Try these gentle and easeful yoga poses to help keep you cool in the heat of summer. Offering a mix of standing, seated, and reclined asanas, these cooling poses also provide some gentle inversions, stretching, and relaxation.
The standing poses are a nice transition if you’re just starting to cool down from a workout or yoga practice. However, if you’re really feeling the heat and need more of an immediate rest, the seated and reclined poses might be preferred.
When the temperatures are soaring, it’s even more important to take care of yourself and listen to your body. Know the signs of heat-related illness and when they require medical attention (this article by the Red Cross has information on symptoms, what to do, and when to get medical help for heat-related conditions, as well as helpful information for preparing for heat waves in general).
In addition, this article has helpful tips for reducing body temperature and ways to keep cooler in the heat. Some, like drink cool liquids and apply cold to key points of the body (wrists, neck, chest, and temples) can be used with these yoga poses to help you feel cooler faster!
These standing poses are a nice way to transition from a standing workout or yoga practice to start slowing and cooling down. Both can also be done seated from a chair as well!
1. Tree Pose | Vriksasana
Tree pose, or Vriksasana, is a standing balancing pose that offers many different variations to try. This is a nice one to place towards the end of your yoga flow or workout to practice your balance and start slowing and cooling down.
Feel free to stand next to a wall for balancing support, or try the chair version you can do seated!
To Practice Tree Pose:
Start standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet about hip-width apart. Shift your weight over to your right foot and start to lift your left foot up. Depending on your stability today, you might keep your left foot resting on your right ankle (while keeping your left toes on the ground). You can also bring your left foot up to rest on your right calf or right inner thigh above the knee.
Your hands might be in prayer mudra at your heart, or your arms might be out to the sides in a t-shape or overhead in a v-shape. For balancing support, you can keep one hand at the wall while the other is at your heart, out to the side or up overhead.
Stay in tree pose for 30 seconds to a minute. It’s ok to come out of the pose if you start to feel unsteady! To come out of the pose, lower your left foot to the ground and return to Tadanasa. Repeat on the other side.
2. Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold | Prasarita Padottanasana
This standing pose is another nice way to transition from your standing yoga or workout to start slowing and cooling down. It can also be done from a seated position for a more restful version (either seated on the ground or in a chair). Move in and out of this pose very slow (or take the seated version), especially if prone to dizziness or lightheadedness. Try using yoga blocks if your hands don’t comfortably reach the ground.
For a Standing Wide-Legged Foward Fold:
Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Your toes can point forwards, outwards to an angle, or turned slightly in (this last one will give you more of a stretch in the outer calves). Inhale in, bringing your hands to your hips. Exhale and slowly start to bend your torso forwards, hinging at the hips to keep the spine straight. You might pause halfway for a breath while bringing your hands to blocks or the ground to keep a nice long spine. Release the rest of the way into the forward fold, stopping when you feel a nice stretch through the backs of the legs. Perhaps keep a bend in the knees, staying in stillness. Or find some gentle movement with your breath. (Inhale and lift up partway to a straight spine, exhale and lower back into the fold).
Stay in the stretch for 1-3 minutes, or longer if comfortable doing so. To come up, inhale & lift up (slowly) to halfway point. Stay here for 1-3 breaths (this is especially important if prone to dizziness or lightheadedness). Then slowly rise the rest of the way up to standing.
These poses offer a nice stretch while still allowing you to cool off and slow down closer to ground level.
3. Seated Forward Fold | Paschimottanasana
Seated and standing forward folds can both provide calming and cooling benefits to the mind and body. Standing forward folds are useful if you’re just starting to cool down from a practice or workout and are already standing. Seated forward bends provide similar benefits, just from a more restful position.
Be mindful to move in and out of forward folds slowly, particularly if you’re already quite warm or are prone to dizziness.
For a Seated Forward Fold:
Start in a comfortable seat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Take a deep breath in and sit up tall. As you exhale, slowly start to fold over your legs. Feel free to bend your knees to make the pose more comfortable. Stay here for 1-3 minutes, or longer if you’d like. To come out of the pose, start by taking a deep breath in. Moving nice and slow as you exhale, use your hands to gently press your torso back up. Take a few breaths here before moving onto the next pose.
4. Low Lunge | Anjaneyasana
Low lunges are a helpful counterpose to long periods of sitting or traveling, as well as after an active day outdoors. Keeping your back knee lowered with your hands to the ground can make it more gentle and not as active (and more cooling as a result!).
Try these options for a more restful variation:
- Draw one knee into your chest while lying on your back or seated in a chair
- Use a chair as support for your lunge pose (either from a seat or to hold onto while standing)
- To make this pose more comfortable, try placing a blanket under your back knee for extra cushioning and blocks under both hands
To Practice a Low Lunge:
Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, bringing one foot forward between your hands. Common alignment guidelines say to keep your knee in-line with your ankle, but what feels best for you may be different. Keep your back knee lowered, as coming into a high lunge will make this more of a heating pose instead of a cooling one. Try using blocks underneath your hands to bring the ground up to you (rather than struggling to reach the ground with your hands). Find a neutral gaze slightly in front of your feet, looking slightly forwards and down. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a few minutes. To come out, slowly bring your front foot back to meet the other, coming back to your tabletop position.
As a mindfulness exercise, notice the difference in how both legs feel after one side. How does the leg you just stretched feel in comparison to the other? Then, repeat on the other side.
5. Half-Splits Pose | Ardha Hanumanasana
Half-splits is a feel-good stretch you can take after spending some time in a low lunge. This one can be easy to overstretch and overdo, so be mindful as you enter into the pose, folding over only until you feel a gentle stretch through the backs of the legs.
To make this pose more comfortable, place a blanket under your back knee for extra cushioning. Take blocks under your hands to help decrease the intensity of the stretch. To place less pressure on the knees, take a seated or standing forward fold instead, or do this stretch while seated in a chair.
To Practice Half-Splits Pose:
From a low lunge position, start to shift your hips back as you straighten through your front leg and flex your toes up. Keep your hips stacked above your supporting knee as you walk your hands back. You can stay upright or fold over your front leg with a straight spine. To help prevent overstretching, keep a bend in your front knee and take blocks for under your hands. Hold this pose for a few breaths (or up to a minute or so). You can also find a gentle flow here by moving between the half-split and low lunge, using your breath to guide the flow. To come out, slowly shift your hips forward, coming back to a low lunge.
6. Child’s Pose | Balasana
Child’s pose offers a gentle stretch and the opportunity to turn our focus inwards. For extra cushion, place a blanket underneath your knees. If your hips don’t quite reach your heels in child’s pose, try placing a block between your feet or a folded blanket under your hips. You can also rest your forehead on a block or pillow if your head doesn’t reach the mat as well.
For Child’s Pose:
Starting from a tabletop position, bring your feet together (with big toes touching) and widen your knees. How wide depends on personal preference: you can go as wide as the yoga mat, but you can also keep your knees closer together for a gentler pose and less intense stretch. Sit your hips back towards your heels, walk your arms forward and lower your torso to the ground. Try bending the elbows slightly rather than reaching forwards for a slightly more restful pose. Stay here for 1-3 minutes, being mindful if the lower body starts to fall asleep in this pose. To come out, press into your hands and slowly lift your torso, coming back to tabletop.
7. Legs up the Wall | Viparita Karani
Legs up the Wall pose is a relaxing and mild inversion that also helps release the hamstrings and lower back. A nice variation of this is putting your legs on a chair instead of the wall. You can also try adding a folded blanket under the hips and low back or under the shoulders, head, and neck for extra support and cushion.
To Practice Legs up the Wall:
If using a wall for this pose, start by sitting sideways with one hip next to the wall. Start to walk your feet up the wall as you lower onto your forearms. Moving nice and slow, lower onto your back with your legs up the wall. Feel free to bend your knees here and scoot your hips further from the wall until comfortable. Stay here for 5-10 minutes (or start with a few minutes and gradually work your way up to holding it longer). To come out, start to walk your feet down the wall as you roll over to one side. Stay in a side-laying position for a few deep breaths before moving again (perhaps to savasana).
8. Reclined Pigeon | Supta Kapotasana
Reclined Pigeon Pose (also known as Figure-4 Stretch or Thread the Needle) is a more gentle and relaxing version of pigeon pose (or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). Pigeon Pose can also be done while seated in a chair. If close to a wall, you can place your foot against the wall in Reclined Pigeon and let the wall hold your leg up, rather than using your arms or a yoga strap.
For Reclined Pigeon Pose:
Come to lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground (about hip-width apart). Start by stretching your left leg up in the air. Flex through your left foot and start to bend your left knee, placing your left ankle slightly above your right knee. You can keep your right foot on the ground, or lift your right leg up and hold with your arms or a strap (or, place your right foot at the wall). Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or longer if comfortable. To come out, lower your right foot (if it was lifted), and uncross your left ankle, bringing both feet back to the ground. As a mindfulness exercise, pause here for a few breaths to notice the difference in sensation between both sides. How does the side you just stretched feel different from the other? Repeat on the other side, this time crossing your right ankle over your left knee.
9. Reclined Twists | Supta Matsyendrasana
Reclined Twists offer a gentle twisting motion while lying on your back. This can be done with crossing one leg over, but I prefer bringing both legs over into the twist. For some extra support, try placing a folded blanket or pillow under or between your knees. If your opposite shoulder is lifted, try a blanket under that shoulder as well.
To Practice Reclined Twists:
Start by lying on your back with your feet on the mat and knees bent. Slide your hips slightly to the right – about an inch or two and take both arms out in a T. Start to bring your knees into your chest, lifting about halfway, or until your knees are about over your hips. Let both knees fall over to the left and resituate as needed. Stay here for 1-5 minutes (but feel free to come out sooner if it’s uncomfortable, particularly on the low back). To come out, start with a deep breath in and out. Bring both knees back up to the center and slide your hips back to center as well. Before moving onto the other side, feel free to hug your knees into your chest. Repeat on the other side.
10. Savasana | Final Resting Pose
Savasana is a great way to end your yoga practice in general, but it’s also a nice cooling pose all on its own. There are many different variations you can try to find ultimate comfort in the pose. For example, if having your legs out long is painful on your low back, try keeping your knees bent and your feet on the mat. You can also try placing a rolled blanket or bolster under your knees while your legs are outstretched.
Come to lie down on your back with your legs stretched out long (or keeping your feet on the mat with bent knees). Your arms can rest by your sides, with palms facing up or down (whichever feels more comfortable.) You can also place a pillow or rolled-up blanket for support under your head and neck. Stay here for 5+ minutes. To come out, take a deep breath in & out. Start to gently move your body again by moving your fingers and toes, hands and feet, arms and legs. Take a full-body stretch or hug your knees into your chest. To come to an upright seat, you might roll to one side & pause there for a few breaths. Slowly press your upper body upright. Meditation can be nice after yoga practice and/or savasana, so you can also find a comfortable meditation seat if you’d like. Otherwise, take a few rounds of nice, deep breaths here before continuing on with your day.
These ten yoga asanas are a nice way cool down after a powerful yoga practice or time spent in the hot weather. What is your summer yoga practice like? Have you tried any of these poses with their cooling effects in mind? Give them a try and share how it went for you!