Summer is in the air, this week found me flipping through old photos of prior summers, thinking of summer foods I love and special things we do only in the summertime. For me, summer seems to slow me down a bit (really, I am not kidding!) and I look forward to sitting on my patio especially, watching for hummingbirds. I told my Mom once that hummingbirds were not coming to my feeder. She said, "you are probably running around too much doing things to notice"…. guess what, she was right! I invite you to welcome this second week of summer taking some time to do something that embodies summer for you.
Our Practice – Natarajasana – Dancers Pose
I took this picture 2 years ago when my friend Dorothy and her daughter Charlotte and I went bike riding as we often do when they visit from UT in the summer. It was a glorious day and looking at pictures of it always makes me smile. Admittedly, I was clowning around when we stopped for water; when I was looking at the picture today it reminded me how much I like dancer’s pose.
Dancer’s pose is beneficial as a balancing pose – something we all need to practice no matter our age but especially important as we get older! Additionally, I love the pose as it incorporates back bending – good for the spine - as well as shoulder opening and leg strengthening. It helps develop core strength, involves the hip flexors.
We can practice this as a peak pose (meaning after a series of poses that build toward a more challenging one) in a back bending sequence. What poses do you think would be good preparation? If you said bridge, locust and bow, those are all good choices! Perhaps some gentle backbends in standing warriors or low lunge, poses that also offer some hip flexor opening along with the back bending.
I love to practice dancer - the push pull of the balancing (tipping forward while pulling back in the leg) in that feel good to me.
Starting in tadasana shift the weight into your right leg. Bend your left leg lifting your foot off the floor.
Take the instep of your left foot with your left hand (take a hitchhiker motion with the left hand) so your thumb is pointing toward your toes. If that rotation does not feel good you can hold the outside of the foot with your thumb and fingers all going in the same direction and your thumb closer to your heel.
Lift your right arm toward ceiling and then begin to lift your left leg back (closed knee) as you move your torso forward as a counterbalance. Right arm moves forward as your torso moves.
Press the left foot into your hand to lift the leg higher and deepen the backbend.
Keep your drishti (gaze on something fixed) and breathe.
Lower your left leg back in line with your right. Repeat on the other side.
Remember, it is not how long we balance or how far we back bend, but it is the practice, the breath and the joy that we should experience as we try new things, move our bodies and breathe!
Meditation – Summer
We just had the summer solstice and are less than a week into official summer. While summer has always been a favorite season of mine (long days, crickets and fireflies, corn and strawberries and blueberries, bike rides, beach days spent reading), I think we all feel a bit differently about this summer. This summer comes as most of the restrictions we have been under since March of 2020 are ending. We can see friends and family freely, gather in groups and enjoy the season the way we have before. Having gone through what we did over the past months will find us joyfully experiencing summer gatherings and outings. For me, the beginning of summer has found me recognizing a profound sense of gratitude for my life and with those aspects of the summer that are perhaps a little quieter: sitting in the shade with a book, gardening at twilight with sounds of crickets or frogs, walking on the beach at sunset or hiking at dawn. These are things I learned to appreciate more deeply over the past year.
This week’s quote for meditation hearkens back to my familial literary roots. Most of you have heard me say that both of my parents were literature professors. From The Great Gatsby (one of my favorite books), it touches on the feelings of renewal that summer brings.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”. — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Nurturing with Food – Vegetable Stir Fry with Tofu
Ok, full disclosure, this is Peter’s recipe. He makes variations of it regularly but this one really rocked it. He thinks it is because of this vegan butter he gets from the farmer’s market, Butter Cuisine. That may enhance it, but I think he has just perfected how to perfectly cook the tofu and has mastered the more veggie to tofu ratio.