Making the Best of Summer Vacation  
by: Vasanthi Bhat (vasanthi@vasanthayoga.com)

Finally, sweet summer vacation has arrived. There are beaches to visit, dinner parties to attend, road trips to take, places to travel - so much to do, such little time.

It seems each day the sweltering heat grows increasingly warmer. By the end of the day, you must feel drained from the endless activity and hot sunshine of the bright summer. But, it doesn´t have to be this way. You can always be full of life and energy, ready to take on the day´s adventures through the simple practice of yoga.

Contrary to popular belief yoga does not have to be practiced for hours to be beneficial. You can recharge and rejuvenate by doing a few easy and quick postures and breathing techniques.

For example, when you feel really hot during the summer, you can practice:

Cooling the Breath:

Cooling the breath breathing technique (a.k.a. pranayama) can be used to cool your entire body. You must open your mouth slightly, curl your tongue up on both sides to form a hollow tube, breathe in slowly through the tube, close your mouth and swallow the breath for a comfortable duration of time, and then breathe out slowly through the nose.

Benefits: Easy breathing technique to be practiced anytime (ie.driving,hiking, even after meals, etc.) to cool the body. This is also an excellent cooling mechanism for women who experience hot flashes.

Before and after (but especially before) you are about to take on a vigorous activity it is important to warm up and cool down. The following exercises will help:

Toe stretch:

Stand on your toes. Raise both arms. Interlocking your fingers, stretch up as much as possible. Hold this position while breathing deeply. While breathing out, bring your arms and feet back down to the normal standing position.

One leg balance stretch:

Stand straight. Balancing on one leg, lift and stretch the other leg backward while extending your arms in front of you to form a T-shaped pose. Breathing naturally, hold the position. Repeat the same movements on the opposite leg.

Benefits: Easy stretch to relax the ankles, feet, calf muscles, knees, and hips. Prevents sprain and injuries.

Double Angle Stretch:

Stand straight with your feet a few inches apart with your hands clasped behind your back. Breathing in, bend backwards. Pause. Then, breathing out, bend forward while keeping your arms straight.

Breathe normally as you hold the posture. Breathing in, come up, release your hands and relax.

Benefits: A great posture to relieve back pain, relax the hamstrings, chest, and arms, and relax the mind through circulation to brain nerves.

End of the day is a wonderful time to relax and unwind before going to bed. Start your relaxation with Pose of the moon (also known as Child pose) posture (sit on heals, breathe out, bend forward, resting your head on the floor while stretching your arms in front of you, remain in position for one-two minutes while breathing slowly). As you come out of pose of the move, lie down on your stomach and ease into the cobra (breathing in, raise your upper body, but make sure not to raise your trunk so much that your back hurts). Lowering your trunk as you breathe out, assume the mountain pose (your body must form an up-side-down V. Be sure not to bend your knees. Also, do not use force to rest your heels). Coming out of the mountain pose while breathing normally, lie on your back on the floor to relax. Breathe deeply while paying attention to and being aware of your body. Through every exhalation try to release any tension, exhaling longer each time. Through every inhalation, absorb oxygen and positive energy (prana) into the body to feel better while remembering how you spent your day.

All these exercises and relaxation techniques only take a few minutes, but the benefits last, making you feel more and more wonderful through each moment. So, make the most of your summer and enjoy every moment to its fullest.