05/16/2014 08:17 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2014

'Be' the Beach: Connecting to Mind, Body and Nature for Your Best Summer Yet

It seems like in the blink of an eye, winter disappeared, April showers brought the May flowers, and we're suddenly talking about summer! Not that I'm complaining about summer approaching, but I just wasn't prepared. I had just made peace with spring jackets, flowers blooming, allergies and the weather changing, when one of my best friends asked me where we should take our first sun-filled, stereo-blasting road trip of summer. I still don't know exactly where I want to kick off the summer season, but what I did realize is that with Memorial Day quickly approaching, it's high time we start thinking about the beach, good eats, and fun in the sun!

The difference this year, however, is that I don't want us to just think of poolside margaritas, blaring music, and tanning. "But Rupa, why? That's the appeal of the beach! What else is there to do?" Aha! Exactly my point. Having spent a lot of time at the beach, seeing my family, friends, and their little ones play in the sun, I think a lot of us have lost touch with the joy of summertime. When you were a little kid, were you focused on the hottest bathing suit and the most even tan? No! You were out catching fireflies, swimming, and making sandcastles. This summer, I want us to revisit the simple, silly pleasures we loved as children.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing spending 12 hours in the sun, risking burns, beestings, and sticky fingers from your melted ice cream cone, before having a pre-nap time meltdown. I just want to tap back into the peace and pleasure that summer environments bring. With this in mind, I encourage you to embrace the beach in ways that help awaken your mind, lighten your spirit, and keep you physically healthy. How? Be the tree. Be the dolphin. Be the waves. Be a kid!

Be the tree. In the summer months, the leaves are at their greenest, the flowers are at their bloom-iest, and when the sun is blaring, where but under a tree can you seek solace in a little bit of breezy shade? That tree stands tall, sturdy, and confident against the summer sun, absorbing that energy and using it to bloom and grow. Take a cue from your favorite tree and stand tall, strong, and balanced in the sand. Bring a piece of your yoga practice to the outdoors, and you could literally stand in tree pose to channel your inner tree. The sand itself offers a great physical and mental challenge, engage your core, your quads, and your mind, as you try to balance on the uneven, soft surface, take in your warm surroundings, and connect with summer.

Be the dolphin. Have you ever seen a dolphin swim in the ocean? They look like they're playing games. They jump, spin, hang with their friends, swim from east to west, north to south, maybe meet a few beach-goers along the way. They live in the ocean. I'd venture to say that they know the best way to experience it, and I'd hedge a little bet that your last several times in the water, unlike the dolphin, were either a waist deep "dip" or a little stretch of swimming out to a buoy and then quick back to your towel. I challenge you to "be the dolphin" and swim like they do. Move in all directions, swim parallel to the shore, don't limit yourself to quickly going out and in. Really commit to quality water time because it can be your full-body workout and your revived playtime!

Be the waves.
Tide rises, tide falls. Waves crest, waves break. It's rhythmic, constant, and beautiful. I think of waves as Mother Nature's meditation, connecting earth to water, body to mind, and breath with breaks. Chances are, you have heard of or have even used the sounds of the ocean as a relaxation technique. The ocean audio recordings are all well and good, but if you have the chance to experience the real thing, embrace it. Your towel is your mat, the waves are your music, and your breath is your focus. Take a few minutes to quiet your mind chatter (part of the challenge is to tune out the sound of teenagers' music, babies crying, and dogs barking!) and breathe in and out with the waves.

Be a kid! Let your inner child loose. Kids can get bored so easily -- an hour laying on a towel soaking in the rays? I don't think so. So they always have a hundred different things to do at the beach. Sandcastles, frisbees, beach balls, searching for sea creatures. You name it, some little one on the beach is doing it... and loving it! So lose the ego a bit of who rocks their bathing suit best, who's got the best playlist pumping, or who brought the best cooler, so you can let go and be silly. Get a hotdog from a vendor, fly a kite, and see who can run the fastest from sand dune to sand dune. Getting a little down and dirty (literally -- you should be covered head to toe in sand by the end if you're doing this right -- hey, think of it as a free exfoliating treatment) will open up your heart to the sort of carefree playtime you used to love.

I am excited for summer and hopefully you are too. We worked hard enough to tough out the polar vortex for it, so the summer months should be a real gift. Allow yourself to smile with the sun, breathe with the waves, and perhaps most importantly, play! We're cooped up for at least four months of the year due to cold weather; it would be a disservice to ourselves not to value the sunshine. Let it in, let loose, and have a fun and fabulous start to summertime.