As we move into late spring, we enter the season, known by Ayurveda, as the pitta season, which continues throughout the hot months of summer and into early autumn. The qualities of pitta are light, hot, sharp, and mobile; we see these qualities manifest as longer, brighter days, rising temperatures and a vibrant intensity around us. Summer is the season of activity and the time when we move outward into the world, exploring & adventuring.
From an ayurvedic point of view, depending on our current state of balance, each season can increase or aggravate our internal sense of harmony. If you are predominantly pitta by nature or experiencing a pitta imbalance, you may find that the additional heat & intensity of summer is somewhat overwhelming; maybe you have less patience or the heat leave you feeling flustered.
A basic tenet of Ayurveda is ‘like increases like’ and that ‘opposites balance’; therefore, understanding the elemental qualities present within each season can go a long way in helping understand lifestyle adjustments that we can introduce through the changing seasons.
Because the qualities of pitta are hot, sharp, light, liquid, spreading & oily, it makes sense to introduce, through food, lifestyle and activities, qualities that are cool, slow, heavy, dense, stable & dry throughout the summer season.
To help you keep your cool this summer, below are a few ideas from Ayurveda that will help your body expel excess heat and encourage equanimity.
Eat lighter and smaller meals
Eating with the seasons and choosing local food is a good year-round practice. In summer, our agni (digestive fire) is naturally low; therefore, it is good to favour lighter foods and smaller meals that are easy to digest. Choose foods that are sweet (which doesn’t mean packed with sugar!), bitter & astringent tasting, cool, liquid and slightly oily, and avoid overly spicy food.
During the summer months, we have an abundance of salad vegetables and fruits available. Now is the perfect time to lighten up and include fresh salads (with olive oil to reduce their drying quality) and fruit into your diet.
Some excellent summer fruits & veggies are berries, mangoes, coconut, asparagus, bitter greens, cucumbers, courgettes. Also, check out your local food market for seasonal and locally grown food – nature knows what is good for us!
Drink plenty of room temperature water to help maintain the inner reserve of life-sustaining fluids. I like to keep a jug or flask of water that contains sliced lime (or cucumber and mint) handy at all times, ready and waiting for when I need refreshment.
Herbal teas such as mint, peppermint, fennel or rose are ideal during the summer months.
I also keep a spray bottle of rosewater with me at all times. Rosewater is not only deeply hydrating for the skin; it also cools the skin, reduces redness and, among other things, is said to enhance mood.
There are many recipes to be found on the internet if you’d like to make your own, but also some organic options are available to purchase if you are like me and prefer ready-made.
Avoid intense activity during the midday hours
The pitta times of day are 10.00am – 2.00pm and 10.00pm – 2.00am. Pitta energy digests our food during the day and detoxes our body while we sleep.
During daytime pitta hours, our minds are sharper and it’s better to perform activities that require intellectual discernment and focus rather than ones that create heat in the body. Exercise, especially intense exercise, is best kept to the early morning or late evening.
Of course, these hours are dependent on your time zone and factors such as daylight saving but are helpful as a general guide.
Include rest as a regular self-care practice
Pitta creates a strong drive to get things done, and often, we push ourselves to ‘make hay while the sun shines’. It is a great time to take advantage of this additional energy but remaining mindful that we don’t overdo things and run the risk of burnout, especially towards late summer.
Remember to take some time out for self-care. Treat yourself to an evening restorative yoga practice, something as simple as laying with your legs up the wall for 10 minutes will do wonders, or take a walk in nature as the sunlight fades. Soak your feet in cool water at the end of the day, relax with soothing music and a good book, or gather some friends for a meal and leisurely conversation.
Cool down your yoga practice
Slow down your movement, perhaps wind it down a notch, and be a little languid and playful; focus on extending your exhalation to help cool your system. End with some śītalī prānāyāma, or even incorporate some śītalī during your asana practice.
Śītalī pranayama is almost immediately cooling and is an excellent practice for releasing stress and calming the nervous system. Nāḍīśodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is also good for maintaining balance when energy is depleted.
Enjoy and celebrate
Summer is a time of moving outward and engaging with the world. It is lovely to allow time for some uplifting leisure time with family & friends. A time of abundance and a time to celebrate life!
With just a few minor adjustments to your daily routine, you can maintain your equilibrium and make the most of this vibrant time of year. Enjoy!