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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Yoga Practice in Hot Climate

My Magazine 2023/09
6 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
It's that time of the year! With the humidity that the rain brings, we are constantly battling the sticky heat. Staying indoors in an air-conditioned room or office may be your solution, but it's not so great for your mind and body.

Try to breathe fresh air outdoors, allow your body to sweat, and detox. Summer is a great time to work on your body, so if you like to practice yoga, find a place that is NOT air-conditioned. Use the natural heat to help you sweat and draw out the toxins from your body. Heat can help create fluidity in your joints, so it is also a great time to practice dynamic asana. But if you prefer not to get overly sweaty, take time out early in the morning to practice yoga. Just keep in mind to always listen to your body and adjust your practice accordingly. Keep hydrated, and monitor your diet.

Try to incorporate as many fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits as possible in your diet and stay hydrated. Locally available kren kren (Molokhiya) and okra are known to be cooling vegetables. They are used in the Gambian dish called Supakanja. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Even if supa is not your cup of tea, many other dishes are available to cook using these vegetables. Other cooling foods readily available locally are wonjo (bissap), tamarind, and coconut water. Making cooling drinks out of these will keep you well-hydrated and refreshed. They also help stimulate appetite and digestion to combat the sluggish feeling you might get in the heat. Coconut water is an excellent hydrator, and it naturally contains five essential electrolytes, so it's a wonderful drink that can help replenish the electrolytes lost from sweating.

Yoga can also help you regulate body heat and internal energy to help you stay cool mentally and physically. Here are some yoga asanas that are known to help cool down the body. So prepare your yoga space, and get ready to try the following asanas!

1. Sitali breath (Cooling breath)

In this breathing technique, you breathe the moisture of your tongue into your body, creating a sensation of a lovey breeze entering internally. This stimulates your senses to give a cooling effect.

Start by sitting in a comfortable position that allows your spine to be long and stretched, then begin by breathing in and out through the nose. Bring your awareness to the breath, the sensation of the breath leaving and entering the nose. Once you feel comfortable and relaxed, open the mouth to bring your tongue out. Roll the edges of the tongue in to create a hollow tube shape, but press the rolled edge towards the top of your mouth and upper lip. The more you practice, the easier it will become to do this, so don't be discouraged! With the tongue in a hollow tube, inhale slowly through the tongue, taking about 3 to 4 counts to inhale. Hold the breath for one count and exhale through the nose slowly, taking about 3 to 4 counts.

2. Butterfly (Baddhakonasana)

While sitting on your bottom, bring the soles of the feet together, wrapping your hands around your feet. Drop the knees out to the side and extend your spine upwards. Start to move the knees gently up and down in a butterfly wing motion. Observe how you feel in your hips. Continue for about 2 minutes.

3. Cat - Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)

Come onto all fours on the ground with your knees hip-width apart and your hands directly under your shoulder. As you inhale, turn your hip back, point the tailbone towards the sky, curve your spine down, gently tilt your head back, and bring your gaze upwards. As you exhale, start to turn your hip in, tucking the tailbone under, pushing the back of your shoulder blades up towards the sky and bringing your chin towards your chest. Continue this movement in synch with your breath for about ten cycles. As you go through the movement, try to create a smooth wave-like flow in your spine, always starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the base of the skull.

4. Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)

Standing with your feet slightly apart and your spine extended. Start by inhaling; as you exhale, bend from your hip joint, bringing your chest forward towards your legs. If you feel tightness in your hamstrings or the back of the knees, bend your knees to comfortably bring your stomach towards your thighs. Keep the spine extended but relaxed. Relax the shoulders and neck and continue breathing in this posture for a minimum of 5 breaths. Gently come back to standing once you're done by either rolling up vertebrae by vertebrae or alternatively coming up with an extended back whilst keeping your legs and core muscles engaged.

5. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Standing with your feet slightly apart and your spine extended, bring your arms up and stretch them up without lifting your shoulders. Stay in this asana for five breaths before lowering your arms beside your body.

6. Tree pose (Vriksasana)

Standing with your feet slightly apart and your spine extended, bring your right foot to your left inner calf or inner thigh, keeping the hips facing forward and the right knee pushed out as much as possible. Make sure the supporting leg is strong and grounded. Once you find your balance, bring the palms together into a prayer position, and bring your awareness to your breathing as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Hold this asana for ten breaths, then release your palms and bring your right foot back onto the ground gently. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Wide-legged forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)

This forward bend conditions the legs and massages the abdominal and pelvic organs. Stand with your legs wide apart and your spine extended. Bring your hands onto your hips, inhale as you come into a slight back bend and exhale as you come into a forward bend. Bring the palms onto the ground, relax your neck and shoulders, and extend the spine, trying to bring the crown of your head to the ground. Stay in this position for five breaths and build up over time to hold for longer.

8. The Fish Pose

The fish pose helps with the upper spine, chest and shoulder opening. This will be a wonderful asana if you are often involved in desk work. It also regulates metabolism as this position stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands around the throat. Lie on your back with your legs extended and feet together with the toes pointing. Bring your arms beside your body and tuck your arms under your back. Bring the hands under your buttocks with the palms placed on the mat. As you inhale, start to lift up your chest and head off the mat while you bend your elbows and bring the elbows closer to each other. Try to lower your head back as much as possible to extend the throat. This stimulates the thyroid gland. You should feel the stretch on your chest and throat area. Maintain this posture and breathe in and out of the nose. Stay in this posture for as long as comfortable, preferably 5 breaths minimum.

9. Lion pose (Simhasana)

Apart from the cooling effect that this asana can bring, it also assists in getting rid of negative energy, such as stress and tension.
Join me in sitting on your heels, or come into a lotus pose. If you cannot sit on your heels, you can come onto all fours with the knees hip-width apart and palms shoulder-width apart. Keeping the arms extended, bring the palms onto the ground in front of you with the fingers pointing inwards towards you and the inner wrist facing outwards. Facing forward, inhale through your nose, open your mouth and poke your tongue out as far as you can, bringing the tip towards your chin. Simultaneously, start to exhale with a "ha" sound. As you exhale, you can also bring your gaze to your nose or your third eye. Repeat this 3 to 5 times.

I hope these asanas have helped you feel fresh and awake! Do take time out of your daily schedule to repeat this daily.
Don't dread this upcoming season; keep an open mind and enjoy the cleansing weather and the lush green season. Listen to your body, hydrate, and stay happy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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