Long days. Outdoor fun. Travel. Relaxation. Summer certainly has its perks. But the heat of summer can also throw you off balance, aggravating your mind and body in many ways. According to Ayurveda, the ancient “science of life,” there are reasons for that—and some helpful practices to keep you calm and cool.
What summer has to do with Ayurveda
Before we dive into Ayurvedic practices for restoring your balance, it will help to have some background. To put it simply, Ayurveda can show you how your body reacts to the elements around you and within you, plus what you can do about it.
The season of pitta/fire
All five of the primary elements (air, fire, water, earth and ether) and the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) exist in everything and everyone, but in different proportions. That means each season—and person—have elements and a dosha that are predominant, making them unique.
Summer aligns with the pitta dosha and the element of fire because of its hot, penetrating, sharp and oily qualities.
How pitta can affect you
The pitta within you is closely related to your digestion, metabolism, body temperature, thoughts, emotions and more. These can be prone to imbalance as you’re exposed to summer’s heat and other pitta qualities. This is especially true if pitta is your primary dosha.
When your doshas are aggravated, there can be many physical and emotional signs.
Signs of excess pitta
- Uncomfortably warm
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Loose stools and diarrhea
- Red, inflamed or light-sensitive eyes
- Impatience and intolerance
- Irritability and anger
Even if you experience these already, they may show more often when pitta is aggravated.
5 tips to help balance pitta in the summer
In Ayurveda, it’s believed that “like increases like.” So things that are hot, penetrating, sharp and oily (pitta characteristics) can aggravate your body and mind during the summer. Try to cut back on them and increase what’s opposite of pitta—calm and cool—to keep your body and mind in harmony with this season.
1. Choose cooling foods and drinks.
This is the most effective way to balance pitta. Good choices include:
- Sweet fruits like pears, melons, mangos, apples, grapes, dates, figs and prunes (Avoid citrus and other sour fruits.)
- Sweet or bitter vegetables like peas, sweet potato, cucumber, leafy greens, celery, zucchini, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower (Cut back on pungent varieties like onions, chili peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.)
- Cooling or astringent spices and herbs like neem, shavarti, amalaki, burdock, cilantro, parsley and fennel (Avoid cayenne, garlic, chili pepper, mustard seeds and dried ginger.)
- Cool (not iced) beverages like water, coconut water and coconut milk. Teas like chamomile, mint and coriander seed can be good if room temperature or cool. (Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially beer and wine.)
2. Cool down your exercise.
Adjust your physical activity during summer for optimal balance.
- Time of day: ideally early morning when it’s not as hot, especially if exercising outside, otherwise in a cooler environment
- Intensity: no more than 50 percent of your maximum capacity
- Refreshing activities to consider: swimming, gentle yoga like moon salutations (instead of sun salutations), walking, hiking and cycling
3. Limit heat exposure.
In addition to being mindful of exercise timing, you should also:
- Minimize all sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
- Wear sunscreen if you go outside when the sun’s rays are the strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to avoid a pitta-aggravating sunburn and other effects of the sun. Sunscreens are definitely not created equal, so check out EWG’s guide to safer sunscreens.
- Avoid hot tubs or steam rooms.
4. Take it easy.
To balance pitta, it’s especially important to prioritize self-care, calm your mind and slow down.
- Go inward. Meditate or practice personal prayer or reflection, daily.
- Be mindful of your emotions. Observe your feelings and how you react. Try to be patient and tolerant, and turn your focus toward positive thoughts.
- Take deep breaths. Whenever you have to wait, deal with an unpleasant situation or simply want to enjoy more calm, try to take long, slow, deep breaths.
- Relax. Make time each day for rest and relaxation. Listen to peaceful music, or enjoy silent moments. Lie on a blanket and take in the beauty of the moon and stars.
5. Follow an Ayurvedic daily routine that’s pitta pacifying.
Another powerful way to harmonize your mind and body is with a daily routine that’s in alignment with the natural rhythms of day and night. Check out my previous blog post for 11 day-starters that promote overall balance and health.
Start to experiment with these cooling suggestions and you’ll be on your way to harnessing all the wonderful qualities of summer with fewer pitta-related aggravations.
Until next time, here’s to a cool, calm and balanced summer!
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