Ayurveda & the Seasons: Summer
With July 4th celebrations come & gone, we are officially more than a week into summertime. In Ayurveda, summer is considered pitta season. What exactly makes the summertime pitta season you ask? Well, it all begins with the elements…
Understanding the 5 Elements
Ayurveda works with the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water & earth. Each of these elements have qualities that define them & there are pairs of elements that become predominant within each passing season. For example, in the fall & winter months, ether & air are predominant. Ether & air create dryness & coldness in the environment & many times, this is reflected in our personal experiences. We start to feel colder in the fall & maybe we feel downright frozen during the dead of winter. Dryness can set into the skin, tight joints & limbs can manifest, while an emptiness or depression can crawl into the mind. Then just as we feel like we cannot handle anymore qualities ether & air, the season begins to fade, snow begins to melt, the earth begins to blossom with the promise of spring. With spring, water & earth come into the forefront, while the ether & air elements take a welcomed backseat. The flow of water & the steadiness of earth create a foundation for new life to begin. As humans, we literally & figuratively head outside & sow the seeds that we will grow & foster throughout the summer months. As the spring begins to dissipate & the warmth of the summer sets in, the elements change who is in the driver’s seat yet again. The earth element switches place with fire & fire becomes the lead in the summer months, with water in the passenger seat. This combination of fire & water is what creates pitta dosha.
I myself am pitta predominant; therefore, in the summertime, the increase in fire in the environment easily makes my internal fire blaze out of control. For instance, when I step outside on a hot summer’s day, hop into my hot car & make my 30 minute commute to work, I can already feel the heat in my body begin to rise. When I finally arrive in the office, the environmentalist in me tries to not turn on the loud AC unit in hopes of conserving money & energy. Yet, the rising heat begins to literally transform my once cool, calm, collected demeanor into an irritable, impatient, curt, well, jerk! This my friends is an example of the transformational power inherent within the fire element.
Fire can change you or your situation in a positive or negative way- it depends how you harness the energy & activation of this powerful element. Thus, in the summertime, you can use these months to expand kindly, creatively & make your goals a reality. As we stand at the beginning of July, we stand at the second half of 2017. What a spectacular time to reflect, to see how far we have come on our soul’s journey & to use the activated, expansive energy of fire to help us achieve our life’s dharma or true purpose.
Common Pitta Imbalances
In order for us to work towards our personal & spiritual goals this summer, it is important to keep pitta dosha in balance. According to Ayurveda, that means we need to counterbalance the heat that is associated with pitta. Here are some common signs of pitta imbalance in the physical & emotional body:
- Anger & Irritability in the Mind
- Smelly Gas
- Loose Stools
- Inflamed & Sensitive Skin
- Oily Skin
- Acne & breakouts in the T-Zone areas of the face
General Recommendations for Pitta Balance
The beauty of Ayurveda is that it offers simple, effective tips to deal with each ailment listed above. It just takes observation & awareness of what is occurring in your body & mind. To help you tune into your own physical & emotional body, go ahead & step outside on a hot summer day, start to run in place for several seconds in the direct sunlight. Stop moving & observe the effects the heat has on first your body & then your mind. Bring a notebook with you & take some notes on what you observe. Your connection to self will help you understand the lifestyle practices that can assist you in maintaining balance as the fire comes into the forefront.
Below are some recommendations to help keep pitta in balance all summer long:
Favor sweet, astringent & bitter tastes.
Summertime is the perfect time to introduce fresh greens into the diet. Select a fresh kale & spinach salad to help purify & cool the body. Favor sweet juicy fruits like fresh strawberries & peaches over sour fruits. (Sour fruits have a tendency to increase the heat in the body). Also, take advantage of the hydrating fruits that are abundant like watermelon, honeydew melon & cantaloupes. If you eat meat, Ayurveda recommends chicken & freshwater fish over the more heat inducing saltwater fish.
- Herbal Allies
Look to seasonally appropriate culinary herbs
Summer is an ideal season to replace your hot spices like: cayenne, mustard seeds, black pepper & cinnamon with more cooling herbs like: peppermint, cumin, cardamom, calendula, lavender & fennel. These cooling, soothing herbs can help aid against inflammation, smelly gas & indigestion in the digestive tract.
Avoid heat increasing exercise from 10am-2pm.
According to Ayurveda, the fire element is the strongest from 10am-2pm; thus, it is suggested to exercise during the cooler morning hours. Any endurance like exercise you plan to do, do in the morning & avoid physical labor in the late morning & afternoon. If you must perform physical labor between 10am-2pm, drink plenty of water or water infused with mint & breathe evenly through the nose to keep the mind & body cool.
- YOGA ASANA
Focus on a gentle, forward folding practice.
If you have been aching to get into that mid-afternoon heated power flow yoga class, this might not be the season to start! Instead, focus more on a gentle, restorative practice that includes forward folding postures that can help soothe the mind & nourish the nervous system. If you still feel the need for a hot, sweaty, vinyasa practice, try one in the morning hours & commit to an overall more gentle practice throughout your week.
- SELF-ABHYANGA (MASSAGE)
Make self-abhyanga apart of your daily routine.
If you have not begun to incorporate Ayurvedic self-care practices into your daily routine, begin this summer with replacing your body lotion with our Pitta Body Oil. The Pitta Body Oil is designed to help your skin & entire body feel supported by earth based ingredients formulated to work with the heat of summertime. Herbs of Gotu Kola, Rose & Coriander are infused into Sunflower & Sweet Almond Oil to cool irritated, inflamed skin. It also has the added benefit of easing stress or irritability in the mind.
As we slide into the long, expansive, sun drenched days of summer, I wish you the highest, most balanced manifestation of pitta in your being. I also hope that the above lifestyle recommendations assist you on your journey. Take a moment each morning to sit, breathe & observe the elements moving through & within you. You have the power to cultivate the life you love. Let Ayurveda share with you its ancient tools to help along the way.