Keeping Cool during Summer with Ayurveda
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
The Summer Solstice is the longest day and shortest night of the year. At this time, in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. The sun has grown to its strongest reach and Summer begins.
The change of the seasons reminds us that nothing lasts forever on this earthly plane. Whenever something is completed we must let it go. So the shift to a new season is a time to practice giving things away, and letting go of what is completed and done.
The Summer Solstice also reminds us that Nature is very generous. The Earth gives us not just what we need, but actually more than enough. Her bounty is abundant and she supplies us all Summer long with busy bees to pollinate flowers and make honey, providing all kinds of fresh juicy fruits, berries and astringent vegetables and plenty of long sunny days to do all kinds of Summer activities.
As the sun travels the longest path through the sky, we obviously have the most daylight, and this will consequently increase the FIRE element in our external and internal environment.
The basic attributes of Summer correspond to the qualities of FIRE which we see in the Pitta dosha - hot, sharp, intense, light, moving - making Summer a time of Pitta aggravation. This is an important time to shift our habits, letting go of what is not serving us, making room for what will serve us best at this time.
In other words, your routine should shift to becoming more Pitta-soothing.
We call this alignment with the seasons RITUCHARYA.
Shifting our diet and habits seasonally emphasizes one of the tenets of Ayurveda - that we honor Nature’s rhythms and cycles. Adjusting your diet and lifestyle practices with the weather changes and the change of the seasons is essential for well being.
After all, we ARE Nature, so when Nature changes and the elements in our external environment adjust in amount, we also feel those adjustments within our being.
So let's take a look at how Summer affects us and how we can adjust our diet and lifestyle habits to account for the increased fire element in our environment.
What does Pitta aggravation look like?
Physically you could see red skin and rashes of all sorts, inflammation anywhere, excess oil on the skin, acne, red eyes, acid stomach, heartburn, very loose stools, and excess perspiration. In climates that have more humidity you can see swelling.
Mentally it shows up as irritability, anger, aggression, competitiveness, jealousy, overdoing, and overthinking. These things lead to burnout.
One of the areas we have the most control over is our DIET, so let’s look at how we can adjust our energetic intake with diet to account for this extra fire.
First, here is a list of items to that we should LESSEN in the Summer.
Vatas and Kaphas will always need some heat.
Hot spices - like black pepper, chilies, cayenne
Coffee - very acidic, heating, depleting, and dehydrating
Vinegar and other fermented foods - anything fermented is heating
Alcohol - alcohol is called FIRE WATER in Ayurveda
Salty foods - heating and will retain water
Red meat, egg yolks - very heating
Orange juice - very acidic
Sour dairy products - like packaged yogurt and hard cheeses
Anything fried or excessively oily
Be careful with chocolate - it's heating, can disturb the colon and has caffeine
Tastes to lessen in general - salty, sour and pungent - they’re all heating
On the flip side, foods to FAVOR:
Bitter and astringent vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, leafy greens, celery, green beans, cucumbers and fennel root
Sweet dairy products such as ghee and milk
Light grains such as quinoa, white basmati rice, barley
Sweet fruits such as grapes, pomegranates, stone fruits, melons, limes
Cool and light proteins such as mung beans tofu, lean white meats, fish
Coconuts and coconut products: water, milk, meat and sugar
Cooling spices and herbs such as fennel, dill, coriander, cilantro, cardamom, mint, turmeric, aloe juice
Tastes to increase in general: sweet, bitter and 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.
Aside from diet, there’s other ways we can adjust our energetic intake of fire. It's important to be mindful not just of what we eat, but what we DO and HOW we do it. So let’s look at some of those things.
Practice moderation in choosing activities and 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 burn out.
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 cool baths and cool showers.
Do your daily massage with coconut oil - coconut oil is cooling and the massage is calming.
The breathing practice Sheetali reduces your body temperature, mitigates hyper-acidity in the GI tract, and calms the mind.
Drink room temperature or cool water, not cold or iced.
Bed by 10 - 11 pm the latest, and then get up early to catch the cooler time of day.
Sleep on the RIGHT side at night - this will actually cool your system by activating your lunar breath cycle, increasing your spleen energy - all that calms pitta.
No doubt, Summer is the gateway to lots of fun activities and an opportunity to do the things your schedule didn't allow during shorter days, but making sure you take the time and steps to properly CHILL OUT - literally and figuratively - will help keep you smiling all Summer long.