Ayurveda, the healing Science of Life from ancient India, teaches us to follow the rhythms of nature. Its understanding about life is that nature around us, and nature within us, all function in the same way. So when we synchronize our routines with nature’s rhythms we tend to feel better. Our bodies function better, we have more energy, we feel “in flow”.
A little background
Ayurveda recognizes three subtle energies that fluctuate throughout nature’s rhythms. They each have their own properties, bringing certain qualities to the time of day, the season, or to someone’s physiology and psychology.
These energies are Vata - which is cold, light, mobile, dry - Pitta – which is hot, sharp, penetrating, mobile – and Kapha – which is cool, heavy, damp, and stable. As one of these energies dominates, we want to balance their qualities by applying opposing qualities. One of Ayurveda’s basic tenets is that “like increases like”, and “opposites balance”. Think of a fiery, temperamental and intense person you know, and how much a spicy meal with red wine will make this person even more irritable and overheated? Wouldn’t you want to tell them to go cool down? To go outside in the cool air and take a breath, or to go for a cooling swim in the ocean? That would be a good example of “opposites balance”.
Summer is Pitta Season
The focus of this article is on Pitta, since the summer is Pitta season, when the energy of fire is strong. And when the energy of fire is strong around us, it also is strong in us. Pitta’s qualities are that it is hot, sharp, penetrating, and dispersive and can easily cause overheating, faintness, headaches, skin rashes, diarrhea, irritation, and reactivity. You might recognize some of these from summers past. Following are some tips for keeping cool, so that you can enjoy the pleasures of summer.
- Of course… keep yourself well hydrated. Drink 4 to 6 cups of water daily, and supplement with sweet cooling fruit juices like watermelon juice, grape juice, mango juice and coconut juice. Or herbal teas of hibiscus, mint, fennel seed and coriander seed. You can make your own electrolyte drink by adding a teaspoon of raw sugar, a pinch of pink salt, and a teaspoon of limejuice to a pint of hot water and letting it cool down.
- Exercise in the early morning, before it gets hot. And exercise in or by the water, like swimming or water sports, or a walk around a lake. Avoid breaking out in a big sweat, and exhausting yourself. Since the outside atmosphere is so agreeable, we are not at our strongest in summer… better to take it easy.
- Avoid heavy, hot, salty and overly seasoned food. Our digestive fire also is not that strong in summer, especially during the hottest part of the day. Eat most of your food before the sun is at its highest, and a light dinner. Nature provides what we need, there is an abundance of light, cooling and hydrating fruits and veggies to choose from, like melons, sweet berries and stone fruits, summer squashes, asparagus, green beans, cucumbers, cilantro and a variety of juicy lettuces. Be very moderate with the nightshades that also ripen in summer, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. They have a more heating effect. Choose light, white meats and fish, have fresh dairy products, like whole milk, cottage cheese and mozzarella, and small amounts of yogurt. A great summer yogurt drink blends two parts water with one part yogurt, a handful of cilantro leaves, a few cucumber slices, a dash of cumin powder and a dash of pink salt. Or two parts rose water - or water with fresh rose petals - one part yogurt, with a little bit of raw sugar.
- Avoid red wine and hard liquor. If you want to enjoy an alcoholic drink in summer, better to choose a beer or a light white wine.
- Go for an early morning walk. We need the sun. It activates vitamin D production, which makes for better calcium absorption and stronger bones.
- Wear colors that reflect the sunlight, like white, light blue, grey and green. Wearing silver jewelry with pearls, moonstones, crystals, aquamarine and coral will add to the effect.
- A moonlit walk has a deeply calming and cooling effect. Place your bare feet in the cool green grass or the beach sand, and absorb the moonlight. Or place a container with water under the rays of the moon overnight. The water will absorb their cooling energy.
- Stop and smell the roses. Literally… slow down, take time to take in summer’s beauty. The added benefit is the aromatherapy from the flowers. Roses and many other flowers that bloom in summer have a very cooling effect, especially for the mood. You can apply the essential oils of rose, jasmine, geranium, sandalwood and lotus, just a drop, on your wrists, your temples, or your throat. Their sweet fragrance will fill your being with cool sweetness.
- Take good care of your skin. Keep yourself covered when outdoors. And do a daily oil massage with cooling coconut oil, in the shower: First wash yourself. Then turn the water off and cover yourself with coconut oil. Turn the water back on, extra hot, so that the heat will open your pores and the oil will penetrate deeper. Let the water take off the excess oil, but don’t wash it off. Then carefully towel dry. The oil has many nutrients that will make your skin stronger and healthier and better able to deal with the sun. Of course when you know you will be in the bright sun for an extended period of time, use an all-natural sunscreen.
By Simone de Winter
Owner of Marin Ayurveda