A core teaching in Ayurveda is that your personal body is inextricably connected to the environment around you. The environment can also be thought of as your extended body. So, whatever is happening outside in nature is expressing itself through you as well.
The qualities of the Five Elements—Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth—are expressed everywhere in nature, including the seasons of the year, so we can feel differently depending on the season. When you are aware of the qualities expressing themselves during different seasons, you can stay balanced all year.
- The qualities of Space and Air in combination are dryness, cold, and lightness and create movement.
- The qualities of Fire and Water are heat and moisture and facilitate digestion and metabolism.
- The qualities of Water and Earth are heavy, solid, moist, and creates structure and cohesion.
When these qualities of nature form certain combinations, they are described as doshas and represent the activation of these natural qualities within our physiology. These doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Exploring the seasons from a doshic perspective
- Late winter into early spring is Kapha season where we feel the qualities of water and earth in the environment as snow melts and rain begins.
- Fall into early winter is Vata time when space and air increase and things cool down and it gets dry and windy.
- Late spring through summer is Pitta time when the heat is rising, the qualities of fire and water elements are dominant, and plants are transforming the sun’s energy.
During any seasonal transitions certain doshas, and their qualities, accumulate and it’s common to experience imbalances.
For example, when a cold, dry wind blows, the Vata inside of you accumulates; hot weather increases Pitta, more so when it’s humid; and cold, wet weather or snow causes Kapha to accumulate.
During the summer, our body heats up as the weather gets warmer. The days are longer, the sun is hotter, and our activity level typically increases.
In the heat of the summer, we are fully in Pitta season. Accordingly, we may feel a buildup of heat in both the body and mind. In the body, this can show up as itchy or red skin, heartburn, acidity, inflammation in the joints or tissues, or just feeling hot. In the mind, heat can show up as irritability, excessive judgment, resentment, intensity, or perfectionism. We can find ourselves overdoing things or pushing ourselves too hard.
The key to balance is to recognize these changes and bring in opposite qualities to stay balanced. One of the main principles in Ayurveda is that “like increases like” and therefore opposites are healing, so you can balance excess Pitta energy that accumulates in this season by inviting in coolness and moderation in your body and mind.
When you keep your Pitta nature in balance, you can stay mentally and physically healthy through the summer or any hot months of the year.
Foods for Summer
During the hot pitta season of summer, try the following tips to maintain balance through your food:
- Eat lots of the summer fruits that nature gives us during this season– these are very balancing for the summer heat.
- Eat ripe, sweet, and juicy fruits like grapes, melons, pear, cherries, mangoes, pomegranates, avocados, oranges, and plums.
- Eat more leafy greens in healthy summer salads for further cooling and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Vegetables that balance Pitta include cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, green beans, and asparagus, among others.
- Add cooling spices such as cardamom, coriander, fennel, or saffron.
- Add cooling herbs to your food and drinks, such as mint, cilantro.
- Sweating indicates that you may need more hydration with water. Try infusing water with cucumber, mint, or rose water.
- Cool down acidity in the stomach with 1 ounce of aloe vera juice daily.
Just as nature varies during the different seasons of the year, so does your physiology. To align with nature’s changes, you need to adjust your food, as well as your routine, to stay balanced. When you create a soothing and relaxing environment, you can stay cool and avoid Pitta imbalances such as irritability, inflammation, rashes, headaches, and digestive issues.
Cooling the Emotions
In addition to heat in the body, you can experience what is referred to as ‘heating’ emotions, such as anger, resentment, criticism, judgment, irritation, or guilt. These emotions, which are merely thoughts in the mind that are connected to sensations in the body, and are based on our past stories and conditioning, create a heating or inflammatory physiology and may come up in the hot summer months. They also interfere with you feeling connected to your highest self or others in your life.
By focusing on your heart, you can shift your state from these heating emotions to a more loving, cooling perspective. Focus on your heart daily and bring in a sense of gratitude, love, or compassion. Imagine these qualities increasing and moving through your body with every breath. This will help to cool down any heating emotions that are accumulating.
Cultivating a Daily Routine
You can create an Ayurvedic summer daily routine to support Pitta season and avoid the overheating and intensity that can build up in the summer.
Here’s what a daily routine could look like to stay balanced through summer:
- Start your day with a cooling breathing exercise that stimulates your metabolism, and you can meditate using a soothing mantra.
- Drink a cup of warm water with ginger and lemon, with some added mint or rose to balance the heat.
- Take a relaxing walk in the cool morning or do some restorative yoga to get centered.
- To cool down the mind, play some soft rhythmic music such as classical music. You can also play the sound of ocean waves or a bubbling fountain.
- Gaze out the window at the green trees or grass a few times a day. Take in the beauty of nature to soothe and cool your body and mind.
- Eat a healthy lunch with cooling herbs and spices.
- Sip on CCF tea or coconut water throughout the day.
- Take a mindful walk at the end of your day to ‘cool down'. Pay attention to the plants, flowers, sky, and nature around you.
- Bring calming blues and greens into your space with pillows, crystals, or pictures of the ocean, rivers, or forests.
- Keep a journal and at the end of each day write down 10 things you are grateful for.
- Be in bed by 10 pm so you can maximize the healing and restoration that occurs at night.
During the hot summer months, you are more prone to accumulate heat in your system. You increase heat through more activity during the longer days, as well as the direct heat of the sun. Although activity and sunshine are necessary for good health, you can accumulate too much heat, and this can create inflammation and a sense of being overheated.
Take some time to consider your daily routines and how you can support and soothe your mind, body, and spirit during the summer Pitta season to feel your best.
When balanced, the fiery, intense qualities of Pitta are responsible for healthy transformation and metabolism in nature and in your body. The decisive and goal-oriented nature of Pitta energy allows you to concentrate and get things done, much as the energy of the sun is converting its heat and light into food. You experience Pitta in the body, mind, and spirit when you feel passionate, focused, and ideas begin to transform into action.
Remember to also bring in moderation in your activities, self-care, exercise routine, and daily routine. When you find space, coolness, moderation, and a healthy dose of detachment from all the striving and doing, you can feel cool and calm in body and mind.
Cool off and find calm this summer with Pitta-balancing practices to nourish mind, body, and spirit in Summer Renewal, a four-part Ayurveda series with Dr. Sheila Patel, available now in the Chopra App under For You.