At long last, summer has arrived. Early dawn and longer days deliver us azure skies, marshmallow clouds, and dense green foliage. The sun casts its warmth and light on everything it touches, the birds rejoice from their arboreal homes, and patio season is in full swing. For all the life and energy it feeds us, summer could be a run-on sentence.

Unless you live south of the equator, summer solstice is just days away. This is the time of year when we feel the strength of the sun’s energy the most for its proximity to the earth. In Ayurvedic philosophy, the sun is related to awareness and consciousness, which is probably why summer is considered the season of mobility and transformation. Awareness incites action to improve or enhance the parts of our lives that are stagnant or tired. While each day is an opportunity for growth, this season of endless days and butterflies bestows upon us an energy that ignites the fire of change.

 

Pitta: Summer’s Dominant Dosha

Like time, the doshas are constantly in motion and the movement of time and the change of seasons influence the fluctuation of Prakriti within us. Just as each of the doshas is dominant at specific times of the day, each season also has an ascendant dosha. The turn of season produces a change in our bodily doshas, manifesting as different conditions and energies. Sometimes these changes are obvious, such as sweating in the hot days of summer when fiery pitta is dominant. But some take place at a subtle level, and we may not be consciously aware of their effects on our bodies.

In this guide, we’ll show you how you can use Ayurvedic principles to increase your awareness of those subtle changes and maintain a balanced flow of energy during the summer months when the pitta dosha is in overdrive. We strive to be balanced, healthy, and happy after all. Find out how you can work with the climate and increase your vitality with a few seasonal Ayurvedic lifestyle hacks.

 

To Everything There Is A Season

Retro boy-band, The Byrds sang it best: “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” Whether you love summer’s heat or prefer the cooler months of autumn, Mother Nature delivers us everything. When our rhythm is in sync with the seasons, we somehow survive even our least favorite season unscathed. But when we act against nature through non-acceptance of events and our emotions surrounding them, we create an imbalance in our bodies. For example, if you’ve ever noticed yourself over-reacting to a minor incident or breaking out in a rash in the midst of a heat wave, you are likely experiencing an imbalance of the pitta dosha caused by the interaction of external and internal forces. One of the most significant lessons Ayurvedic wisdom teaches us is how to strike a balance with the natural, external environment. This is especially important during the summer months when the heat is most intense, and the tendency to become aggravated quickly is strongest. Much like we alter the clothes we wear during different seasons, we need also to adjust what we eat and how we go about our daily lives. Our waking and sleeping patterns change, and we may experience a difference in our mental and emotional energies too. Our lifestyle routines reflect our natural circadian rhythm and whether we’re in our out of sync with the world around us. One of the simplest ways to understand the Ayurvedic doshas inherent in each season is to look at their attributes. Making small adjustments to our lifestyle habits as summer approaches can have a pacifying effect on our body as it undergoes an inevitable transition.

Autumn: Light, subtle, dry, mobile, rough, and cold. The fall season exhibits the same attributes of the vata dosha, which is comprised of air (wind) and ether (space).

Autumn

Winter / Early Spring: Liquid, heavy, cold, sticky, and cloudy. These attributes dominate the kapha dosha, comprised of earth and water.

Late Spring / Summer: Hot, dry, light, mobile, and penetrating. Pitta, with the elemental qualities of fire and water, shares these attributes, so this season naturally aggravates the pitta dosha within us.  

 

Finding Balance In The Heat: An Ayurvedic Perspective

While we might love sunbathing on the beach or enjoying a cold beer on our backyard patio, summer creates an intensity in us that can turn even the most docile person into something of a demon. Consider the sensation you experience when you feel angry, jealous, or frustrated. It’s a bit like a fire in the belly or a sunburned face. It’s no coincidence the term hot-tempered describes a person quick to anger. Pitta’s energy, which resides in the liver and is summer’s dominant dosha, can produce a similar effect and encourage these emotions to arise in us. As the sun interacts with our internal energy, it creates fiery emotions and pitta-inspired conditions, such as rash, hives, and acne.

Does this mean we all get a little more irritable in the hot season? Not necessarily–but based on the Ayurvedic principles of like increases like and opposites attract, the entrance of summer naturally provokes an inherent tendency toward excess pitta. It also helps stabilize the cold inherent in the vata and kapha doshas.

 

Signs of Excess Pitta

Heat stimulates the fire element (tejas) in all of us. If you ever find yourself feeling slightly more irritated or impatient in the hot weather, it may be because the sun’s energy has boosted your body’s internal thermostat.

Physical: Skin rash, acne, diarrhea, joint inflammation, cold sores, and gastric conditions such as heartburn or acid reflux.

Emotional/Mental: Jealousy, irritability, anger, competitiveness, impatience, fear, and criticism.

 

Ideal Summer Foods

 

Looking through an Ayurvedic lens, we can see how food affects our mental, physical, and emotional state. It influences how we react to events and approach everything we have to do in a day. Food is our energy, and we assimilate the properties of the food we eat into our very being. What we eat is very important because food either nourishes or depletes our body and consciousness. We naturally crave lighter, cooling foods during the summer season as agni disperses to keep us cool.

How we eat is crucial too. Preparing meals with joy and gratitude imbues the food with a light energy. Ayurvedic nutrition also warns us against overeating and eating food that is very cold or very hot at any time of year, but in summer, this recommendation is most important.

Follow these simple tips for pacifying pitta dosha during summer:

DO: Eat foods that have a light, dry, cooling quality. Sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes are ideal during the summer season. Some of the best pitta-pacifying foods are fresh leafy greens, cucumber, cilantro, parsley, alfalfa sprouts, coconut, cantaloupe, watermelon, homemade yogurt, milk, ghee, barley, soybean products, dill, and cardamom (I don’t recommend mixing them into one big salad though). Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, and while it tastes cool and refreshing, its heating quality exacerbates the pitta dosha. If you can’t resist a cup of creamy gelato, sprinkle a little cardamom on top to neutralize its heating effect.

DON’T: Eat foods that are hot, spicy, heavy, sour, salty, or pungent (or at the very least, try to minimize them–it’s hard to resist that lime margarita in the summer heat).

 

Daily Activities To Balance The Sun’s Fiery Energy

  • Bathe or shower in lukewarm water and massage your skin with coconut oil, which has the cold attribute.
  • Wear light-colored clothing and adequate sun protection.
  • Using air conditioning can upset the body’s natural balance. Instead, seek areas of shade during the midday heat.
  • To encourage a relaxing sleep, lie on your left side, which is the body’s lunar energy pathway.
  • Practice chandra bhedana pranayama (left-nostril breathing) for a few minutes every day.
  • Moderate sexual activity, which creates heat in the body and depletes energy.
  • Exercise during the kapha time of morning (before 10 am) when the temperature is cooler. Or, if you’re a very early riser, take to your yoga mat or the gym during the vata time of day–before 6 am.
  • Incorporate the Ayurvedic principle of balaardh and exercise at just 50{333419861ba30e1dc2ec13e0bc68cc1cc8c177a4fba1b407cb76f9cb1a355b06} of your capacity to conserve energy depleted by the heat.
  • Do pitta-balancing yogasana to cool the fire element in your body. Check out this 5-minute cooling yoga sequence  from Sarah Finger. 

 

Until Summer’s End

Long summer days remind us of childhood–lightness, joy, exuberance, and the feeling that anything is possible (it is!). Summer also sparks an intensity that occasionally feels like more than we can tolerate, as the sun’s energy and heat penetrate our mental, physical, and emotional body. Ayurvedic health reminds us that taking care of ourselves is an inside job. It means distinguishing what we want from what we need to feel our best and keep a healthy, balanced constitution. It means listening to pitta run screaming down the road in search of ice cream and tempering her with a lemon poppyseed sorbet instead. (To learn more about delicious pitta-balancing foods, click here). A few adjustments to your healthy lifestyle are all that’s required to keep you cool and energized throughout the hot summer season and drifting off, cool and relaxed, into a blissful sleep to the sound of the crickets.

Remember too that the sun’s energy during summer presents us with an opportunity for awareness and transformation–this is an ideal time to observe and reflect on your emotional reactions to external (and internal) events.

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