As the coolness of spring gives way to the warmth of summer, the fire element becomes dominant and creates heat in the environment as well as within our bodies. During this time, symptoms of excess heat (pitta aggravation) are most likely to occur, such as skin rashes, loose stools, acid indigestion, sunburn, heat stroke, fevers and overheated emotions (such as anger). The following recommendations will help you stay balanced during this season of sunshine and heat.
How to prevent excess heat in your body? Remain cool! In many regards, Ayurveda is quite simple and intuitive. Keep your body and mind cool. Eat cooling (not cold) foods. Stay out of the sun, especially during midday. Splash in a pool, ocean, or stream. Take a walk in the shade. Wear a hat. Linger outside in the moonlight. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods.
Sound like advice your mother used to give you? She was following rules of Ayurveda, and likely didn’t even know it.
By adjusting your routine a bit, amazing results can happen. Symptoms can reverse. Disease and disharmony can be prevented. Balance can be restored. And, the best part is, you can take charge of your own health and well-being!
A few more summer time tips to help keep you cool and balanced:
• Replace hot foods and spices (cayenne, hot salsa, peppers, clove and garlic) with cooling spices such as fennel, coriander, mint and dill.
• Staying cool does not mean drinking ice cold drinks. Cold food and drinks actually dampen the fire of digestion. Choose room temperature drinks (or cool-not-cold-drinks) instead.
• Sip on teas such as mint, hibiscus, chamomile, fennel, lemon balm or licorice. Water infused with cucumber is also a great choice.
• Eat cooling foods of the season, such as ~
o Sweet (not sour) fruits including apples, apricots, avocados, berries, cherries, grapes, mangoes, pears, watermelon.
o Vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, cucumbers, leafy greens, peas, carrots, squash.
o For non-vegetarians, cooling meat choices include white meats of chicken and turkey, egg whites (not yolks), non-salty fish.
• Exercise during the cooler parts of the day.
• Wear colors such as blue, white, gray, purple or green (and avoid red, orange, dark yellow and black, which absorb and retain heat).
• Do mild yoga and quiet meditation. Good yoga postures (asanas) for summer include twists, backward bends, and standing, sitting and prone poses as these are cooling. Best to avoid or reduce inverted poses such as Headstand and Shoulder Stand, which bring heat to the head. Replace Sun Salutations (which are heating) with Moon Salutations (which are cooling) or reduce the intensity and repetitions of Sun Salutations.
• Avoid heated discussions and arguments; this increases heat within the body and mind.
• If you do become overheated, breathe for a few moments through a curled tongue. This is a breathing technique called “shitali pranayama.” To do this, curl the sides of your tongue in towards the center to form a tube. Inhale through the tube of the tongue; exhale through the nose. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Try it – you will see how this simple act cools down the breath as it flows into your body!
• Linger outside on cool, moonlit summer nights.
• Surround yourself with cooling fragrances such as sandalwood, jasmine, lavender and rose (all available as essential oils). A few drops of sandalwood or lavender in a diffuser next to your bed at night will help you sleep calm and cool all night long.
By Marisa Laursen, C.A.S., P.K.S., A.Y.T., Faculty at the California College of Ayurveda