August, which is our hottest month of the year, brings the fire of the sun to our everyday lives. No matter how hard we try, we can’t help but notice the heat of the sun with whatever we do. As a representation of fire and heat in Hindu mythology, there is the tale of Hanuman. Hanuman is the monkey god who sets Sri Lanka on fire. After Lord Ravana orders Hanuman’s tail to be set on fire, because of the monkey god’s devotion to Lord Rama and Sita, he jumps from building to building burning all of Sri Lanka. If we look at fire and heat as a beneficial method of burning out the old and bringing in the new, using the tale of Hanuman as an example, August can be like that as well. We get so hot and full of fire with the relentless sun. Then when September comes we are ready to pick up the pieces and cool down into the glorious crisp air of fall. Meanwhile, yoga has breathing practices, cooling poses, and methodology, that can help us to cool off in the heat of August.
The breath practice that can help us during this hot month is called “sitali” in sanskrit. Sitali breath comes from the ancient sages contemplating nature. What they noticed is the curve of a bird’s lower beak, the uncurling of a green leaf, and the hissing cobras. From these observations they developed sitali. The first step in sitali is to curl your tongue lengthwise, sit in a comfortable position, and stick your curled tongue out of your mouth about ¾ of an inch. Inhale your breath through the strawlike structure of your tongue. Close your mouth and exhale through your nose. In this pranayama practice the in breath is moistened as it passes through the beak like tongue. You are basically drinking water saturated air.
The ultimate cooling yoga pose is savasana. Take 10 minutes when you are feeling the fire of August to lay down and turn up your palms by your side. Relax your jaw. Add some soft music and a lavendar infused washcloth and you will cool off in no time. Poses that turn us inward such as baddha konasana and fetal pose are also excellent choices. The cooling effect of facing our inner most thoughts and fears can take our attention away from the heat outside.
Finally, the complete surrender to the heat is a method we can use in order to attune to the fire of August. Letting go of our ideas of comfort and heat and what our bodies can handle. Breathing in the heat and transforming it into a beneficial energy that we can use to benefit us in our lives. Just as Hanuman, like a phoenix, burned down Sri Lanka and from those ashes comes something new and wonderful. We can use the heat of August through our breathing practice, cooling poses, and methodology to cleanse and renew.