
Both the heart and the small intestine meridians run across the arms and the upper body, so it is a good idea to include lots of arm movements in your yoga practice. Heart openers like Bhujanganasana (cobra) or Shalabhasana (locust pose) and puppy pose are also helpful. Include some twisting moves as well like thread the needle or some supine or seated twists. Play and get creative with your practice. You can easily, for example include backbend variations or twist in your salutation practice. If you would like some ideas try out my sun salutation playtime class below:
Tweak Your Diet for Summer Health
- Each season is associated with a flavour and for summer it is bitter. Bitter foods are said to clear the heat of fire so can help you cool down. Include foods like romaine lettuce, watercress, bitter melon and celery.
- Try including lots of red foods (the colour of fire) including strawberries, tomatoes, red peppers, and beetroot.
- This is a great time to eat raw foods, so salads are fabulous – add your favourite salad veggies and fruits.
- During summer we tend to naturally drink more water. To avoid dehydration, however, make sure that you keep your salt (mineral) levels up, by including foods like nori or wakame in your diet. Drinking loads of water can deplete salt levels so be careful of that. A quick fix is to put a pinch of rock salt in your drinking water. Coconut water is a great re-hydrator as well.
- Heart health benefits from a good amount of DHA containing foods so try and eat some oily fish each week. If you don’t like fish just take a supplement.
Lifestyle and Mindset Tips
Here are a few simple lifestyle and mindset tools which will help you stay healthy in summer.
Wake up earlier in the morning.
- I don’t know about you, but I tend to wake up earlier in the summer months anyway. If you however are good at sleeping in, try to resist this and get up as soon as you wake up.
- Use your journaling as a tool to help you release any anger issues. Anger is not a good emotion to have when it is hot! Journaling can help you work through strong emotions.
- Work on learning to love and accept yourself. You may find writing down a massive list of positive affirmations helpful (e.g., I am enough, I am capable, I am happy with who I am). If you do this often enough you will change the mapping of your brain gradually to move away from the negative self-talk and more towards the positive. You just need to trust in the process.
- Test out your communication skills. It is hard to get our feelings and thoughts across to other people sometimes (or maybe that is just me). Try other ways of expressing yourself. Journaling is good, but you can play music, paint, doodle. This can help you process thoughts and feelings so next time you have a difficult conversation you can be more articulate and get your point across. Voice and speech are intricately connected to the heart so the summer months are a good time to practice.
- Take time to exercise. This can be yoga of course (see below for summer yoga) or enjoy whatever other activity you love. Just exercise your heart.❤
Still don’t have a meditation practice?
- Why not start now? You may find that you are naturally getting up earlier so why not fit in a short 10–20-minute practice then? Meditation is a powerful way to help you clear the mind and become a more positive thinker. Don’t make it too complicated or over think it. A simple way to start is to simply find a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes and as you inhale think IN and as your exhale think OUT. Keep repeating this for your allotted time and see what comes up. Remember that the goal of meditation is not to still the mind and empty your head. This is impossible. It is just a practice which helps you to calm things down for a moment. This can bring great peace and clarity.
- To get more guidance read my blog post on how to start a meditation practice here
Wear Bright Colours
- Have you noticed that people tend to wear brighter colours during summer as opposed to the colder months of the year? Maybe it is because we just feel generally lighter and more joyous. I find this very interesting as the colour associated with Fire is red. You can’t really get much brighter than red – it really is a ‘here I am’ colour. So basically what I am saying is if you want to get the summer vibe going – wear bright colours!
Nurture Your Heart
- This is a good time of year to do some soul searching. How are you relationships? How are you communicating? Are you giving yourself enough down time or ‘me’ time. Watch Out for Burn- out as the heart suffers from too much of a to-do list. Of course, it is easy to push ourselves to do more – especially when the days are longer, and the nights are shorter. However, you need to rest too so make sure that you don’t overburden your days. Don’t forget – me time is important and non-negotiable.
I hope that this has given you a few ideas as to how to have a happy and healthy summer. Remember, you don’t have to do them all, just try out a few things and see if they work for you.
Happy Summer 😁❤