Today the sun goes into the sign of Leo and we enter into the fixed fire of the summer season. During this hottest time of the year there are many things we can consider in terms of our yoga practice and keeping it balanced.
While it is not necessary to completely remove all warming and fire producing postures and breath techniques, we should consider adding poses that cool, calm, and nourish the system. My favorite among these is salamba sarvangasana or shoulder stand.
In "The Light on Yoga" B.K.S Iyengar calls this pose the"Mother of asanas" and "as a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, so this asana strives for harmony and happiness of the human system."
To properly prepare for this pose we should adequately warm up the neck, upper back, shoulders, spine, and work on backbending pose shapes like cobra, locust, camel, and bridge pose where the lower tips of the scapula are working toward the front ribs (depression) and together toward the spine (adduction). We also want to emphasize the importance of grounding the back of the head into the floor or mat and lifting the neck vertebrae away from the floor. Pressing the head of the arm bones into the floor also helps this action. Beginners should use blankets stacked under the shoulders to reduce compression of the spine and advanced students can work on chinlock to stimulate the thyroid.
As the summer heat kicks in taking 3 minutes for shoulder stand in every practice will help regulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands which are responsible for metabolism and body temperature regulation. Inverting will also support heart and brain health and has a cooling and calming effect on the mind. Along with increasing our intake of water and adding in more fruits and vegetables, we can use yoga's most mothering pose, the shoulder stand, to keep the body and mind cool, calm, balanced, and collected.