SUMMER FIRE ELEMENT
Summer is a good time for kindness to ourselves, self-expression, and joyfulness. It is the season of laughter, relaxation and getting out and about. Because we are part of the environment, allowing it to affect our behaviour and way of life will ensure we experience less struggle in our lives. Failing to act in accordance with our surroundings may manifest as mental and physical illness.
That’s why it’s important to be in touch with the rhythms of the natural world, which summer enables because we spend more time outdoors. As we come to know ourselves and to respect our bodies we understand that we should eat what feels right. In a culture that all too often uses food as entertainment and comfort, we may initially need to work hard to alter the patterns of eating we’ve grown up with, however, the benefits of eating appropriately not only support us but also the planet. For example, local and organically-grown produce will involve less packaging.
According to the Oriental view of the cosmos everything, including the seasons, are governed or described by what are known as the five elements. These are: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Summer is governed by fire which is associated with expansion.
This is the time of fruition; the trees are green and at their fullest and most expressive stage. Fruit is plentiful. In our yoga, we look at these aspects and try to replicate them by practising softer postures, and focusing on the voice and breath. There is more communicative paired and group work designed to elevate our mood; relaxation and meditation are also important.
Oriental thought has it that each element governs a particular organ system in our body and has both a mental and spiritual aspect. Fire presides over the heart and small intestine. When a person’s fire element is healthy, they communicate expansively with others and find joy in giving and receiving. Emotions such as elation and sadness are experienced in proper proportion. Conversely, should there be an imbalance an individual will find it difficult to connect with those around them, and they will experience their emotions as overwhelming. Because their mind a body feel out of touch in whatever situation they find themselves, stress will arise. Summer is a time for eating light foods that assist with cooling our bodies. These should be fresh and colourful and overcooking is to be avoided. Fresh salads, stewed or baked fruits, and moist, round grains which become fluffy—such as millet, tapioca, couscous, corn, polenta and pearly barley—are ideal. Dishes that are beautiful and bountiful and which reflect a sense of joyousness reflect this time of the year.
We may be drawn to the bitter flavour of burnt food, to what’s been barbecued or tossed on a fire. Eating foods that have been cooked quickly helps to support the heart and small intestine. Hot, spicy foods that promote sweating and make us aware of the rising of our inner fire are also recommended. Middle Eastern recipes are ideal, as are other hot climate cuisines. Experimentation and playfulness are encouraged. Drink warm herbal teas and steer clear of cold water, ice-cream, and frozen foods, all of which cause rapid contraction and prevent the release of sweat and heat, thus interfering with digestion.