Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Rejuvenation

Have you ever been exhausted? I do not mean the after-the-workout exhaustion. I mean the kind that makes it so you wonder how you remain upright each day. We live in a culture that not only expects people to be exhausted, but glorifies it. Some days I feel like it is a race to prove you are more exhausted than the next person. Do you ever feel that way?

I see it around me all the time. People are expected to do everything. We are expected to be on-call 24/7. Did you hear that France recently prohibited checking work email after 6pm? It was not actually true – there was no legislation banning work. Nope, everywhere in the Western world, we are expected to work, work, work. And even being at work is not enough. We have to volunteer, coach our children’s teams, and still post to Pinterest. Basically, we are expected to work until we collapse. And collapse we do.

Dis-ease is running rampant in society. And even the very things that are supposed to be healing, such as yoga, have become a way to get a yoga butt and not to relax and rejuvenate. And then there is the even more interesting phenomenon where we only realize how tired and stressed we are when we give ourselves a break. Have you ever gotten sick your second day of vacation? Do you always get sick your second day of vacation?

Today is the summer solstice. Summer is a time when people tend to break out of their shells and get out into the world. Interestingly, this is less true in Tucson where it is over 100 degrees nearly every day. But the energy of the Earth shifts in summer. Whether it is in June in the Northern Hemisphere or December in the Southern Hemisphere, those around us have a different take on life. Everyone seems to talk about what they are doing over the summer, even those of us who have not had a summer break since we left school.

Summer is, therefore, a chance to rejuvenate. It is when the Earth itself is blossoming, warm, and inviting. It is when we all want to get into water to cool down, but what we do not realize is that water has healing properties all its own. Even the pop culture of summer is one of relaxation and rest – we see people laying on the beach, we talk about summer movies and books (those that do not require much brain power to watch and read), and in the United States, although summer really begins today, the mentality of summer goes from the bar-b-ques of Memorial Day to the bar-b-ques of Labor Day (neither holiday, of course, having anything to do with partying, but we have made them that way).

Even if you do not honor the Solstice as such, how can you honor summer? How can you give yourself time to rest and relax? Here in Tucson, a lot of people complain about summer (with good reason), but the reason is because summer can be unbearable at times. That just means we need to rest and relax even more.

Summer is a strange dichotomy. It is full of light and warmth and yang energy, but that can be unbearable. The summer solstice is the day of the year with the most light. It is the day that reminds us that no matter what is happening in our lives, or in the world, the sun will always rise, and it will shine its strength and power on us. And so, the solstice is the reminder that too much of a good thing can become troublesome. 

So when that light becomes too much, when the yang energy feels like there is no balance of yin, we have to find that balance within ourselves because air conditioning is not the answer. Instead of actually helping us handle the dichotomy of summer, it exhausts us more by confusing our system. It makes us feel cool when we know we should be warm. I am definitely not opposed to air conditioning all the time, but it is not the answer to the summer yang heat.

Instead, summer is the time to read books on the beach just as pop culture makes us believe. It is the time to go on vacation to “get away.” Really, summer is the time when the Earth finally exhausts us so much we have to take notice of the fact and move out into something more bearable. Out own exhaustion from the stressors of our daily lives, coupled with the exhaustion summer provides, creates the perfect storm for forcing us to find a way to rest and rejuvenate.

There are so many ways to do this. For me, I am finding that I simply want to lie still and breathe. I find that when the heat becomes intense, it is important just to breathe with it and allow the body to do what it does best – regulate temperature. We are warm-blooded, after all. Our bodies are designed for this. And when we turn inward in this way, we find ourselves better able to handle the stressors of our lives. We notice when our exhaustion becomes too much. And awareness is the first step. We can notice before we become sick. We can notice just by taking a breath and allowing it to cool us down.

By the Earth pushing us to our limits, we are forced to face the fact that we push ourselves that way as well. Hopefully the summer is a time to learn new tricks and tools so we learn to be a little kinder to ourselves as the Earth moves into a more yin space.

Do you find summer rejuvenating? Do you find summer unbearable? What do you do to rejuvenate?

© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.

The post, Summer Rejuvenation, first appeared on Is Yoga Legal.

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