Last weekend, Memorial Day marked the unofficial beginning of summer here in the (unofficial and self-proclaimed) most important city in the world. And this week it’s raining and sixty degrees. Ah ,Boston, such arrogance, such delusion… However, summer is on it’s way, and summer is always a good time for me to shift to enjoy the season. I don’t worry about my beach body, or getting that base tan, but I do try to make some shifts so my body and being are ready for a great summer. My (mostly) yogic tips for a happier, healthier summer:
1. Eat local, as local as you can. This is the time of year when it’s easiest to go from “farm to fork”, especially with the proliferation of farmers’ markets and farmshares. Or better yet, start a garden. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a meal that you were some part from the get-go.
From a yogic point of view, eating local is smart on several levels. The food is at its freshest and most nutritious. Your eating in a way that’s in tune with where you live, not buying food from some distant climate. (We’re actually seeing this in growing this year- blights affecting tomato plants that were started in southern nurseries rather than here) And you’re supporting local farmers. Win, win, win.
2. Open up your practice: while we don’t hibernate like bears or horde our nuts like squirrels, our bodies respond to the changing seasons, and this is the time when we really open up, as if we were biologically programmed to sunbathe. That makes it a great time to commit to energizing your practice. For me, that means more backbending and hip work- balancing the hips and legs by opening the often tight piriformis and quads, and toning the glutes. (I use the term hip-opening less and less; it’s too vague.) But if you have that pose you’ve been dying to figure out, or just to get on your mat more and longer, now is a good time to take big steps in that direction. (videos to come, in the mean time, follow Yoga Tune Up on Youtube for great quick hits).
As luck would have it, I’m running a special on private yoga sessions. What better way to juice up your practice?
3. Mute the thong song: Flip-flops, thong sandals, whatever you want to call them- I’ve got a secret for you. They’re messing with your body. To hold a flip-flop in place, you have to tense your plantar fascia, which causes a pulling all the way up the back line of your legs, and can even cause back pain. (If you want the details, here is a video from CrossFit guru Kelly Starret. Warning, it’s very bro-nerdy, but spot on anatomically)
Here’s more on how to make your feet and calves (and by proxy your hips and back) happier
4. Walk. Walk slower. Use your arms: The more exploration I do in the functional and primal movement world, the more I realize how much our current ways of using our bodies, specifically sitting and staring at screens more than we ever had, is negatively impacting our overall health. Even a lot of yoga (or pilates, or TRX, or other workout of choice) is not enough by itself to counteract all of that time in what one professional calls “the artificial womb”.
The good news is that we all have an easy, cheap antidote- two feet. Walking resets the body and the brain. There’s a reason writers and thinkers of another generation celebrated the “constitutional”. Plus, during the summer, especially here in a city, there are gardens and parks and waterfronts and oodles and oodles of fascinating people watching.
(For those who want to geek out on why walking changes the brain, my Yoga Tune-Up colleague Brooke Thomas just hosted a podcast about how movement even before we walked shapes us to the present that I recommend)
5. Don’t wait, don’t project, enjoy. Yesterday I saw the first local strawberries on sale at the grocery, and I got really excited. And Friday at the farmers’ market I will buy some and eat them fast. Because local strawberries are around for a month tops here in New England- eat ‘em or wait until next year.
One of the perils of living in the northeast is that summer feels short. It doesn’t wait for the close of the second quarter, or for you to change how you look or where you live. One of the reasons mindfulness practices emphasize being in the moment is because this moment is the only one guaranteed to us. As Rumi says: “This is now. Now is. Now is all there is. Don’t wait ’til then. Light the spark.”