Ayurveda, translating as the Science of Life, is the traditional Hindu system of medicine used to bring balance to the mind and body.
The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda are 1) the mind and the body are inextricably connected, and 2) nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. Freedom from illness depends upon expanding our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. - (Deepak Chopra, M.D. - "What Is Ayurveda?")
Within Ayurveda, it is believed that everyone is comprised of varying amounts of 3 mind-body types known as doshas that are related to the five main elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The Three main dosha types are Vata (Space + Air), Pitta (Fire + Water), and Kapha (Water + Earth). These doshas can manifest in various physical and emotional ways based on if they are in or out of balance. (Learn more about your dosha type)
In addition to doshas affecting our physical and emotional beings, they also correlate with the seasons: Fall into Early winter is Vata; Winter into Spring is Kapha; and Summer is Pitta. No matter what your own personal dosha is, you will be influenced by the season's prevailing dosha force. So, what does that mean as we transition into a Pitta Summer?
Transitioning to a Season of Pitta
Qualities that you might already relate to summer are also the qualities of the Pitta dosha. They include: hot, light, moist, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, and acidic. This is why a Pitta dosha out of balance can result symptoms including:
Red, inflamed rash, acne, cold sores
Acute inflammation in body or joints
Acid reflux, gastric or peptic ulcers, heartburn
Nausea or discomfort upon missing meals
Uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body
Frustration, anger, irritability
Judgment, impatience, criticism, intolerance
Red, inflamed or light-sensitive eyes
Excessive perfectionist tendencies
As we transition into a season of Pitta influence it is important to begin to shift our routines towards a more cooling, nurturing and calming effect. Here are a few changes that you can include into your routine to help you transition smoothly into Summer:
Give yourself a 15 minute cooling body massage using using coconut, sunflower or olive oil before your morning shower. Start from the crown of your head and work your way down to your toes sending love and gratitude into your body.
Incorporate a more Pitta-balancing diet into your daily routine (see below).
Meditate at least 10 minutes a day.
Wear cooling fabrics and colors (blue, green, silver).
Avoid intense workouts at midday.
Include a cooling yoga flow and pranayama (See below).
Take a 10-15 minute walk when the moon has risen and the temperatures have cooled.
Stick to a daily routine with regular times for eating, sleeping, working, rest, etc.
Don't over-schedule yourself.
Balance your diet
Since the Pitta dosha is known for overheating the mind and body when out of balance, during the summer months increase cooling foods and liquids with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and reduce foods that are pungent, salty, and sour.
Foods to increase during this season include:
Dairy - increase milk, butter, and ghee
Oil - Olive, sunflower, and coconut oils
Grains - Wheat, rice, barley, and oats are the best grains to reduce Pitta
Sweet fruits - Including grapes, melons, cherries, coconuts, avocados, mangoes, pomegranates, fully ripe pineapples, oranges, and plums
Vegetables - asparagus, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, green beans, and zucchini
Herbs/Seasoning - coriander, cilantro, cardamom, saffron, and fennel. Chew on fennel seeds after meals to cool down acid in the stomach
Sweeteners - All sweeteners may be taken in moderation except molasses and honey
Meat - Chicken, pheasant and turkey are easier to digest
Dairy - Sour, fermented products such as yogurt, sour cream, and cheese should be used sparingly.
Oil - Use less sesame, almond, and corn oil, which are more heating.
Grains - Eat less corn, rye, millet, and brown rice.
Sour fruits - Such as grapefruits, apricots, and berries.
Vegetables - Tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, garlic, radishes, and spinach.
Spices - Hotter spices such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, clove, salt, and mustard seed should be used sparingly. Very hot seasonings such as chili peppers, and cayenne are best avoided.
Meat: beef, seafood, and eggs increase Pitta and should be eaten in moderation.
At the end of the day, it is best to always pay attention to the signals that your mind and body are sending you. By being mindful and attentive, you will begin to notice which foods, exercise and routines are a best fit for balancing yourself. Have compassion for yourself through these seasonal transitions and welcome the warmth of the sun as it, once again, heats our earth, body and minds.