Why Yoga in Summer?

Why Yoga in Summer?

What are you doing to stay fit and strong this summer? Do you feel obliged to pound the streets, and get uncomfortably hot? Or are you happy to throw in the towel when it comes to working your body over the summer time? We often feel we should do something, but the heat makes us really not enjoy any sort of cardio!

In this short blog I offer you an alternative. I share my story about re-discovering yoga in the hot summer of 2018, and why I think we can all have a break from strenuous cardio sometimes. I also cover why yoga is a fantastic holiday exercise choice, and the types of yoga you could choose in the summer to stay limber and strong, while not zapping your energy for the day.

I hope you enjoy the read!

My story

The year that I got into yoga – and I mean into yoga – was 2018 in the hot summer. Most days after work I would follow a simple App on my iPad and do 30 minutes or an hour of yoga in the evening sunshine.

I was also a keen runner at that time and was frustrated that I couldn’t run as much due to the heat wave. (I’m no fan of getting an overheated head). So I thought I would lose fitness and strength and probably gain weight. However, at the end of summer, having done very little cardio and a lot of yoga, I looked and felt fitter than ever! (Not that looks are my main drive to practise yoga).

This shifted something in my perspective on fitness. I realised that following what feels right for my body and for the current environmental circumstances, might be the way forward – rather than soldiering on and detesting an over-heated run. While I definitely still loved running, I realised I could survive a little while without it, do other less heating movement, and still stay fit and healthy.

Too hot for cardio!

So, as you’ve gathered from my personal story, I think that sometimes it’s just too hot for cardio. And don’t get me wrong – I still love running! If you’re a morning person, then a 6am run in the summer sounds fantastic. However, I often see men and women running close to mid-day on hot summer days, and I can’t help but feel a little sorry for them puffing away, pained expressions on their very red faces. The NHS advice on preventing heat-stroke even says to avoid extreme exercise in the sun between 11am and 3pm (NHS, 2021).

I think I used to verge on the edge of heat-stroke quite often as an eager teenager. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the middle east, and in my teenage years I loved joining the weekly fun run. This was usually around 5.30pm and became later the closer we came to summer due to the building heat.

Being a very keen teenage exerciser I would attend the run no matter what. No matter my energy level, no matter the heat. Until about May each year when the heat (now around 35 degrees C at 5:30pm) would leave me with a red face and a throbbing headache for the rest of the evening. “OK”,  I thought, “now is the time to give fun runs a break, until Autumn”. Thankfully I did that!

Have you been through a similar experience? If so, you might have a touch of exercise dependence, just I did! Do you feel guilty if you don’t get your cardio in, even when it might negatively impact your health? (e.g. you’re already exhausted or it’s midday on a hot summer day?)

Keep reading, and I’ll explain why yoga can offer a fantastic alternative to keep you fit in hot weather.

The benefits of yoga

Yoga is a funny form of exercise. It will not make your heart beat race (at least not consistently for a while), and it generally doesn’t burn many calories.

However! It will increase muscles tone and strength (especially when doing a strong form such as Ashtanga yoga), while keeping the heart rate relatively low and therefore the body in a calm state.

Some yoga practitioners argue that the real exercise of yoga is training the body’s nervous system to stay calm while putting the body in odd positions that might otherwise bring up stress or exertion. The way yoga achieves this is by putting emphasis on constant and slow breathing during the movements – even if those movements are uncomfortable.

I’ve absolutely seen this myself. I love measuring my heart rate with my watch, and seeing what it does during exercise. And my yoga heart rate range is between 55 – 120 bpm. That’s very low for exercise, but I have still gained more strength from it than I ever gained from running.

While yoga doesn’t actively burn many calories, it most likely affects the body in a more subtle way. By reducing the stress perceived throughout the body, it lowers the stress hormone cortisol (Riley & Park, 2015). Lower cortisol reduces inflammation throughout the body and basically signals to the body that it is in a safe place. This can have positive knock-on effects on better appetite regulation (not overeating out of stress), mental health, heart health and even female hormonal health (i.e. regulating periods).

Yoga gives all of these benefits to the body, while also being able to seriously strengthen the core, shoulders, back and legs. (Depending on the type of yoga you chose to do).

What better to do for a summer bod?

Take yoga on holiday!

Another fantastic thing about yoga is how easy it is to take with you on holiday. When I was in my compulsive running days, I’d feel frustrated when I would miss out on my runs on holiday. It was either too hot, or I didn’t know the area well enough to know where I could safely run. If I did run, it would sometimes sap the energy out of me, so I had less to put into fun holiday activities!

After discovering yoga, keeping supple and strong during holidays was so much simpler (rolling up a yoga mat in my suitcase was probably the most difficult thing about it). I’ve practised yoga in mornings during ski-trips, beach trips, family visits and a trip of a lifetime to the Bornean jungle. During all these occasions the yoga practice enhanced my energy for the day, and helped me get into a mindset of relaxation and enjoyment so I could make the most of my holiday.

How do you feel on holiday? Do you completely forget about exercise? Or do you pound the streets or beaches with cardio?

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is adding in a positive way to your holiday mindset, health and experiences!

Which yoga poses to do in summer?

The type of yoga you should do in summer all depends on when you’re doing it, and for what purpose.

To fire up the engines!

If you’re up for a morning ‘work-out’ that will energise you but not exhaust you, then an Ashtanga-style vinyasa flow would be fantastic. This is the kind of yoga practice I really love. It works every muscle in the body, lets the body move, makes your breath flow, and gets you pumped for the day ahead.

To cool down

If you’ve just had a hot day out and about or come back from the beach and you feel hot, sweaty and bothered, then a restorative Yin-style yoga session, done inside, will help your body cool down and re-energise you for an enjoyable evening.

After a flight or long drive

Travelling is essentially a stressful activity for your body (even if you don’t consciously get stressed). It is common for hips to become tight, lower-backs to ache, and energy levels to be depleted after travelling.

I would recommend that you first take a rest, and then find a yoga session that works on opening the hips. This will help to release the tension in your hips and lower back, get your body fully grounded in your holiday destination, and ready to experience a fantastic time there!

How can I start yoga in summer?

You don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing to start yoga by yourself. This is the thought that holds most people back! It’s very unlikely that you’ll hurt yourself, as long as you listen to your body’s signals (and perhaps stay away from head-stand!)

To get started you can find any available on-demand class online. This is how I started my love-affair with yoga. There’s a huge variety out there – so try not to get overwhelmed and give up before you’ve completed a few classes.

To get you started, why not have a look at my On-Demand Yoga for Busy People? You’ll find a range of beginners, strengthening and relaxing classes there between 10 minutes and 1 hour long.

You can try them absolutely for free – and ask me for class recommendations directly!

Just go along to: www.bendylifeyoga.com, and click ‘get started’.

Summary

So… Have I convinced you yet? Even if you are a beginner or have taken a long break from yoga, you will benefit from adding some yoga into your summer routine, and perhaps reducing the hot, sweaty cardio (at least while it is very hot outside!)

It is my exercise of choice in hot weather and on holidays, and has helped me break out of my old mindset that I would become unfit and gain weight instantly if I reduced my cardio. To the contrary, yoga has made me feel stronger and more toned! Which may be what you’re going for in the summer.

There is no one-size-fits all yoga pose for summer. Instead, choose a yoga class to suit your aims on that day. Is it to get fired up in the morning ready for a fun day on holiday? Or is it to cool down, after a long hot day? Maybe you’re into it to create some serious abs? It’s entirely up to you.

I hope you give it a go!

Thank you for reading this blog. Please add a comment! I’d love to hear your experiences with exercise (and possibly yoga) during a hot summer and on holiday.

Love,

Jolanthe x

References

Kristen E. Riley & Crystal L. Park (2015) How does yoga reduce stress? A systematic review of mechanisms of change and guide to future inquiry, Health Psychology Review, 9:3, 379-396, DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2014.981778

NHS, 2021. Heat Exhaustion and Stroke. Available on: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/ (Accessed 21 July 2021)

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