How to Be as Cool as Moonlight
If you're in Northern California for Labor Day weekend, you know the forecast: Excessive Heat Warning. This may well be on the way for my non-local readers as well. If you know me, you may know how I feel about hot temps: Excessive aversion.
My first tip actually starts with noting the word, and the feeling, of "aversion." In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, aversion, or dvesha, is considered one of the "five afflictions." My sense is that if we focus on an "affliction," in this case aversion, we're setting ourselves up for failure in finding contentment. Contentment even if it's 100 degrees outside? Perhaps. I'll share some cooling practices that sooth me when I find myself thinking, I can't stand this heat!
Yoga's primary pranayama for turning down the heat is called "sitali," the cooling breath," and can be effective in just such moments. Here are the basics:
1. Find a comfortable seat, aligning the roof of your mouth over the base of your
2. Close your eyes, and breath smoothly and calmly for a couple of minutes.
3. Part your lips, and curl your tongue lengthwise like a straw, and inhale
across your parted lips.
4. Exhale through your nostrils.
5. Focus on the cooling sensations in your mouth, throat, and head.
6. Continue for 3-4 minutes.
Can't curl your tongue? I can't! In this case you lift the tip of your tongue to the
back of your upper teeth, still inhaling across parted lips. This version is called
In Yoga Sutra 2:33, Patanjali has sage advise that I call in when I'm disturbed by dwelling on how hot it is. (As well as any time I find myself with less than helpful thoughts.) Below you'll find a few "opposing thoughts" to contemplate when you're hot and bothered.
To arrest afflicting thoughts, cultivate thoughts opposed to them.
(I love the Sanskrit for this, Pratipaksa Bhavanum.)
Meditate on the moon. I love the photo here that a student shared with me, taken as the moon was setting --over Half Moon Bay. The moon has properties that cool, quiet, sooth, and calm the mind. (Yoga relates the mind to the moon, or "chandra.") Perhaps you have your own image, or you might gaze at this one, or just picture it in your mind's eye.
Meditate on a "moon lozenge" as you practice savasana. If you're in a light filled room, cover your eyes. Once you settle into savasana, imagine a lozenge made of moonlight resting on the back of your tongue. Sense this lozenge slowly dissolving as you sense its soothing coolness spread throughout your body. It's also lovely to imagine the moon lozenge while practicing sun salutations.
Moon breathing. This pranayama is called "chandra bedhana," which means to pierce these qualities of the moon. Find your comfortable seat, and begin to inhale through your left nostril, exhale right. You can either do this by raising your right hand, with your thumb opening and blocking your right nostril, your ring and little finger at your left nostril. You can also practice this mentally, I find it just as effective. You might lengthen your exhalations, which is calming. Sometimes I imagine inhaling vapors of moonlight...
These techniques can also be beneficial when feeling"hot headed."
Do you have some techniques that help you? I'd love to hear. Do take the time to call them in, and exhale.
(This course includes even more ways to shift a negative mind and cultivate contentment!)
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