Summer has arrived (sort of). Things are opening up (sort of). Travel is on the horizon (sort of). And we at Nourish are embracing the heights of summer by winding down.
Nourish will be enjoying a quieter August, so my lovely colleagues and myself can divest our energy, embrace the warmer days and nights, and work on personal projects. In the meantime, as always, our Community Library is available for you, where we have a vast range of yoga classes covering multiple styles and practices, with lots of inclusive yoga options.
Come September, my live classes will resume, new student intakes will start their 200-hour yoga teacher training and pregnancy teacher training, and I’m excited about all the upcoming workshops (including for our 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training) to see us through Autumn.
Although many yoga studios are making the most of being able to offer in-person classes and keeping their doors open, if like us, your August is a break from the regular rhythms of your year we have put together this Summer self-practice guide to offer support and insights on maintaining, adapting, or halting your yoga practice.
Tips for Self-Practice During Summertime
Much of what we included in our Deeping and Developing your Practice guide applies to a summer self-practice, from setting an intention to exploring different ways of moving. But we have a few useful additions, deviations, and gentle reminders to set you on your summer self-practice journey.
Embrace Your Summer Rhythm
Your summer rhythm may well be linked to the longer days and increased warmth. Or, it may be tied to having children at home during the week, taking a holiday, or working during a typically quieter time of year. In terms of yoga, you may find that your regular teacher or studio timetable has altered. Whatever your circumstances, it is not uncommon to be impacted, directly or indirectly, by the changes that characterise this time of year.
These changes influence the rhythm of our daily lives and therefore impact our yoga practice. Establishing a practice rhythm that accords to the other changes is useful for the general accountability of showing up to practice, or maintaining a regular practice if that is important to you. Regular practices may well need to be tweaked to work with, not against, the other changes. At any time of year, adapting your practices to honour seasonal changes (environmental and personal) can be an enormously rewarding way to practice and hone the craft of tuning in and honouring your needs.
What a change of rhythm may look like…
- Practising less: be that shorter practices, only practicing a couple of days a week, or just grabbing spontaneous free moments for yoga.
- If you have kids around, try exploring asana, breathwork, or mindful practices, playfully with them.
- If you are going away, scout out a yoga corner in your holiday pad, garden, park, or even beach.
- You may find yourself with more time and quiet to enjoy a slower or deeper practice.
Practicing in a way that suits the circumstances of your summer will not only make maintaining a yoga practice easier and more sustainable, but quite possibly, more fulfilling.
Something I know many people struggle with is relaxing the expectations of what or how their yoga practice should be. At any time of life where we encounter disruptions to our regular routines or relied upon practices, it is common to have a difficult reaction to the process of change. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or frustration can start to creep in, shrouding anything you do manage to do (or what you don’t do, which is fine) in a difficult light.
The other challenges may be rooted more generally in this season. Many people claim that summer is the most glorious time of year, but some of us might feel stifled by the heat or find we have less time for ourselves. It’s also the time of year when social media is littered with even more pictures of people practising asana in swimsuits, which may evoke complex feelings regarding your own practice, body, worth, or circumstances. I know practitioners who enjoy yoga most in the semi-light of dawn or dusk, which is much more challenging at a time of year with shorter, lighter nights.
There are many different ways of working with challenges, but I do firmly believe that yoga is not a fair-weather practice. Some of the greatest growth we can experience, and ways in which we start to understand and live the profundities of yoga, is when we find a way of connecting to our practice during upheavals and times of resistance.
I have reflected extensively on the role of self-compassion in yoga in the past, and I recently wrote about the complex relationship between yoga and healing. Both these blogs are not about actively setting out to make things better, but meditations on how we can work, gently but thoughtfully, with challenges to slowly move towards states of more generous and sustainable wellbeing.
Find Your Summer Practice
Traditionally you will hear that in summer you should focus on cooling practices, from less dynamic asana to soothing pranayama practices, such as Nadi Shodhana or Sitali. However, this falls into the realm of one size fits all advice, and yoga is not a one size practice.
Slowing down may well feel welcome, but building up heat and sweating as a release may also be what your body and mind call for. You may gravitate towards familiar practices or feel a sudden motivation to explore different ones.
Finding the practice that works best for you (and ignoring or adjusting the advice of others) are key elements of connecting to yoga as an embodied practice.
Explore Something New
Even if you have less time for practices (asana, pranayama, meditation), you may have time to explore other aspects of yoga:
- Dip your toe in yoga philosophy. T.K.V Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga is a great introductory text to yoga philosophy generally, particularly Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Getting familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas is a nice endeavour at any time of year. Journaling and self-reflection are excellent tools when it comes to making personal sense of yoga philosophy.
- I have been thinking a lot about how yoga is an oral tradition and how useful podcasts can be for this! I like Awake in the World, Yoga is Dead, and For the Wild, which isn’t explicitly about yoga but broaches many intersecting issues.
- We will be providing a summer reading list on our Instagram of past blogs, which we hope you will find helpful in broadening your understanding of the philosophies and concerns we uphold at Nourish.
Practices that work well during summer:
- Practice outside, without a mat and notice the sensory experience.
- Sit outside on a summer evening and observe the slowly descending dusk.
- Sip an icy drink or eat an ice lolly mindfully (I enjoy making a cup of tea mindfully, but these are good summer variations).
Take a Break
We are often told (and sold) the idea that our yoga practices need to be disciplined, daily, and consistent. This is not only unrealistic but potentially damaging for some people. I also suspect that the popularity of this idea has mushroomed due to the complicated relationship between yoga and capitalism, as a more regular practice equates to consistent revenue and investment in improvement. In short, you can take a break from yoga, return to it, and be fine. Alternatively, prioritising rest practices may be what is most needed for you.
I enjoy taking a break, be that for a few days or a couple of weeks, and then returning to my practice. It gives me a new perspective and can help me gain better insight on what truly nourishes me or what I have been including out of obligation or expectation, but ultimately isn’t right for me.
There is a lot of practical advice included in the above sections, but if you are just looking for some quick, practical steps try:
- Five minutes or five mindful breaths is enough.
- Pick a few postures to practice regularly, and observe how your relationship with them changes over the month. Come back to them in winter and notice how the body changes in different climates.
- Alternate your practice from asana one day to pranayama then meditation the next. (Here are some asana, pranayama, and meditation guides for assistance and inspiration).
- If you are lucky enough to have a garden, balcony, park, or even beach nearby, practice outside either alone or with a buddy.
- Getting started is often the hardest part, be intentional about setting aside a time or space for your practice, and don’t ask too much of yourself.
- Acknowledge your victories, however small, have compassion for any struggles. This is part of the practice too.
We love hearing from our community! What are your summer practice tips?