I absolutely love summer. I was born in late June and was always blessed with birthday parties outside of the school year consisting of swimming and running around barefoot. I stayed up until or past sunset with the fireflies of New England and loved the feeling of dewy grass under my toes on hot and humid mornings.
My love for warmth hasn't changed. Even in the middle of July, you'll probably find me in a down jacket in the mornings and evenings, just to stay cozy.
July always arrives too quickly. And I know that within a blink of an eye, August will too. The following thoughts came to me recently and I thought to share them with you. They are 7 ways to make the most out of your summer with the incorporation of elements of yoga. I figure, the more I, we, you, can slow down, be present, and life for this moment, the more likely we'll be able to fully experience and embrace S U M M E R.
1. Building off of the expression, stop to smell the roses. I invite you to look for opportunities to stop what you are doing, open the senses to nature and create space to be present.
2. When the heat gets to you, try cooling breaths such as sheetali pranayama.
3. Watch as many sunrises and/or sunsets as you can. Watch the colors, shapes, movement. Take what you see, close your eyes, and come back to the experience as a meditation. Summer sunrises and sunsets are just the best.
4. Meditate in nature. Listen to the birds, the bees, the rushing river water. You might be surprised at how quickly you settle into a meditative state.
5. Slow down your practice. Summer days often inspire lots of movement. Going, traveling, doing. Moving slowly keeps the body cool while still getting significant muscle engagement.
6. Allow a little extra time in savasana to help your body cool down from your practice. This is especially important on hot days. Maybe place a cool, wet towel on your forehead too.
7. Ditch the mat and practice yoga outdoors in the grass. Notice the temperature of the air, wind on your skin and blowing through your hair. What does it feel like to put your hands and feet on the earth? Outdoor yoga helps us feel connected to the earth and grounded.
I hope you enjoy the above practices.
Last year around the New Year I went on a journey of gratitude. At the time that I started this project, I was leaning away from gratitude and my attitude was starting to get, well crummy. I had dedicated a month to daily gratitude before, and noticed a big shift in the way that I viewed my days and decided to commit to the practice for an extended period of time.
My intention was to journal gratitude for a year. Each day I would identify 3 things that I was grateful for.
Some days were more challenging than others to come up with my list of three, and sometimes I'd miss a day or two in a row, but I'd always come back to my journal to review the last few days and get my 3 things onto paper. Writing down 3 things that I was grateful for allowed me to see the beauty, positives, and things in my life that I often times take for granted (food on the table, a safe home, a bed, a healthy family, etc.)
I stuck with my daily journal for eight months, until August 2022, when one day I woke up and decided that I was ready to stop my gratitude journal. My outlook had shifted and in many ways, keeping track of gratitude started to feel contrived. So I closed my journal and went about my days.
And life went on.
Some days I think about going back to my routine but the process was no longer authentic to me.
And then, recently I found my re-entry into the world of authentic gratitude.
Last year, around the time I started my gratitude practice, I bought the book below. It had been missing for some time (kids) and I forgot that I had it, until I found it hiding among some children's books.
I started to leaf through the pages and found this reminder.
A stop light. Ah yes, finding gratitude in less than obvious places.
The next day I was put to the test.
I was driving my car down a snowy side street after dropping my son off at school. My husband called, so I was talking to him on speaker phone. Due to the snow I was driving slower than normal. In the middle of the road was a man on a bicycle. I couldn't pass him and I slowed my vehicle down to a crawl. "What is he doing in the middle of the road?" I complained to my husband on the phone. He laughed and told me to "slow down, Sally".
And then it dawned on me, all the reasons to be thankful for this man:
-He was riding his bike, moving his body, and breathing in fresh mountain air
-He was minimizing gas consumption and promoting sustainability
-I couldn't pass him, and as a result I drove slower, safer, and more mindfully
-My husband and I had a good morning laugh, a moment of connection
-He made me ponder, what is the rush, anyhow?
Opportunities for gratitude are everywhere. Crossing the road safely, a cup of tea, seeing an old friend unexpectedly, a moment at a stop light to take in the sunlight, or to make eye contact with my kids in the backseat of the car. Finding gratitude doesn't have to be a chore. It doesn't have to be contrived. Gratitude is an invitation to slow down and to see the brightness of each day, the moments that seem trivial, but make a difference in how we and interact with our environment and the community around us.
Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours.
Do you have a story to share? A time that you found gratitude in an unexpected place? I'd love to hear about your practice of gratitude!
Share in the comments below.
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