The pitta dosha, of fire, water, and vibrant spirit. You’re determined, insightful, competitive, and drawn to projects that allow you to unearth new capabilities. You’re also intensely driven, competitive, jealous, impatient, and critical of yourself and others. Fire is your primary element and a driving force within your spirit and your belly. You’re quick minded, witty, intelligent, and strong whether we’re talking about opinions, food preferences, appetite, or physical stamina. Managing this dosha is especially important during the summer season, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just a few simple tips based on basic Ayurvedic principles are enough to keep this fiery dosha in check for a balanced constitution.

The Five Fires

Did you know that pitta has more than one form? Its primary fire, pachaka pitta, is located in the small intestine. When a pitta disorder arises in the body, this fire is the first consideration because it is our primary source of heat or literally, “that which digests things”. But this dosha has four other fires or manifestations in the body.  Sadhaka pitta is located in the brain and heart and rules our intelligence and ego. Alochaka pitta sits in the eyes and digests the light of the external world.  Bhrajaka pitta in the skin governs our color and complexion. If aggravated, skin rashes or discoloration will result. Ranjaka pitta is located in the liver, spleen, stomach and small intestine but primarily resides in the blood. It is responsible for giving color to blood, bile, and stool. Managing an excess of this intense dosha requires addressing one or more of its five forms.
 

What Aggravates Pitta?

A pitta-dominant constitution benefits from a strong digestive fire. But, as we know, fire burns if we allow it to blaze out of control. If this is your dominant dosha, you will experience heat-inspired conditions like inflammation, skin rashes, acne, heartburn, and diseases affecting the digestive organs, like the liver and gallbladder if it becomes aggravated. Sound familiar? Let’s find out what the primary culprits are and how managing this dosha is more natural than you think.

Food, climate, and our emotional experience form the external and internal essence of our biological constitution. This is especially true for pitta dosha whose fire is aggravated by some of the most delicious foods and yearned-for weather. In line with the universal law that “like increases like”, it’s easy to understand why this dosha loves heat and fire because we’re drawn to whatever increases our intensity. Sunbathing, spicy snacks, and competitive sports are classic pitta-isms, but they feed fuel to the fire if we’re not properly managing it by eating dosha-balancing foods and doing relaxing activities.

Thankfully, the wisdom of Ayurveda lends us another ancient, universal truth: “opposites attract”. Understanding the law of opposites is key to managing our constitution. We can recognize it in the 10 opposing pairs of attributes found in every part of nature. The first step in managing an excess of pitta is understanding what is causing the imbalance and then seeking its opposite to reestablish equilibrium and promote healing.

Food

In her most heated fire, inconsiderate ants aggravate pitta, not to mention spicy garlic spaghetti sauce. Knowing what jives with your constitution and what doesn’t begins with listening, very closely, to how your body responds to different stimuli–including food. In Ayurveda, food is medicine and agni–our digestive fire–arises from pitta. So what we eat either inspires a healthy, happy dosha or incites an aggressive internal flame that causes overactive agni and a host of health conditions. Managing an excess begins with taking a close look at your diet and consulting a list of pacifying foods.

Climate

Because pitta’s qualities are hot, penetrating, and intense, she needs opposite attributes to maintain a balance. She is most dominant in the summer, so winter is her pacifying, balancing season. Some of the worst places in the world for this dosha are in the tropics, for example, South East Asia, Southern India, and South America, where the climate is hot and moist. Even the shade doesn’t provide much relief from the heat. A climate that is dry and cool like northern Canada balances this dosha (though it’s not necessarily what she wants!). But not all of us can choose to live in a particular climate, so if you’re in a hot, humid place, managing pitta’s intensity is essential to keeping healthy and centered.

Emotions

Repressed emotions, such as anger, resentment, jealousy, and frustration aggravate the small intestine, causing an excess of this dosha and potential skin or digestive problems. This is akin to eating a handful of hot chili peppers or a spreading a few cloves of roasted garlic on brie and bread (no temptation intended). We feed ourselves emotions through our reactions to events, just as we use food in response to hunger. Managing this dosha involves adopting a system for the healthy release of challenging emotions, such as meditation, pranayama, and contact with nature.

 

Foods That Balance

As much as you love spicy, salty snacks, you should favor sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes to pacify the pitta dosha, and reduce sour, salty, and pungent tastes. Learn about the importance of bitter and astringent tastes in your diet.

Salads are delicious, textured delights for summer meals. Include some of the following vegetables in your next meal salad: beet greens, cucumber, kale, parsley, cilantro, zucchini, asparagus, avocado, and bitter melon (it has an acrid taste but is oh so perfect for pitta so combine it with other vegetables to lessen its edge).

Fresh sweet fruits are best, and the options during summer are in abundance. Anything from the berry category is ideal if it’s organic, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Coconuts, apples, dates, and melons are also deliciously sweet choices.

Eat Kitchari – see our authentic recipe here. For the happy pitta version, forget the mustard seeds and hing powder and instead, garnish with cilantro and coconut.

 

Managing Your Constitution With Yoga & Pranayama 

Second to managing your dosha with the right foods, cooling yoga, pranayama, and meditation are essentials for moderating this dosha. Avoid vigorous exercise as it will increase your internal temperature and cause an imbalance. Gentle morning yoga concentrating on twists and chest openers helps to cleanse ranjaka pitta (the digestive organs and blood). Author of Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide, Susan Weis-Bohlen, recommends staying away from hot yoga and any poses that create heat. She urges the person with a dominant pitta constitution to retreat within during her yoga sequence, focusing on how the movement feels and practicing patience with herself. The best yoga poses for pitta are camel pose, bow pose, bridge, pose, and cobra pose. Stay in savasana (corpse pose) for at least 10 minutes.

Pranayama relieves excess heat by cooling all five fires. Sheetali pranayama also helps reduce menopausal hot flashes and blood pressure. Learn how to cool down with this simple breathing technique in this video from Yoga with Adriene.

 

Simmer Down With These Bonus Tips

Understanding how this dosha interacts with the external environment and manifests in different ways throughout the body is essential for managing a healthy constitution. Recognize how the five fires work within you, when they’re raging and what causes them to smolder. Make your goal a steady flame. Add in these cooling hacks in the summer, if you live in a hot climate, or if you experience any signs of excess pitta in your mind or body.

Rise early, at dawn if you can, to perform your morning routine, including yoga, pranayama, and meditation.

Perform abhyanga massage on yourself using coconut oil.

Spritz yourself throughout the day with a homemade spray of distilled water infused with cooling essential oil. Some cooling aromas are jasmine, sandalwood, or lime.

Eat light, cooling foods, and opt for more sweets, bitters, and astringents in each meal. Make your dinner the most digestible meal of the day.

Sip cool drinks throughout the day but don’t make them icy cold. Fennel tea, coconut water, aloe vera juice, or cucumber water are your most cooling options.

Try earthing and sun gazing at sunset. Both practices reconnect us to nature and calm the inherent pitta intensity that fires us up.

Earthing connects us with the earth element while it calms and rejuvenates our spirit. And few sensations reward us with such sweet nostalgia as the feeling of soft, fresh grass beneath our bare feet. Walk slowly and mindfully on sand, dirt, or grass. Stand still occasionally, connect with your breath, and chant Om Namah Shivaya (I bow to my highest self).

Sun gazing is believed to instill contentment and happiness as the light filters through our eyes and affects our brain’s pineal gland. Dusk is the ideal time for pittas because the heat of the sun is receding rather than heating up. Choose a quiet space to sit or stand as the sun is setting. Allow your eyes to rest, out of focus, while gazing at the sun for no more than 10 seconds. Repeat a few times, pausing between gazes. Both practices help to balance sadhaka pitta (the mind).

Allow yourself plenty of cooling, relaxation time before heading to bed. Try to sleep by about 11 p.m.

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