It has been hot; my yard is a dead hay field, and my beautiful gardens are on life support. In my heart I know that watering lawn is about one of the worst environmentally sustaining things I could do for the planet (plus my well couldn’t handle it) so we don’t do it. At our property we treat our gardens and lawns organically including the spray for mosquitos that allows us to come outside without being swarmed. All this heat got me thinking about “the dog days of summer”. I always assumed the phrase was coined from watching dogs, lying around panting in August bothered by the intense heat and their fur coats. A little reconnaissance (I love that word) this week showed me that that my assumptions were wrong!
I found myself reading some articles in National Geographic and the Farmers Almanac. Apparently, in “ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat!” While we might get irritable, I suspect most of us grumble and make do in the summer heat versus spiral into madness.
The actual derivation comes from the constellations. The timing of the height of summer coincides with the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky (except the sun).
In these ancient times it was thought that the rising of the star Sirius in the mid to late summer actually “contributed to the extreme weather of the season. In other words, the “combined heat” of super-bright Sirius and our Sun was thought to be the cause of summer’s sweltering temperatures.”
For more on these ancient stories and the history of Dog Days, see the link below to National Geographic’s article.
In any event, as we practice in the heat, we can do our best to remain cheerful, drink lots of (mint) water and remember, January is around the corner!
Our Practice – Halasana - Plow Pose
As I was thinking about a pose that would symbolize the summer heat and drought as well as the promise of rain and fertile fields; I thought of the plow (halasana) pose. Because crops depend on water, this year’s drought is wreaking havoc on many farms and gardens. I am hoping by practicing plow pose we will honor farmers and inspire the rains to come. Just not on my planned beach days!
You may find it interesting to know that the plough is mentioned in several classic Indian tales. In the epic, Ramayana, King Janaka and his wife Sunayana wanted very much to start a family. They tried to appease the Gods by doing difficult penance, but it did not help. The king became very depressed, and his kingdom began to fall apart. Then a drought came, and all his crops dried up. He had guilt for ignoring his duties and decided to plow the barren fields of the Kingdom by himself until the rain was send by the Gods to restore the land. As he plowed the fields, he found a baby. The king and queen adopted her and named her Janaki who later became known as Sita. This story symbolizes of the power of the plow as a tool for revealing hidden treasures.
Start lying on the mat arms at your sides, palms down. Think about spreading your shoulders with a small inward rotation of the arms allowing the muscles under the shoulders to release the thoracic spine.
Inhale and lift legs to vertical with spine on the floor. Then slowing draw your belly button in toward spine, engage your core and lift your legs over your head lifting hips off the floor coming into shoulder stand. Your torso is perpendicular to the floor.
Keep legs straight lower your toes over your head towards the floor supporting your back with your hands.
If your feet reach the floor and you feel comfortable, extend arms along floor and interlace your fingers. Press your arms firmly into the floor.
(A variation that I like that I do not see in yoga articles is to take my peace fingers around my big toes and using that to stretch and lengthen my legs and back. It makes my back feel great.)
To release, support back with your hands and slowly roll down one vertebra at a time, bending knees if it feels better.
For more on plow pose, the attached article from Yoga Journal has great information including the benefits of the pose. There are lots of options for modifications including the one we worked on in class on Sunday.
Meditation – Summer
We know, rationally, that resting and restoring both our body and mind is extremely important. Sometimes, however, we can feel as if taking time out just to “be” is unproductive or a waste of time. As the summer wanes, I suggest taking that time to revel in the heat, enjoy the sunshine and take that time out you deserve. January, and the time to clean out the attic, will be here soon enough!
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” – John Lubbock
Nurturing with Food – Lemon Nana
Given the extreme heat, I cannot resist posting again about my favorite treat from my India trip, the lemon nana. Do not let the summer go by without making this. It is like someone started making Del’s in India and (actually) improved on it! Sorry, I know that is almost sacrilegious. Refreshing and super easy to make. Full disclosure, sipped on the beach (with or without a little enhancement) is a beautiful way to watch the sunset.
See you on the mat