Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Consider the Seasons: Should Summer's Heat Affect Your Yoga Practice?

Jun 01, 2024 06:00AM ● By Patty Schmidt, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP
In Atlanta, June ushers in summer’s bounty—cacophonous children playing outdoors, local fruit and vegetables overflowing the outdoor markets and competing scents of magnolias, jasmine and other summer blooms. We are spoiled by the richness and diversity of our environment. But summer also brings the bugs and the heat. Indeed, jokes about Atlanta’s seasonal weather discomforts never end. We might notice warmer evenings, our own sweat, the relief of air conditioning on the hottest days and smaller windows of time to be both outdoors and comfortable. Many might begin to live in artificial zones and separate themselves from the environment and its seasonal changes. 

Similarly, taking a seasonal approach to yoga can be fruitful. Considering the heat of the summer and how it can affect one’s daily rhythms and bodily needs can help to advance one’s practice. It might also provide a deeper understanding of what it means to be more mindful through other significant changes in life, such as illness or life-stage transitions.

Styles of Yoga

One of the basic ways to be with the rhythm of the seasons is to adapt one’s yoga practice to outer conditions. Yoga styles that increase heat during the height of summer can be detrimental to one’s inner landscape, increasing one’s inclination to sweat or have diarrhea and to overeat salty and spicy food. Or, one might notice being more judgmental of others and oneself during this time. 

If you experience these types of symptoms during the summertime, it might be best to step away from heated practices such as vinyasa—a series of moves between held postures, accompanied by the breath—that can include yoga pushups and the repetitive lifting of one’s body weight. Consider: Do you regularly attend classes that include many repetitions of vinyasa flows? If so, what would it be like to enjoy a practice with fewer repetitions? What would it be like to take an alternative vinyasa flow with a different, less heating quality, such as omitting pushups? Foster curiosity about alterations you can make. Do you feel more at ease while you’re practicing or afterward? What are other ways such change might affect your practice? If you feel you can set aside vinyasa practice entirely, consider taking a restorative or yin class or a gentle, floor-based somatics—breath and movement practices—class. These can help to cool the body as well. 

Postures and Props

It’s not just the most energetic vinyasa variations that have heating qualities. Some postures build heat, even without flow, especially if held for a long period of time. Warrior Three pose, for example—which calls for balancing on one leg while the torso leans forward and comes parallel to the floor—is a strong, one-legged standing pose that builds a great deal of heat. Yet, another one-legged standing pose, tree pose, has a very different effect. Tree pose calls for balance, but it is less heating because of the body’s relation to gravity, as the torso is upright, not pitched forward. During the summer months, it might be best to limit the overall amount of heating poses in a given practice session.

Adjusting the practice space can also foster more cooling qualities in your yoga practice. For example, working on the floor or at the wall can provide a cool and grounded sensation. You might notice that practicing poses like the legs-up-the-wall pose or the high-supported bridge pose away from the wall can offer similar benefits but they have subtle differences that are somewhat determined by their differences in place and position. The legs-up-the-wall pose, for example, imparts the cool, stable and hard qualities of the floor and the wall, even if the pelvis is elevated. But, without the support and feedback of the wall, the high-supported bridge pose imparts less of those qualities.

Exploring variations in props and practice environments can deepen your understanding of how different elements influence the overall experience of a pose, allowing you to tailor your practice to suit your needs and preferences.

Yoga's Bounty and Diversity

Finally, the change in seasonal conditions invites practitioners to lean into the diversity of yogic traditions. Lesser-known and less-commonly practiced yoga postures and breathing practices offer many strategies to meet personal needs for cooling and grounding. For example, certain pranayama tools—breathing practices that involve the manipulation of the inhalation and exhalation—intend to cool the body with a moistened in-breath. Restorative postures limit movement and help with sleep, which can be disrupted by high temperatures. And there are many variations of linking movements between held postures—vinyasa alternatives—that limit heat but that continue to align breath and movement, one of the key benefits of yoga. 

Cooling Practices—Two Strategies to Try at Home

• Half Camel Flow ~ Ardha Ustrasana Vinyasa (video of this below)

Here’s a helpful alternative flow for the summer months.

Come into a kneeling position in the middle of your mat, standing on your knees. Inhale as you bring your arms up and look up. Exhale and bring hands to earth. You will be in a quadruped position. Inhale to cow pose—an all-fours position where collar bones draw laterally, shoulders draw back toward the pelvis, and the spine extends. Exhale and round the spine, lifting lower belly in and up and bringing chin to chest. This is cat pose. Inhale back into a kneeling pose. Then, move into half camel: your right palm moves to your right hip and your left arm sweeps into a gentle arc above the body, creating both a twist and a backbend. Return to quadruped with your exhalation and take another round of cow and cat as you inhale and exhale. Inhale again and move into your second side of half camel by returning to a kneeling position. Then, bring your left hand to your left hip, and your right arm sweeps into an arc. Exhale back to quadruped. Take a last round of cow/cat with an inhale and exhale, and then release the hips toward your heels, coming into child’s pose as the arms extend in front of you. Rest the forehead, keeping the chin tucked in. The back of the neck is long. Notice the effect of your flow before repeating or moving on in your sequence. 

• Sipping Breath Pranayama ~ Sitkari

Take an easy position and notice the breath coming in and out of the body for a few moments. Then, gently place the tongue behind the teeth, which may be slightly parted. With a slightly opened mouth, draw the in-breath through the mouth, bringing air over the tongue. There is often a hissing sound. Take the cool tongue into the mouth as you reach the top of the inhalation, closing the lips. Exhale through the nose. This is one cycle. 

Begin the next breath cycle by slightly parting the mouth once more and replacing the dampened tongue behind the teeth. Draw the in-breath over it. You will probably feel the cooler temperature on your tongue. Close the mouth as you bring the cool quality into the body and exhale through the nose once more. Continue for a few more rounds of breath, cultivating calm and quietude. Once finished, let the breath flow freely. Notice the effects of your practice. ❧
Patricia Schmidt, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in pelvic health, accessible yoga and yoga for cancer support. She is a Franklin Method trainer and somatic movement specialist. Reach Patricia at IG @plsyoga. To learn more, visit
Mailing List

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

* indicates required