Summer can be described as pleasantly warm or hotter than Satan’s toenails! It all depends on which state you live in. While the coasts are a little cooler, cities in the interiors are particularly stifling. Summer does not affect everyone equally – you may have noticed that everyone around you dislikes the rising temperature. But, you just seem to wilt in the summer heat! This is probably because you are a pitta individual.
According to Ayurveda, there are three basic biological energies (doshas) in all of us which govern our bodily constitutions. Pitta is associated with moist heat, which is why pitta individuals are more affected by summer and are also more likely to suffer from common summer ailments. Lifestyle changes that include the opposite qualities (cold and dry) can help to restore a pitta imbalance and keep you cool and healthy this summer.
Dosha Balancing Modifications for Summer
Balancing your doshas is not as complicated as you might imagine – all you need to do is make a few diet and lifestyle changes. These changes are aimed at lowering pitta, which will keep your doshas in balance.
According to Ayurveda, the best time to wake up is approximately one and a half hours before dawn; this is called brahma muhurtha. If this is not an option for you, decide on a specific time to wake up and keep it to within an hour of sunrise.
Woman walking on the seashore
- Have a wash as soon as you wake up – rinse your face with water and then gentle wash your eyes. Massage your eyelids using circular motions, then blink seven times and rotate your eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise and splash your face with water once again.
- Practice oil pulling (gundusha) – this ancient Ayurvedic technique not only improves dental health; it also extracts ama (toxins) from the body so that they can be easily expelled. Pitta is associated with heat so excess pitta can manifest as indigestion and diarrhea, especially in summer. Regular evacuation can help to curb this problem so make it a daily habit.
- Try to cool down – wrap up your morning ablutions with a cold shower to cool your entire system and to help balance the natural heat from pitta. Have a light and cooling breakfast before you head off to work.
When you come home from work, have a quick cool shower before you hit the gym. If you prefer to go for a walk instead, schedule it for later in the evening when the temperature has fallen, as this will help to prevent a pitta imbalance. Don’t skip your cool down session after your workout. This will help you cool down and enter a more restful state. Shower one again when you get home and have your dinner by seven o’clock – this will improve digestion and reduce the risk of disturbed sleep, which is another common problem for pittas in summer.
The type of food you eat plays a major role in your dosha balance. You may have noticed that you tend to feel hotter after eating spicy, oily, heavy meals – this is because these foods aggravate pitta. Don’t skip meals but instead include easy-to-digest foods such as steamed veggies in your diet.
|Salads (especially cold salads) are an excellent option as they have a high water content, which has a cooling effect on your digestive fire (agni).||Avoid steaming hot meals or dishes that are prepared with foods that have a strong heating effect like chilies.|
|Favor bitter tastes. Kale, chard, spinach, collard, and dandelion greens are some of the bitter foods that help to balance pitta in summer.||Avoid foods with a salty taste like salted nuts, butter, cheese, processed foods, and any other products with added salt, especially at lunch.|
|Consume more astringent foods for summer like mung and kidney beans, chickpeas, quinoa, pomegranate, pears, and lentils.||Avoid or restrict intake of pungent foods as they have a strong heating effect. This would include the likes of ginger, garlic, horseradish, and black pepper, among others.|
|Include foods with a naturally sweet taste like grains, roots like sweet potato or yam, fruits like apples and mangoes. Artificially sweetened foods should be limited.||Avoid sour foods like green mangoes, lemon, lime, grapefruit, tamarind, sour cream, cheese, vinegar, and so on.|
|Use dill, cilantro, cardamom, coriander, cumin, and fennel to add flavor to your foods as these spices and herbs help to balance pitta.||Restrict your use of pitta aggravating spices and herbs like garlic, mustard, oregano, paprika, pippali, clove, and fenugreek.|
You may be tempted to have a cold soda along with your lunch but this is not a good idea as it will dilute your stomach acids and impede digestion; instead, drink a glass of cool buttermilk prepared with mint leaves and coriander powder – this will pacify pitta as well as aid digestion.
Swap your daily packet of chips for fresh fruit – watermelon and cantaloupe are among the best fruits for pitta during the summer. Do not eat fruit along with your meals as this can result in ama (the build-up of toxins) in the body. In addition to your dietary changes, make sure that you drink water throughout the day to stay cool.
Yoga & Physical Activity
The thought of exercising in the sweltering summer heat can be daunting even to the most avid fitness enthusiast. However, light to moderate intensity workouts are healthy and will help to keep all the doshas in balance.
Woman relaxing in Shavasana pose
Exercise early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperature is lower. Ten in the morning to two in the afternoon is the pitta time of the day, so avoid unnecessary physical activity during this time. Over the weekends, you can go swimming or kayaking – these are good summer activities as they allow you to remain active while also keeping you cool, helping pacify your pitta dosha.
Practice pranayama when you wake up and before you go to sleep. These breathing techniques have a cooling effect and will also help to curb irritability and frustration, which are common problems for pittas during summer. You can also add yoga asanas to your daily fitness routine. Asanas such as the Cat pose (Marjariasana), Child’s pose (Shishu asana), Moon Salutation (Chandra Namaskara), and Corpse pose (Shavasana) are ideal for balancing pitta.
Quick Fixes for Pitta Aggravation
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, you can also use natural Ayurvedic herbs and formulations to prevent and treat pitta imbalances. Brahmi, guduchi, shatavari, and manjistha supplements will help to pacify pitta so you can take any of these on a regular basis to balance your doshas during the summer months.
Ayurvedic formulations like avipattikar churna (for digestive problems) and amlapittari vati (for hyperacidity) can be used to treat specific health problems caused by excess pitta. Keep in mind that Ayurvedic herbs and formulations can help to prevent and treat pitta imbalances, but lifestyle and dietary changes are necessary to ensure that they have the desired effect.
- Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing. Lotus Press, 1984.
- Tiwari, Maya. Love Your Body Type The Ayurveda Way. 1st ed., Mother Om Media, 2012.
- Cavanagh, Danny, and Carol Willis. Essential Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Healthy Living. Ayurveda UK, 2004.
The information on this page has been contributed by Meghna Unhawane, B.Sc. Home Science & Nutrition and is intended for the sole use of Allayurveda. Information contained within this article may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of Allayurveda.