"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you"
"The supernatural forces of summer create heat in the Heavens and fire on Earth; they create the heart and the pulse within the body...the red color, the tongue, and the ability to express laughter...they create the bitter flavor, and the emotions of happiness and joy."
-The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
If you've seen the yin-yang symbol in Chinese medicine, I'm sure you've noticed that within the black side is a small white dot, and the white side is a small black dot. This popular symbol has very deep meaning and also holds the key to BALANCE which is the name of the game in Chinese medicine. The white side of the circle represents YIN which is cooling & introspective and the black represents YANG which is warming & extroverted. Within each, the other exists, as shown with the dot of the opposite color on each side. Our challenge is to find the balance between both.
Summer is obviously very yang, but within the light, hot, long days, we do need to seek some of the yin within the yang. The following are 5 great ways to fully embrace summer while maintaining your balance point!
1. PRACTICE A 'YIN' ACTIVITY IN A 'YANG' SETTING
Go practice yoga outside on the porch, meditate on the beach or walk though the city while breathing mindfully! Bring the introspective balance to your summer during vacations so that you don't need to recover from travel and a new environment when you come home. By keeping some of your practices inward, you will not deplete your energy by always looking outwards.
2. EAT SOME SPICY FOODS TO 'ATTUNE' TO THE SEASON AND SOME COOLING FOODS TO BALANCE IT
Hot spices like chili peppers, cayenne and ginger can connect us to our inner fire!
Cooling foods like cucumber, salad greens, watermelon, sprouts, lemon and limes are great to add for putting out the fire!
3. CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO EAT AS MANY LOCAL, SEASONAL FRUITS & VEGGIES AS YOU CAN
There is really no better way to attune to summer, than to support local farms and eat the food that has grown close to home. It tastes better, it's better for you and they are the foods that your body is supposed to eat. You could also start a garden and grown some of your own food. This truly attunes you to the climate, lets you get your hands in the dirt and just feels so good. Also from my experience, this is a great way to get children to eat better. My kids truly value and love the food that we grew ourselves! (If you want a cucumber, let me know!!)
4. PRACTICE THE INNER SMILE MEDITATION
In Chinese Medicine, the summer is ruled by the heart and the emotion of joy. So the inner smile meditation is a perfect practice for opening the heart and cultivating joy during this season. Basically, while meditating, allow a subtle smile to play on the lips and a smile to be on the sides of the eyes. Then let your self relax while breathing into your heart space. If you are a visual person, you can picture people and scenes that bring you joy. If you are more sensory, like I am, just mediate on the feeling of love entering the heart.
Now here is the cool part. There is science to support why this practice is so powerful. When you smile, your face engages the zygomatic bones towards the orbital bones. This physical act actually stimulates the release of both dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine increases happiness, while serotonin reduces stress. So in the case of smiling, you actually can 'fake it till you make it'!
5. GET A LITTLE BIT OF SUNBLOCK FREE TIME (PREFERABLY IN THE MORNING)
Now is the time to re-boost our vitamin D and if the sunblock is always on, your skin may not be absorbing it. So try for 15-30 minutes of soaking in some rays sunblock-free. Vitamin D is so important for your health. It is critical for calcium absorption, boosts the immune system and boosts the mood! The sun is our best source, but try not to get this time during the hot part of the day (for obvious reasons!)
Hope this provides you will some summer inspiration! Stop into the clinic when you can and let us know if you've tried any of the above!
Melissa is a self described 'nerd' about all topics relating to health and wellness. She is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and co-owner of Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing.