Top Health Tips

How to keep your cool on a summer holiday

Although we look forward to our summer holidays all year, it’s surprising how stressful having fun and relaxing can be!

Driving, travelling, hold ups and airport security take a heavy toll. It’s easy to lose your cool and break the whole illusion. Getting cross or running out of patience with our loved ones can ruin the holiday before it even begins.

In Ayurveda this can be a symptom of a pitta imbalance – due to the heat, travelling or just because you are hungry.

You can try biting your lip or counting to 10 but even better are these simple yoga techniques and breathing exercises. When planning your break they are as important as the mosquito spray, plug adapters and proper tea bags. It’s also a type of holiday insurance that’s free!

Print out this newsletter now and put it with your snacks, passports and travel documents.

The following can be practised discreetly in an airport queue or departure lounge…

If you can master the Sitali Breath, the Mountain posture and a Deep Relaxation you will be well prepared for any stress that holiday traffic, airport officials or hotel builders can throw at you.

In the times when you are waiting in airports or train stations, remember this is part of the holiday too. Instead of wasting time and getting frustrated you can practice the mountain posture. If you are standing anyway, why not do it with awareness? This posture makes you feel strong, centred and in control, even when you are in the middle of chaos. It’s a great ‘game’ for the kids too – see who can stay still and quiet for the longest!

Standing postures are actually very powerful and the perfect antidote to our modern life. Where we are constantly moving from one place to another. Even when we stop, our mind is restless while engaged with electronic devices. Being still is a good way to balance vata, which loves to move, and helps to keep pitta cool.

The Mountain Posture

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and gently soften the knees. Pull your hips and chest forward and upward slightly to straighten your spine. Then tuck in your chin a little bit to lengthen your neck, and allow your shoulders arms and hands to be totally relaxed and loose.

Already in this posture, you should start feeling an alignment through your back. Then imagine a cord pulling you up from the crown of your head. Like a puppet drawn upwards towards the sky. You should actually feel a lightness yet grounded feeling in your body and mind.

Focussed Breathing

This is the most important bit, so close your eyes and totally concentrate. As you breathe in, feel that your spine is also stretching and expanding. Then as you breathe out feel it relaxing and repeat a few times. This is called spinal breathing. On the outside you are still but on the inside everything is moving and energising you.

It’s so good that you will not even mind if you lose your place in the queue. Be careful not to miss your plane though!

If you have time try the advanced version below.

Advanced Breathing Technique

It may sound funny to say, “breathe in through your feet,” as we don’t have nostrils there. If we did it would be very uncomfortable and quite smelly! But with the breath comes prana (energy) or ‘chi’ as it is called in oriental medicine. It is part of the sensation of breathing but it can also be drawn in through different parts of the body.

Now as you stand in the mountain posture imagine breathing in from your feet, moving up the legs and back into the chest. Then as you exhale imagine the breath moving up the back and neck and out through your crown. As you inhale reverse the process. Breathe in through the crown and flow down the spine into the chest. Then breathing out down the back and legs into the earth again. Repeat the cycle for a few minutes and quite quickly you will feel very still and powerful like a real mountain.

Our Still Axis

This spinal breathing not only energises your spine and passes the time. It also makes you aware of your axis or still point. Movement is relative, like we see the sun moving through the sky even though it is the earth that is spinning. Or in a station a train next to us moves but we think we are moving.

As you energise your spine you become aware that this is your centre of gravity. You can feel still and centred even when you’re travelling or people are moving around you.

Sitali Breathing to Reduce Pitta

Sitali Breath is the fastest way to reduce Pitta fast! It is called the cooling breath as you breathe in over your curled tongue. It’s like having your own personal AC unit for free.

If you are about to get irritated with an airport official or family member, just pause for a minute and practice this technique. The other person can practise it too while they are waiting.

Within seconds your pitta will go down and you will be able to rephrase your next statement so it is more diplomatic. It is so powerful it can even make you immune to comments from your partner’s side of the family.

How To Practice Sitali Breath

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your head, neck, and spine in alignment.
  • Close your eyes, then breathe in right down to your abdomen for a few minutes.
  • Then curl your tongue lengthwise and poke it out of your mouth (about 2 cm).
  • Now inhale across your tongue and into your mouth. It feels a bit like drinking through a straw!
  • Focus your attention on the cooling flow of air as you breathe in.
  • Then withdraw your tongue close your mouth, and exhale through your nostrils.
  • Continue doing the sitali breath for 2 to 3 minutes. Then close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
  • Open your eyes and smile!

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