Ayurveda is an ancient system for holistic healing. This 5,000-year-old mind-body medicine of India translates to “the science of life.” It is rooted in the laws of nature and so it follows the ebb and flow of change, much like the seasons. There are three primary energies that circulate in the body and the world at large. They are known as the doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. According to Maya Tiwari’s Ayurveda The Secrets of Healing, the Sanskrit word dosha translates to “fault or blemish,” indicating “that which is quick to go out of balance.” Much of inviting harmony into our daily rhythms is learning to manage these energies as they accumulate and shift.
As we move into the summer months, we enter the season ruled by Pitta dosha. Pitta is made of the elements water and fire, with emphasis on the latter. These are qualities that appear in our mind, body, and habitat as hot, light, mobile, sharp, and oily. Think sweltering summer heat, humidity, blazing sun, active solar energy. Emotionally this may show up as aggravation, frustration, impatience, anger, quick judgment, or being critical. Physically we may recognize a Pitta imbalance by inflammations, sunburn, skin rashes, infections, hyperacidity, or diarrhea. Whether manifesting in mind or body, no one wants to feel these symptoms, thus we can work with nature to prevent dis-ease.
12 Tips to Keep Cool in Summer
Ayurveda follows the simple healing principle of “like increases like” and “opposites balance each other.” We can encourage balance by incorporating the opposite qualities of Pitta into life. These are cool, substantial, aromatic, calming, sweet, bitter, and astringent. Remedies are integrated through all five of our senses. The secret ingredient is the awareness of how we react to and play with our environments.
1. Eat foods that are lightly spiced and naturally cooling.
Incorporate tastes that are sweet, bitter, and mildly astringent. Think veggies like collards, kale, asparagus, and cilantro. Choose sweet fruits such as apples and berries over citrus. Cooling spices include cumin, coriander, fennel, and licorice.
2. Limit foods that are pungent, salty, or spicy.
Hot sauces, jalapeños, fermented foods, and fried foods are all Pitta aggravating. Avoid raw onion, dry ginger, and other pungent tastes. The analogy is like adding fire to fire. Excess meat, alcohol, and caffeine can also increase the fire in the body and mind. Eat these foods mindfully and in moderation or save them for the winter months.
3. Hydrate with cool or room temperature water.
Drinking ice water has the potential to extinguish our digestive fire, so choosing cool or room temperature beverages are best. Three pro tips on this note. First, sip rather than chug your drinks. Excessive consumption does not actually hydrate you. Second, aim to drink half your weight in ounces per day (i.e., if you are 180 lbs., drink 80 ounces of water). Third, try upping the ante with a couple slices of cucumber to infuse the water with cooling properties. (Or try these other ways to naturally flavor water!)
4. Rest during the heat of the day.
Not only does the cycle of seasons align with the doshas, but so do the times of the day. The Pitta time of day is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. as well as 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Avoid intense activity such as exercise during this time. At night, try to minimize over-stimulation to prevent Pitta from piquing with that second wind and thought spirals that can steal our sleep.
5. Surround yourself with sweet smells, beautiful scenes, and good vibe folks.
Nature is true medicine. Take a walk in the garden or through a forest. Aromas that are sweet and earthy decrease agitation. Wade in the water or take a dip in the river to cool off. Hang out with your tribe, those who are positive forces in your life. Complainers only stoke the fire.
6. Invite the cooler colors of white, blue, green, and pastels into your wardrobe and environment.
Chromotherapy is a powerful healing tool. This is a centuries-old notion. Not only did Ayurvedic practitioners use this but also the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese. The combination of color and light elicits various frequencies and vibrations that are digested not only through sight but also through our skin, thus affecting our mood and wellbeing.
7. Spend less time staring at screens.
Pitta’s sensory organ is sight. Think of being caught in a penetrating gaze and the fiery intensity of that moment. Now think about how you feel after spending excessive amounts of time in front of a computer. The combination of sight, light, and fire can feed Pitta. No, thank you.
8. Remember to breathe.
Taking longer exhales is a natural way for our body to cool itself. The pranayama breath practices of Sheetali and Sitkari have tremendous benefits that include calming, reducing agitation or anger, lowering body temperature, assisting digestion, and helping focus the mind. Taking a few minutes to breathe with intention is a powerful remedy.
9. Invite more lunar energy into your yoga asana practice.
Skip the Bikram or hot yoga. If you’re an absolute addict, opt for this practice in the morning during the Kapha time of day, which is characterized by earth and water. Swap in the moon salutations for sun salutations. Explore a restorative or yin practice rather than an active Vinyasa. Use only 85% of your effort rather than 110%. You can apply ayurvedic principles to your practice. Even slowing down a dynamic practice can have tremendous benefits.
10. Invite pratyahara, meditation, or personal reflection into your day.
Summertime can mean go, go, go. We are constantly being drawn outward and onward. Pratyhara is one of the 8 Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga and known as the withdrawal of the senses. Taking the time to turn inward is a way of finding rejuvenation and balance. The benefits of meditation are endless but one primary way it serves is helping us be less emotionally reactive.
11. Treat yourself to ahbyanga massage before you shower.
The self-massage practice of ahbyanga is too yummy to miss. Research tells us that touch has the ability to alleviate depression, improve immunity, decrease cynicism, and instill compassion. For Pitta months, Ayurveda recommends abhyanga using a cooling oil like coconut. Apply this prior to showering. Spend at least 5 minutes showing yourself some love. Make the strokes smooth and nurturing in a downward grounding motion rather than active or invigorating. You can even add calming essential oils to your mixture such as lavender, rose, ylang ylang, or sandalwood, all which pacify Pitta.
12. Go moonbathing.
Venture on a night walk under the full moon. The moon is known to give off soma, a nourishing energy that builds ojas, our immune-boosting life force. It has restorative energy and when we lack this force we can feel ungrounded and intense.
Enjoy these tips to help you feel calm and balanced in the summer months.