Reducing the Heat of Summer Through Ayurveda
By Theresa Venezia
For most modern people, summer is just another season. We sit indoors in the air conditioning, going outside only to run from the house to the car and from the car to the next air-conditioned place. According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, summer is much more. Summer is a time to burn impurities of body, mind, and spirit. It is all about the fire element inside and outside of your body.
Summer is pitta time, which is composed mainly of fire with a little water thrown in the mix. The qualities of pitta are oily, hot, sour, fluid, and pungent. These attributes can be noticed in your body, as well as in the world around us. Ayurveda stresses that the inner world is not separate from the outer world, but rather is a reflection. Like increases like, meaning in this case, that the heat outside the body increases heat inside of the body.
Because pitta and fire element are predominant, pitta can be aggravated within the body. This is why you naturally look to cooling foods and activities. You might swim, ease up on strenuous exercise, and lighten your diet. All this is in service to creating balance. If you are primarily pitta dosha, summer can very quickly throw you out of balance, which means you, will likely be dealing with inflammation-an excess of heat in the system. This can look like skin rashes, digestive issues (diarrhea), fever, odorous sweating, burning pain, excess acid and bile in the stomach.
Being in the air conditioning all the time swings us out of balance just as quickly. While our bodies are naturally responding to the increased heat of summer, we are living in such a way that temperature might be that of fall. Instead of eating and doing the activities of the season, we are wearing sweaters and eating heavier foods to keep warm.
While Ayurveda never recommends ingesting cold foods or beverages, foods with cooling properties are recommended during this time. Eating heat-producing foods like spinach, garlic, black teas, alcohol, heavy spices, and peppers increases your internal heat.
Some tips to help balance pitta in the summer:
-Eat foods with cooling properties, such as those with bitter (dandelion root, rhubarb), sweet (pomegranate, rice), and astringent (cucumber, lettuce) tastes.
-Use little spice, or use cooling spices like coriander and saffron.
-Increase raw, cold foods such as salad and raw vegetables (balanced with cooling, cooked foods).
-Reduce strenuous activity or exercise like cardio, hot yoga, and workouts that cause heavy sweating.
-Do more asana designed to balance pitta dosha, such as shoulder stand, fish, locust, cobra, half bow, ear pressure pose, and bridge.
-Breathe deeply and quietly.
The earth supports what the body needs. What grows naturally in our area in any given season is what we need to be eating at that time for optimal health.
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