It's been a hot, hot Summer so far. We are currently in the Fire Element of the Summer season; the sun is bright, big and hot, and the air is dry. This is a season where our energy is expansive, both physically and emotionally. Our innate intuition tells us to connect with others, to gather together, have fun and share the love. We feel at our most sociable and outgoing. We want to talk, to touch. The sense organs of Summer are speech and touch.
In TCM, (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the Heart and Small Intestine are associated with the Summer season. At first glance, you might think there is little connection between our pumping heart and digestive system, however there is a growing body of scientific evidence which links the poor absorption of nutrients with some mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. Our gut is involved in our feelings and in making "gut decisions", and it is thought that our gut bacteria can also influence behaviour, explains Guilia Enders in her book, “Gut, the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ”.
This is where Chinese Medicine gets fascinating. In this system, the small intestine does not simply separate the pure from the impure in a physiological sense, but also psychologically. In the modern world, we face a barrage of stimulation from media and rarely does a moment of boredom pass without reaching for a device for more input. Discernment is necessary - the small intestine not only "has the ability to make choices, but it has the knowledge that choice is necessary” explains John Kirkwood in The Way of the Five Seasons. This process of choosing what to let in and what to screen out by making discriminating choices applies to many areas of life: dietary choices, the friends we choose to spend time with, the person we choose as a partner, how we spend our time, and how we manage our online presence.
We can choose what is good for us and what is not. We can decide to treat ourselves to more of what makes us feel good.
Summer is a great time to have fun, to laugh and to seek joy. We have had an enforced extended period of yin, where we have been inside and reflective for a while, and possibly experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness. Now is the time to try something new. Go somewhere you love to go. Do something you love to do. Maybe even meet new people!
But if you're feeling hot under the collar, you can use the Water Element to cool down - think slow waves of movement and deliciously long yin stretches, opening the hips and groin, such as butterfly pose (seated, in Legs Up The Wall, or lying down - the choice is yours).
Also helpful is Sitali breath, which Yoga-with-Adriene calls Taco Breath, due to the shape of the tongue. Roll your tongue (or if this is not possible, hang your tongue out like a dog!), breathe in through the mouth, seal the lips and exhale through the nose. You can feel the cooler air coming into your body. Nice. Cooling foods include cucumber, mint, watermelon, courgette etc. Try putting a slice or leaf into your water bottle, or drink hot or cold mint tea. And don't forget to drink lots of water.