Ayurveda for the Summer Season
As the wheel of the year moves us into June, the Sun is approaching its maximum tilt toward the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere and will soon travel the longest path through the sky as it arrives upon the Summer Solstice.
Yes, Summer is coming! I vividly remember as a little girl, I always thought of Summer as the ‘season of fun’. I might have been a little biased because I’m a June baby - and we all know childhood birthdays are fun - but I think most kids probably can relate to Summer as being the beginning of a well-needed break from the routine of school, and the opportunity for more carefree days, later nights and all kinds of exciting adventures with family and friends.
The days surrounding the Summer Solstice is the season with the most heat, the longest days, and therefore the most activity and stimulation. There is a sharp intensity and transformative Nature to this season.
Simply put ~ longer days of sun means more light, and more light means more heat.
This is the gateway into the season of the Fire element.
It is dominant in Pitta energy and therefore, Summer brings all of us more Pitta dosha. Depending on the climate and moisture content in your geographical location, the Water (humid) or Air (dry) element can seem more present, as well, but most often, the culmination of the intense heat of Summer will dry things out, so Vata will also rise in Summer. Vata also plays a key role in the expansive and mobile quality of Summer - as lots of adventures happen in the Summer through vacations and new experiences.
As the seasons change, it is most supportive to make gradual adjustments to account for the shift in energies in our environment so that we can offset the potential for any seasonally-induced imbalances. If you know your unique energetic makeup (your constitution), you are able to make more personalized adjustments to attain balance during the change of the seasons.
This is living in alignment with Nature. When we work with Nature we step into the most powerful flow of energy and partner with the biggest advocate for our health and well-being.
As we move closer to Summer, slowly start letting go of the changes you made to accommodate the energies of Spring and gently start adapting your practices to accommodate the highly stimulating, hot nature of Summer.
How does our body respond to Summer?
Our digestive system actually becomes its weakest at this time.
During the Summer, our bodies naturally crave light, fresh foods and small meals that are easy to digest because the digestive fire ~ a strong source of internal heat ~ disperses to our limbs away from the core in order to help keep us cool.
So although we have more heat in our bodies in Summer, it’s spread out to our extremities and the rest of the body and therefore NOT focused in our belly - so our digestive fire is actually less robust at this time.
Ever notice when you get so hot, it kills your appetite?
This natural process of the digestive fire (Agni) turning down in the Summer can be challenging when a tall glass of iced anything seems desirable and a logical remedy to cooling off, but anything cold will further constrict and weaken digestion and can ultimately lead to chronic indigestion.
Instead, to stay cool in the Summer while also keeping your digestion in check, bring in more naturally cooling foods and drinks during the Summer. I have included a food list below.
Summer-harvested, organic, and locally-grown foods inoculate the gut with Summer digesting microbes that help us shift to accommodate better carbohydrate digestion. This allows us to be satisfied and better utilize the energy of the lighter foods that Summer naturally offers like those sweet fruits and veggies that are naturally available at this time of year.
Nature, by design, has cooked the fruits and veggies on the vine all Summer long so they are easier to digest so they don’t require as much digestive fire.
Nature, once again, has our backs! ;)
We are all going to want to adjust our diets a little bit more towards a Pitta pacifying diet to offset the extra heat. If Summer energy is the exact antidote you’ve been needing - for instance a true Kapha, this is a time to revel in balance and your diet and lifestyle might not need as much of an adjustment.
For those experiencing the excess heat of Summer, it can bring imbalances like sunburns, hot flashes, exhaustion, acne, loose stool, heartburn, hyperacidity, inflamed and sensitive skin, and mental fatigue. Psychologically, we might respond with more criticism, jealousy, irritation, and anger.
So let’s look at how we can balance and empower ourselves through our diet and lifestyle to smoothly ride the wave of changes that come along with Summer.
To Balance the Energies of Summer with Diet ~
Things to avoid or lessen to offset excess Pitta in the Summer:
Sour, pungent & salty tastes
Foods that are hot, spicy, fermented, oily, fried & highly acidic
Coffee, alcohol & red meat
Go easy on pungent foods like garlic, onions & hot peppers
Rich & heavy foods - can overburden the weaker digestion
Tastes to increase in general ~ sweet, bitter & astringent
Sweet and bitter foods are cooling so they balance the fire in the digestive system. Astringent is drying so it tones the tissues and helps soak up some of the oil that Pitta promotes.
Bitter & astringent vegetables:
zucchini, broccoli, leafy greens, celery, green beans, beets, cucumbers & fennel root
whole, light grains - quinoa, basmati rice, oats, barley
sweet dairy products such as ghee & milk
sweet & astringent fruits such as apples, grapes, pomegranates, stone fruits, melons & limes, figs, pears, dates
cooler & lighter proteins such as mung beans, tofu, lean white meats & fish
anything from the coconut such as water, milk, meat & sugar
Cooling spices & herbs:
fennel, dill, coriander, cilantro, cardamom, mint, basil, parsley, turmeric, licorice & aloe juice
fresh ginger is also helpful (vs powdered) to keep digestion in check
Summer is full of long days, high temperatures & busy schedules. Oftentimes, we can find ourselves lacking the hydration we need and even though we might have a water bottle by our side, we could still come up short.
One easy way to support proper hydration is to consume water-dense foods. Summer is full of them ~ fruits & vegetables particularly shine here.
Focus on light, easily digested foods
Cooked food is easier to process for the digestive system, raw is simply hard to break down.
Drink cooling, calming herbal teas to soothe the body & mind
Chamomile, mint, licorice, lavender, hibiscus, lemon balm, rose, fennel & nettle - these all soothe the nervous system & therefore help calm and settle the mind
See my article on a cooling drink recipe that is a powerful hydrator and natural electrolyte replacer that helps keep the heat in check.
To Balance the Energies of Summer with Lifestyle ~
Practice moderation in choosing activities & avoid over-scheduling yourself
Fire energy will take advantage of all the extra daylight to work longer and play harder, but this will easily lead to burnout.
Engage in noncompetitive exercise like swimming, moderate yoga, cycling & walking
Easy does it, and best to partake in the cooler parts of the day.
Instead of sunbathing, moon bathe
Go for a walk in the evening, or early morning before the sun starts heating things up.
Take cooler baths & showers
Do your daily massage with coconut oil
Coconut oil is a more cooling oil and the massage is calming & soothing to the nervous system.
This breathing practice reduces your body temperature, mitigates hyper-acidity in the GI tract & calms the mind.
Drink room temperature or cool water, but avoid cold or iced, especially around mealtimes
Remember, we typically don't want to further cool the digestive fire in Summer.
Bed by 10 - 11 pm and get up early to catch the cooler time of day
Sleep on the RIGHT side at night
This opens your left nostril, which corresponds to the Ida Nadi - the subtle energy channel that corresponds to the cooling moon. This will cool your system by activating your lunar breath cycle, increasing your spleen energy - all that calms pitta.
*I know this baby is sleeping on her left, but I couldn't resist, it's so cute!
You get the idea. Sleep on your right side to cool down. ;)
No doubt, Summer is the gateway to lots of fun activities and the long, hot days allow us to fit so much in. We can easily work longer and play harder, but this will undoubtedly lead to burnout. To stay balanced, it is crucial to make sure we take the time and space to properly chill out ~ literally and figuratively through diet and lifestyle.
So your medicine during Summer is all about moderation, bringing in more cooling foods and calming practices, and allowing time to take it easy. You don’t need to fill every minute of the day with activity - Summer is here to remind us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, kick back some to stop and smell the roses and just be.