Summer is now upon us with the hot season running from July to October and it brings sunshine, heat, humidity, energy, stimulation and focus. In balance at this time of the year, we are articulate, courageous, show sharp intellect and are content with who we are and where we are going. However, most of us will also feel some negative effects in the warming atmosphere – irritability, frustration leading to increasing unreasonableness and outbursts of misdirected anger. And furthermore, such emotional responses can also create or reflect unwelcome physical reactions. So, it is important we manage the change of season and find ways to stay cool.
Ayurveda is the ancient science of natural health and its fundamental principle is about having a balance in order to enjoy and live your life well. Central to the philosophy is the understanding that there are three governing doshas (dynamic energies if you will) which, combined in numerous ways, make up every natural thing in the universe – including our four seasons. The doshas are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha and to ensure harmony, it is key that they are equalised wherever possible.
Pitta is the element that governs your metabolism and transformation in the body including digestion. Signs of Pitta overload include heartburn, excessive body heat and sweating, skin rashes, acne, excess stomach acidity and ulcers – not particularly pleasant ailments to endure when you want to be up early enjoying beautiful morning sunrises or perhaps sat outside relaxing in the long evenings.
Fortunately, from the balanced Ayurvedic perspective, we can stay cool and pacify an aggravated Pitta with some small and simple adjustments to your lifestyle ….
- Work towards having more uncooked food in your diet and avoid hot and spicy food as well as limiting your intake of alcohol, coffee, tea, meat and eggs to more moderate levels. Pay particular attention to the amount of salt you may add when cooking or eating as in the summer heat, you may feel more dehydrated and this can lead to aggravated skin problems.
- When preparing your meals rather favour sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and include as many ripe fruits and green leafy vegetables as you can to stay cool and refresh your taste buds. Remember nature always provides the dietary antidote to the season’s effects.
- Eat mindfully. Chew thoroughly. Be attentive to the colour, smell, texture and taste of the food you are enjoying.
- An important part of balancing an overactive Pitta is to eat your main meal in the middle of the day when your digestive ‘fire’ is at its strongest. And don’t be tempted to skip meals either – a guaranteed way to increase that irritability factor.
- It is essential to keep replenishing lost fluids with water and nourishing beverages. Ayurveda recommends using coconut or lime water (or consider squeezing date juice into water instead) as well as fresh fruit juices to assists with combating effects of higher temperatures.
- Fennel tea is light and dry and will help to cool heat in the mind, ease any nausea that excess sun may have caused and gently increase your digestive strength.
- According to Ayurveda, ice cold drinks, especially with meals, overwhelm your body’s digestive process which is dependent on heat to covert food so that it can be optimally absorbed. And so simply these should be avoided where possible.
- It seems obvious but when looking to exercise, choose a time of day when nature is at its most cool – early mornings are particularly good for kick-starting your metabolism.
- It’s also worth thinking about stepping away from high intensity work outs for a few months and opting for something lighter such as walking, yoga, tai chi or best of all, swimming which is wonderfully calming and soothing for the inflamed Pitta dosha.
Long working hours, frequent time pressures focussed around unrealistic deadline-orientated activities, coupled with trying to look after the needs of your family and friends as well as have some semblance of a life of your own all contribute to a stressed out Pitta – and we end up being more demanding on others and on ourselves.
So step back. Sit down. Breathe. Take time for you. Figure out a way to balance work with leisure in the months when you should be enjoying yourself the most. Build in some time for play. Sleep with your windows open. Ease back. Make time for fun. Chillax. Turn down the temperature of your mind and stay cool this summer. And remember – it’s all about balance.