photo: flickr/Phil Plait
Summer is fire, one of the five elements.
Fire is the fiercest yang energy; excitement, assertiveness and exuberance brightening life with light and clarity. It’s associated with the heart and small intestines, clarity and compassion and the “seat” of the mind.
Fire’s highest expression is love, enthusiasm and conscious awareness.
But as the summer wanes into the end of August, we feel a tiredness, an overdoneness of summer’s fire, as we burn into the energy of earth. This is now the season of late summer and yang fire has to make its way toward the yin seasons of cooling weather, in the energy of earth and late summer.
Late summer is earth, balancing in still tranquility and represented by the stomach and spleen, as the organs that allow us to be nourished. Earth energy helps thoughts and feelings get processed and digested as emotional and mental food.
Earth is empathy and compassion but can turn into worry and anxiety, just as in nature, where a barren earth cannot bear abundant harvest. The idea of “decrease” is the energy of late summer, yet, also the time of extraordinary abundance.
This is a time that we can reap the abundance to strengthen the body, cultivate connections toward loving relationships, challenge the intellect and develop our spiritual practice.
Earth is represented by the colour yellow, a balance of yin and yang, the organs of stomach & spleen, emotions of worry and empathy—and the tastes and climates of sweet and damp.
Supporting Mother Earth
Late summer is the transition from yang, masculine energy, to yin, feminine energy and it holds the space between the expanding growth of spring, active offerings of summer and the inward, cooler, mysterious fall and winter seasons. And, the ultimate feminine image of mother has always been connected with earth.
In the way that both nourish and feed us emotionally and physically, earth that feeds mind body and soul is the same as mother who supports, nourishes and cares freely and abundantly.
The patience and compassion that comes with mothering takes time, and our earth energy may also need time to develop self nourishment and inner compassion. The more we can support our inner earth, the more we also support the inner mother, who nourishes and feeds our creativity, compassion and connection.
The stomach and spleen act in this same way, to nourish our bodies and have the energy to help us process thoughts and feelings and begin to physically and emotionally “digest” our mental food.
Taking care of these organs now helps us emotionally as much as physically. If we feel we are taking care of everyone and no one is taking care of us or are constantly worrying, the stomach and digestive system rebels.
Worry and anxiety can lead us to crave sweet foods and the taste of sweet must be monitored and not overdone to balance stomach and spleen.
Too much sweet flavour will irritate the stomach and spleen, creating exhaustion and anxiety. Choosing natural sweet flavours in the fruits offered from earth to help the body receive nourishment and settle into a calm place.
In late summer, I can feel overwhelemed with the big energy of the outgoing fiery summer season. The heat can keep me up during the night and by this time of year, I can feel depleted and lethargic. This is a great time to look inward, to calm and cool my own heart fire, and move into the nourishment of mother earth.
My yoga practice slows down and inversions and backbends feel yummier when they are supported.
In the intensity of the heat of summer, I’m up with lots of energy and handstands but that fiery yang energy gets a bit worn by now and feeling a deep supported backbend on bright dupioni silk bolster feels divine!
Sama Vritti Pranayama
If you do not have a pranayama practice, this might be a good time to add in a simple practice like Sama Vritti (equal disturbance). I find it is always a quick energy booster for me, especially while I’m on the road and as I teach trainings. They can wipe out my energy and a big, wide, deep breath allows me to recover.
I prefer to begin laying down on my back with feet flat and knees up. Support knees with a bolster or blanket roll and if you are sitting up, use a bolster or blankets to keep hips at a level higher than knees. This helps reduce strain on lower back and supports freedom of the breath.
You might even want to start by placing hands lightly on the side ribs and taking a few long, slow, soft, deep quiet breaths.
- Exhale completely.
- Begin to bring the inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose.
- Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything.
- Begin a slow count to four as you inhale.
- Then count to four as you exhale.
- Take three normal breaths.
- Repeat this cycle.
- The pranayama is to match the length of your inhale and exhale.
Continue this pattern for as long as comfortable, and change the length of breath to a shorter or longer count, as needed; just make sure the inhale and exhale stay the same length.
Try to bring your breath to match a longer count as you practice more and notice the quality, movement and sound of your own breath inside the chest. It may even begin to feel as though the breath can glide towards the back lungs to support the heart’s divine work.
A lighter diet feels better, with cool yin foods.
We can balance our diet and activity patterns by looking to nature and learn how to balance ourselves with environmental and seasonal changes.
As the earth provides nourishment to our bodies, it can also feed mind and spirit. Harmonize earth with naturally sweet tastes, golden yellow and round foods. Orange and yellow are connected with late summer, following the fiery reds of summer and preceding the white/off-whites of autumn foods.
Chinese classify food with energetic qualities of temperature, taste and ability to strengthen body, so citrus and snowpeas are appetising to me now for their cooling yin qualities, as well as apricots and summer squash.
Food that helps balance the center of the body are corn, millet, carrots, cabbage, chick peas, soybeans, squashes, potatoes, green beans, yams, tofu, sweet potatoes, rice, amaranth, peas, chestnuts, apricots and cantaloupe.
Read more health tips here.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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