Ayurveda teaches us that Summer is the Pitta time of year. Pitta dosha, being composed of fire and water, is hot, sharp, oily, liquid, and light. Summer weather increases pitta qualities in everyone, and this can be especially hard on those who already have a lot of Pitta in their constitution! An increase in Pitta can quickly overheat both the body and the mind. It can show up in the body as increased acidity, diarrhea, redness/feverishness, rashes and hives, and itching. In the mind, we may see increased irritability, anger, aggression, and mental agitation.
One of the best ways we can counteract an increase in Pitta is by cooling down the hot quality. In the Lowcountry, it is smart to avoid spending time outdoors from 10am-2pm, which is the Pitta time of day and the hottest time of the day. If we have to be outdoors at this time, wearing both a hat and sunglasses can be protective. Wearing lighter-colored clothes can also keep us cooler. Staying hydrated is important, and in addition to water, drinking cooling herbal teas (i.e. peppermint tea, cumin/coriander/fennel tea, rose tea) and naturally-cooling drinks (i.e. coconut water, pomegranate juice, aloe vera juice) can be very helpful for reducing internal heat. Drinking ice cold drinks, however, is not recommended as it slows down our digestion and can lead to digestive disorders. Summer is also the perfect time for salads and raw vegetables (which are cooling) and for lighter, more-easily digestible foods. It is not the time of year for red meat, pork and lamb, or for excessively spicy foods, as these are all very heating/Pitta-increasing.
For yogis, some great Pitta-soothing asanas to practice are: boat, bow, bridge, camel, cobra, cow, fish and tree. These all help to remove excess Pitta from the small intestine and liver, which are primary storehouses of Pitta in our bodies. Moon salutations are particularly cooling. Inversions are not recommended for yogis with Pitta conditions as they tend to aggravate Pitta further by bringing excessive blood to the thyroid, thymus, eyes and brain. Shitali pranayama is a breathing exercise that can be used to cool the body quickly. First, stick out the tongue and roll both sides upward. Inhale through the rolled tongue, hold the breath in the belly for a few seconds (cooling Pitta in the digestive tract) and then slowly exhale through the nose.
Here is a good general summer routine that we all can adopt to soothe our Pitta dosha:
- Wake up early in the morning
- Walk barefoot in the grass in the cool morning dew
- Do exercise in the early morning hours (or at dusk). Summer is a good time for lighter exercise such as walking, cycling & yoga.
- Self-massage with coconut oil or sunflower oil (cooling oils)
- Take a lukewarm (or cool) shower, with neem or sandalwood soap to reduce excess oil
- Wear organic cotton or other lightweight and light-colored, breathable clothing
- Eat a small, nutritious breakfast (avoid skipping)
- Have lunch around noon, and not too late
- Swim in cool water, take a short afternoon nap
- Have an earlier, light dinner (between 6-7 or before sunset)
- Rub coconut oil on the scalp and soles of feet before going to bed, to remain cool overnight
- Go to bed by 10-11pm, sleeping on your right side to activate the lunar nostril (cooling to the body)