Seasonal Sanity: Summer

— Alison Shaw

Summer approaching on Martha’s Vineyard is a little like being at the top of the roller coaster: we know full speed is ahead, and even though we can anticipate the massive “free fall,” we still hold our breath with excitement, and also some major anxiety. How on earth do we snap into over-work mode? Run our kids around to various camps in this traffic? Go to all the parties we are invited to? Squeeze in beach time? Entertain visitors and get rest?

How do we possibly stay sane?

Through the yogic lens, we are given many practices to help us find harmony and create a state of inner well-being. With inner peace and joy comes outer peace and joy. In other words, it does not matter how crazy everything is around us, internally we must find a way to feel centered. When we do, we can laugh at our crazy lives, and view the madness as entertainment, without taking it all so seriously. In yogic philosophy, this is called Lila, or “the divine play of our earthly lives,” with each of us an actor in our own theatre playing our roles in this big game of life. This is not a bad thing: in fact, we need this wild life to fulfill our souls’ purpose (called Dharma).

Luckily, the yogis have handed down practices to handle the madness of life with ease and a sense of humor.

Yes, I know what you’re saying right now: “who in the world has time to go to a yoga class?” The great news is you don’t need to. Below are some practices you can do right here and now.

1. Spin around, turn your world upside down, or make things messy on purpose. Do a handstand at the wall to change your perspective, spin around in circles with your eyes focused on your right palm, or dance around like a maniac. Something about creating a sense of chaos on purpose offers us the tools to better stay grounded and centered when life does it to us.

2. Breathe. Take a big breath in, take a bigger breath out. Nothing clears the path like a purposeful breath. Stretch out your exhales, which produce a calming and cooling effect on the nervous system.

3. Laugh more. Have you tried laughter yoga? Here’s how you do it: fake it ‘til you make it. Make yourself laugh by pretending to laugh. The ridiculousness of this exercise promises to ignite a real belly laugh if you give it enough time. Before you know it, you’ll be cracking up, and your spirits will lift right up (not to mention it could clear the way through that long line at the grocery store).

4. Cool things down: the summer season represents everything fiery and hot with higher temperatures, longer days of sunshine, working hard, and playing harder. Balance out the fire by eating less salty, fried, or spicy foods which tend to heat up our digestion. Eat more raw food that comes straight from the earth.

And if you do find time to exercise or practice yoga, do so before sunrise or after sunset. Or change your exercise routine during the day to quieter, calmer practices like seated postures, yin yoga, or walks instead of runs. While it feels great to sweat, the hotter our body temperature rises, the more agitated we make our systems and lives.

Chill out. And most of all, do not take everything so seriously.