Stay Cool this Summer with Ayurveda
According to the seasonal cycles, summer is considered to be Pitta season, where the energetic principles of Fire and Water are strongest. It is during that summer when the Pitta dosha, inherently driven by solar force, is most present, as it is made up of the Fire and Water elements. Time for healthy beverages, sunbathing, and swimming!
This combination is really rather complimentary. Pitta exists as water or oil (in the body)—which protects the tissues from the fire aspect.
Pitta is the principle of transformation and heat; it is responsible for all chemical and metabolic conversions in the body that create energy.
We need both Fire and Water to survive, for sure.
Fire’s processes involve cooking and digestion-including the cooking of thoughts into theories in the mind. This dosha, or energy, governs our capacity to perceive reality and understand things as they are. In the body Pitta controls our appetite, digestion, and metabolism of nutrients, thirst, body heat, and the color, luster, and shine of the skin, hair, and eyes.
Its main area of transformation in the body is through the small intestine, but is also found in the eyes, blood, sweat, glands, stomach, and lymphatic system.
Pitta people tend to be medium build and weight with attractive, well proportioned figures. Their eyes are medium size, shiny, bright, and are often sensitive to sunlight and irritants. The eyes of Pitta people become easily red when irritated. Their skin tends to be warm to the touch, sensitive to heat, sunlight and irritants, and prone to rashes and other breakouts.
Pitta types blush easily, flush with anger, and/or from drinking alcohol. They sweat easily, even in cool or cold weather. They have fine, often straight or wavy, oily hair which turns gray early. Pitta men often go bald at a young age.
Pitta people have excellent appetites and love eating.
They don’t like to miss meals; and when they are hungry, they can be irritable. Their digestion is good and their bowels efficient, but if they get hot, agitated, or angry or eat too many hot spicy or fried foods (which they love!) they can suffer from indigestion, heartburn, or diarrhea. They are quite methodical and organized. Some Pitta’s tend to be perfectionists. They are naturally intelligent, fiery, and domineering or intolerant when out of balance.
Hot weather, getting overheated by vigorous exercise, spicy food, and red meats can all increase Pitta in the body.
If there is a Pitta imbalance in your body, you may feel hot, irritable, angry, overly critical, and maybe even competitive.
And there may be a tendency to work the day away.
High Pitta levels may causes inflammatory problems, skin conditions, excessive hunger and thirst, burning sensations in the body, and difficulty sleeping.
An important challenge for Pitta types is to learn how to transform the tendency for anger and irritability into a feeling of calm and love as well as expressing their emotions in a harmless non-judgmental way. To awaken and express unconditional love is the culmination of this challenge.
In the summer those with a Pitta constitution become more susceptible to heat related ailments.
The key qualities of Pitta are hot, sharp, light, liquid, spreading, slightly oily, and fleshy smelling. When these attributes build up within the body due to wrong diet and lifestyle, Pitta accumulates and begins to manifest various imbalances. These imbalances can more easily arise in the summer whether you are of a prominent Pitta prakriti or not.
Signs of increased Pitta in the body may include:
- Excessive body heat and profusive sweating
- Peptic ulcers
- Irritation, impatience, anger, and frustration
- Skin rashes
- Loose stool elimination or diarrhea
- Early graying of the hair or hair falling out
During the summer season, the Earth is receiving the most sun, heat, and radiant energy. This fiery energy penetrates both within our bodies and throughout the Universe. We feel the drying effects from the hot sun and, in some areas, dry winds. Ayurveda considers this a time of dehydration and a time to stay fluid—in the flow.
To pacify Pitta energies, which causes imbalances in our body, Ayurveda recommends following things:
Protect and nourish your skin
Communicate with care
Daily resotrative yoga and meditation
Special aromas and herbs
Due to the strong properties of the sun and the body’s need to stay cool and release internal heat Ayurveda correlates this in terms of internal agni (Fire) in the body. Agni is pulled to the extremities—to keep the body cool—and as a result, digestive agni is compromised . . . weakening the digestive capacity. That is why in the summer we are often less hungry and want to eat less. It is good to eat lighter and smaller meals during this time of year.
- Increase sweet, bitter, and astringent tasting foods that are light in nature. Eat plenty of bitter salad greens such as lettuce, arugula, radicchio, basil, and endive are particularly Pitta balancing.
- Include cool drinks and raw foods in the diet, including cucumber, mango, and coconut water. Natural fruit juices without added sugar, mint teas, and raw berries are good choices.
- Reduce sour, salty, spicy, and pungent tastes.
- Include following to diet: coconut water, watermelon, cilantro, leafy greens, okra, zucchini, asparagus, olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, ghee, cucumber, soaked/peeled almonds, kale, broccoli, pomegranate, apples, cranberry, mint, dill, fennel, and cardamom.
- Avoid: tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, garlic, dry ginger, black pepper, fermented foods, spicy foods, sour fruits, heavy protein, mustard oil, molasses, and coffee.
- Minimum alcohol intake: beer may be better than wine during Pitta time, but avoid hard alcohol and drink plenty of water to alleviate the drying and heating nature of alcohol. Also, it is best to avoid daytime drinking. Wait until the sun goes down! And avoid tobacco; it’s super fiery.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day to replenish moisture lost in the heat of the day as well as to help flush out toxins in the body. Here are a few ways to drink more water and stay hydrated:
Drink flavored water by adding a few slices of cucumber, mint sprigs, or a squeeze of lime.
Try coconut water or aloe vera juice once in a while. It’s so simple and now readily available in most grocery stores.
Protect and nourish your skin.
Lather on and reapply copious amounts of sunscreen (at least 20 SPF with physical blockers such as: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide). Wear a hat and appropriate clothing to protect you from the summer rays. You know this by now!
At least once a week, treat yourself to a fruit or vegetable mask.
Simple facial mask: cucumbers, avocados, or papayas lend themselves well to homemade masks. Mash one of these ingredients and apply to face for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
Communicate with others in a gentle, mindful way.
To prepare for the Pitta season, when heat can push one’s tendencies toward anger and frustration, regular yoga and meditation can help. Conscious awareness to be calm mentally and physically should be practiced. And be mindful of how you interact with others. If you’re feeling fired up, try to take a few deep breaths before responding to a stressful situation.
Exercise to soothe and cool the body.
To prevent excess Pitta from accumulating in the physiology, enjoy light exercise during the summer. Do not overdo any form of vigorous or strenuous exercise that causes too much heat in the body. Recommended exercises include those that are more cooling: yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming, bicycling, and surfing.
Avoid exercising during the hottest time of the day (between 11 AM and 3 PM). Favor early morning or sunset exercise. Practice yoga postures that remove excess heat from the body instead of building heat such as: forward bends, twists, and other restorative postures are the best peak asanas for this time of year.
Here are some summer lifestyle recommendations.
- Rise with the sun and go to bed by 10 PM
- Plan activities ahead to avoid time pressure
- Maintain projects and activities that create ease
- Practice loving kindness / compassionate meditation and gentle yoga practices
- Eat wholesome, moderately cool or warm, substantial and calming foods that are sweet, bitter, and astringent in flavor
- Avoid hot, spicy, oily, salty, fermented foods, and the use of stimulants
- Avoid hot, humid, and stressful environments . . . if possible
- Give yourself a slow and loving full body massage before taking a shower. Use coconut oil or sunflower oil. Essential oils of rose, sandalwood, jasmine or lavender are also cooling
- Wear clothing of light texture and color. Excellent choices would be cotton and linen of white, blue, and green.
May you be cool, calm, and compassionate. Have a happy summer!
Image: Sun’s Flower by Maja Topcagic