Summer is the hottest time of year. You already know that. But did you know that there are ways to stay healthy, balanced and cool all summer long? Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga, offers an interesting way of looking at summer, and all the seasons really, that can help us make lifestyle and food choices to stay balanced.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda has been around longer than Yoga has. The word itself means the "science of life," so basically you can use the Ayurveda to look at any aspect of life. Mostly, in modern times, we think of Ayurveda in terms of lifestyle and food as medicine. Depending on the predominant dosha, or energetic quality, you can use the lens of Ayurveda to know what foods, exercise, and other lifestyle practices can help you maintain a healthy, balanced body and mind.
What are Doshas?
There are three main doshas, or energetic qualities, made up of the five elements. Each season has a predominant dosha, but so can your natural constitution.
- Vata is air and space, and represents the colder, dryer season - late-Fall and Winter - as well as the seasonal shifts.
- Kapha is earth and water, and represents the wet, muddy and rainy season, in the late-winter and Spring.
- Pitta is fire, and represents heat, mugginess, and oiliness. Pitta is most prevalent in summer.
What does this have to do with me?
So, now that you know a little about the doshas let's get into the one prevalent right now, pitta. When pitta is out of balance, which happens for many of us during pitta season, it shows up as skin irritation, overall irritability and frustration.
The good news is we can minimize these specific emotions and side effects with some simple practices.
- Nutrition is the key to balancing your dosha. Take a walk to your nearest farmer's market and take a look at what they are selling. You will see watermelon, leafy greens like arugula, cucumbers, and cooling herbs, like cilantro. These are sweet, bitter, and astringent. It will help if you avoid high fat, overly salty, and processed foods during pitta season. Basmati rice, quinoa, coconut water, and coconut oil are also great for cooling the body.
- Your self-care routine must change from season to season. If you practice abhyanga, the practice of massaging oil into the skin before showering, switch to coconut oil in the summer. Coconut oil is cooling. Follow your abhyanga with a refreshing lukewarm shower. (Note: this means you can't use coconut oil all year round. When it starts getting cooler outside, you need a more warming oil, like sesame oil, to maintain balance.)
- Your summer exercise and meditation routine should be grounding and cooling, as well. Go for a walk barefoot in the water or wet grass. Practice a loving-kindness meditation for 15 minutes. Exercise, while still important, can sometimes over heat the body, which is unhelpful. Try a cooling yoga practice, or do your exercise routine at the coolest time of day, early in the morning.
Try a few of these tips, and notice how and what you feel, not only in your body, but in your emotions too. If you find yourself getting overly frustrated, try cooling off with a dunk in a lake. Or take a walk out in the shade of the woods. Most of all, enjoy your summer. It doesn't last forever!