The word Ayurveda means “knowledge of life”. Ayurveda is the sister-science of yoga. Yoga in practice is a psychological science that is concerned with cultivating viveka, or, clear-seeing, through the cessation of mental agitations. Ayurveda is concerned with the physical body in light of the idea that psycho-spiritual disharmony manifests as dis-ease and dis-order. Both address issues that contribute to avidya, ignorance of our true nature as spiritual beings.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. Like yoga, it comes from India. Ayurveda is said to be over 3,000 years old! Ayurvedic medicine is based on the body’s constitution and maintaining life-force. The life-force is optimized through balancing the three doshas, or energies: vata, pitta, and kapha.
Pitta season turns up the heat!
Each season presents excesses and deviancies in the three doshas. In the northern hemisphere, during autumn the weather is crisp and cold. Many people experience vata imbalances during the cooler months. Kapha imbalances tend to occur when the seasons are cool and damp, such as late winter and early spring. Summer is pitta season!
Pitta is the energy associated with fire, heat, and intensity. Pitta imbalances emotionally present as anger, frustration, impatience, and irritability. Physically it manifests in warming conditions such as acne, indigestion, inflammation, etc. When pitta is out of balance, we tend to be sensitive to heat and sunlight. It is important for most people, but especially those experiencing pitta imbalance, to try to stay cool, slather on sunscreen, and wear a large hat and sunglasses to protect their eyes and sensitive facial skin.
Ayurveda may sound complicated, but putting it into practice is actually quite intuitive. Despite its complexity, Ayurveda is a very practical science! Because pitta-related dis-ease occurs when the body, mind, and spirit are overheated, finding ways to cool down is potent medicine!
Please keep in mind, everybody, and every body, is special and beautifully unique! These Ayurvedic tips tend to work well for many people, but not all. It is empowering to explore and pay attention to how our own bodies respond to pitta season’s heat and Ayurvedic remedies. It is also important for us to not neglect the wise advice we have been given by the medical professionals (doctors, nurses, therapists, dieticians, etc.) we work with. Therefore, this is not meant to substitute for or negate medical advice. Take what is helpful and leave the rest.
Ayurvedic tips for staying cool:
- Dietary: We may love spicey food and warm beverages in the cooler months, but they do not tend to contribute to our health in summer’s heat. Fortunately, nature clues us in to what we need for balanced health! Fresh summer produce and cool, clean water go a long way in keeping us cool, well, and hydrated.
- Pranayama: Sitali pranayama is translated as “cooling breath”. In addition to cooling the physical body, Sitali is said to help soothe stress and anxiety. To practice Sitali, sit comfortably. Breathe in and out the nose. Let the inhales and exhales be about the same length, perhaps four or five counts. The eyes can be closed. Curl the tongue so that it makes a straw-like shape. If the tongue does not curl, that is okay. Simply touch the tip of the tongue to the upper two front teeth so that a small hole is created between the tongue and teeth. Breathe in through the straw-like form created. Then close the lips and breathe out through the nose. Try this for five rounds or so. Gradually increase the rounds to about twelve.
- Herbs and essential oils: Our gardens are nature’s pharmacy! Herbs such as dill, mint, and cilantro are all very cooling. Try some dill in hummus, mint in water, or enjoy sprigs of cilantro in a salad! Likewise, essential oils such as rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang have cooling properties. Make sure to dilute essential oils by creating a spritzer or adding them to a base oil. If using a base oil, olive and sunflower oils are excellent warm-weather options.
- Lifestyle: Finally, it is helpful to make seasonal adjustments to our lifestyle. We can do this through things like exercise, clothing choices, and even our asana practice. Even though the weather is warm and sunny, this is not the best time of year for intense exercise. If exercising outdoors, try to do so early in the morning or later in the evening. Avoid outdoor exercise when the sun is at its peak. Dress in light, breathable clothing. Natural fibers are best when possible. Be mindful of the color of the clothing. Aim for light colors (such as white, pale yellow, and light gray) or cooling colors (such as green, blue, and purple). Our asana practice can help us achieve greater seasonal balance and harmony. During the hotter months, or anytime we are experiencing pitta-related imbalances, cooling asana practices such as yin yoga and restorative yoga can be both healing and delightful! If we enjoy hatha yoga, focusing on gentle, flowing movements, calming forward bends, and deep hip-openers are very soothing during times when pitta energy is high.