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Ayurvedic Summer Practices | Staying Cool + Balanced

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According to Ayurvedic seasonal cycles, summer is considered to be Pitta season, where the energetic principles of fire and water are strongest.

It is during summer that Pitta dosha, inherently driven by solar force, is most predominant, as it is comprised of the fire and water elements.

Pitta dosha is the expression of radiant energy, both within our bodies and in the universe.  As we move in and out of the Summer Solstice it is a time where the Earth is receiving the most sun, heat and radiant energy thus bringing the qualities that are sharp, hot, bright, and penetrating.  We mostly feel the drying effects of this time of year via the hot sun and for some areas dry winds as well.  Ayurveda considers this a time of dehydration that occurs both inside and outside the body. Following the principle of like increases like we follow a summer guide based on Pitta pacification measure to balance what is predominant in our environment.

During the summer there is enhancement of katu (pungent) taste, the roughness and weakness in the body is severe” Charka Samhita Sutrashtana VI:6

The key qualities or gunas 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.  This imbalances can more easily arise in the summer whether you are of Pitta prakriti or not.  However, for those with Pitta in their constitution this season is an especially sensitive time of the year for you because during the summer season, due to the hot quality, Pitta people become more susceptible to heat related ailments.

Signs of Inceased Pitta in the Body Include:

~ Excessive Body Heat

~Heartburn

~ Hyperacidity

~ Peptic Ulcers

~ Acne

~ Irritation, impatience, anger, frustration,

~ Skin Rashes

~ Diarrhea

~Early graying of the hair of falling hair

The Pitta person is prone to a low tolerance for heat, sunshine, or hard physical work.  When out of balance emotionally, the sharp quality of Pitta arouses aggression, irritability, anger, hatred, judgment, criticism, and jealousy.  Special care must be taken in order for them to remain cool, calm and peaceful.  In general, to balance Pitta, we learn to apply its opposite qualities to any given imbalance.  For example, if a person has eaten chili peppers, making their mind sharp and agitated we counterbalance with cooling foods, remedies and practices.

During the summer, the sun evaporates the moisture of the earth by its rays.  In that season, the intake of sweet, cold, liquid, unctuous diets and drinks are prescribed.

One should further avoid taking diets that are salty, sour, pungent, or hot.  Physical exercise is a lot to be given up during this season.”

Charka Samhita Sutrashtana VI: 27-32.

Diet

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 in the body.  Meaning that Agni is pulled to the extremities to keep the body cool and therefore digestive Agni is compromised weakening our digestive capacity.  That is why in the summer we are often less hungry and want to eat less. So 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, and pungent tastes

Favor:  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,  cardamom, coriander, saffron.

Avoid: tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, garlic, dry ginger, black pepper, fermented foods, spicy foods, sour fruits, heavy protein, mustard oil, molasses, coffee.

As for alcohol beer is better then wine and hard alcohol and drink plenty of water to off –set the drying and heating nature of alcohol.  Also best to avoid daytime drinking and wait until the sun goes down.

Exercise Lightly

To prevent excess Pitta from accumulating in the physiology, we should enjoy light exercise during the summer. We must not overdo any form of vigorous aerobic exercise, since that would overheat us and aggravate Pitta. Therefore avoid long-distance running, spinning, and other forms of exercise that heat the body.

Recommended exercises include those that are more cooling:  Lunar Yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming, bicycling, restorative Yoga, etc.  Avoid exercising during the hottest time of the day between 11 am and 3 pm and favor early morning or sunset exercise.

Favor yoga asanas that remove excess heat from the body instead of building heat.  Forward bends, twists and mild backbends are the best peak asanas for this time of year.  Use caution with inversions, arm balances and standing asanas that build too much heat as it is important to counter-pose any heat building during this time of year.

Pitta Aromas, Herbs, and Daily Routine

In Ayurveda, aromas of essential oils and resins derived from plants are used to pacify aggravated doshas (bioenergies).

The following essential oils are recommended for Pitta season: sandalwood, rose, lavender, jasmine, lotus, gardenia, khus, and vertivert.  Having a rose water mister is a wonderful refresher for the face and body

It is often wise to supplement our diets with one or more gentle and cooling herbs during Pitta season to maintain proper digestion, elimination, and to prevent excessive accumulation of hot, light, and mobile energies. In addition, Pitta season can create conditions for inflammation and over-activity of certain metabolic processes and secretions.

Lifestyle Recommendations

Since the stomach, liver and skin are the principle seats of Pitta dosha, simple cleansing techniques aimed at these regions are commonly employed in the summer months.

~ Upon awakening, do some yoga asanas, including Chandra Namaskar.  The emphasis throughout your practice can be on surrendering, forgiving, softening and being gentle with yourself – a cooling, grounding sadhana.

~ Spend time outside before 10 am and after 5 pm.  Avoid being outdoors during the hottest times of the day.

~ Practice cooling pranayama after your asanas.  Either Shitali pranayama or left-nostril breathing will cool and calm the hot quality of pitta dosha.  Be sure to release any remaining internal heat from within the body before meditation.

~ Give yourself a slow and loving full body massage before taking a shower.  Use Pitta massage oil, Coconut oil or Sunflower Oil.

~ Essential oils of rose, sandalwood, jasmine or lavender are cooling

~ Drink a tea of cumin, coriander, fennel and rose to pacify the hot quality, improve digestion and calm the mind. Mint tea.

~ Wear clothing of light texture and color.  Excellent choices would be cotton, linen and silk of white, blue and green.  Red and yellow shades tend to increase the fire that is already present.

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