It’s been a hot summer. I showed up to my yoga studio the other day, and noticed that the air purifying machine was blinking and beeping, which made me think of my kitchen lights, which just the night before had shorted out. I looked up to see the time, and saw that even the clock was running slow. I was about to teach a class on the dangers of "Summer System Overload," and the electronics were proving my point.
We know, of course, that we have to be careful when it’s hot to avoid dehydration, heatstroke, and sunburn, but extreme heat can also affect us on energetic and emotional levels. From a Taoist perspective, we are in a Yang season, and now is an important time to stay in touch with our inner Yin.
Everything in the world has some balance of Yin and Yang. Yin represents feminine qualities like dark, cool, slow, receptive, and quiet. Yang is a masculine quality that represents heat, light, action, sound, and movement. Everything in the world, animate and inanimate, has some balance of both Yin and Yang, regardless of gender.
Summer is a Yang time. There’s more heat and more light in the atmosphere, and this can spike Yang emotions such as anger, impatience, irritation, and jealousy, as well as willpower and motivation. Yin emotions include sadness, grief, fear, and depression as well as contentment and acceptance. During a Yang time, dormant emotions start moving faster and are more likely to bust up to the surface. This can be a good thing if there’s something that needs to be said or done, but sometimes emotions get overblown and we overreact. This is Summer System Overload.
Deep, hot summer feels to me like a season-long full moon: the air feels heavier, gravity more intense, and something in us wants to crawl out and howl or fight over gushing fire hydrants in a heat wave. It seems crazy to me that this is such a popular season for weddings: throw families into a room together, add drinks, uncomfortable outfits, and old emotional wounds, then simmer over heat: it’s a recipe for drama!
As humans, we like to think we are above environmental influence. We try to be exactly as productive, sleep as much (or as little) as always no matter how much light is in the sky, and forget that we are animals that interact with our environment. Most of us have an instinct to slow down and be “lazy” during the hot summer months: we know on some level that if we try to move too fast, we will start beeping and flashing and short out our internal circuits. This “laziness” is the natural urge for our Yin to come into balance with the excess Yang in the environment.
Unfortunately most of us can’t simply drop everything and take a midday siesta (or a Yin Yoga class). If you are getting overly sensitive, irritated, or exhausted, acknowledge that these as warning signs of being energetically overheated, and find your Yin somewhere, even if it’s just slowing down your breath or your walk. Here’s a breathing technique you can use anytime you start feeling the Summer System Overload and need to cool your heels.
If you can roll your tongue, do. If not, purse your lips like you are sipping through a straw, and inhale through your pursed lips or rolled tongue. Close your mouth around your cooled-down tongue and exhale gently out your nose. Repeat as needed—you can do this anywhere, anytime.