This is my 49th summer. I graduated high school 31 years ago. Nevertheless, when school lets out for the summer, I still get that ahhhhhh feeling of relief. It’s summer! Time to chill out, slow down, and relax.
No matter our age, we feel it. Our bodies know it. Our minds know it. And yet, as adults, we so seldom do it. We tell ourselves, “there are things to be done!” And we try to squeeze the most out of every day, which, with about 15 hours of daylight, is a lot. So we end up stressed out, angry, emotional. Our digestive systems get out of whack, and we can’t seem to understand why.
According to Ayurveda, the answer is pitta. Ayurveda identifies 3 biological energies called doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is ruled by the elements of air and either. Pitta is ruled by fire and water. And kapha is ruled by earth and water. Each season of the year is ruled by a dosha, and summer’s dosha is . . . you guessed it . . . pitta. Particularly the fire of pitta. When we add to the heat of pitta by increasing our physical and mental stress, summer can go from ahhhhhhh to ughhhhhh pretty quickly.
So what should we do to balance out the fire of pitta? Here are a few simple suggestions.
1. Don’t add fuel to the fire.
Avoid or reduce foods and beverages that increase heat in the body: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fried foods, acidic foods, meats, grains, nuts, beans. You’ll know if you’ve had too much: your skin will get oily; your body odor will change; you’ll feel heavier; you may develop canker sores, bladder infections, yeast infections, and skin eruptions such as acne.
2. Dowse the flames.
Increase cooling foods: leafy greens (including the ones growing in your yard like dandelion and plantain), melons, cucumber, summer squashes, coconut, mint, cilantro, fennel, and aloe vera. Visit the farmers market and eat what’s in season.
3. Increase kapha dosha.
Get thee to a body of water! I’m not talking about baking in the sun on the concrete beside a pool. I’m talking a river, a creek, a pond, a mountain lake: somewhere where earth meets and mingles with water, somewhere where the breeze is blowing in the nearby trees, somewhere that invites you to put down your phone and forget your to-do list. If that’s not possible, walk barefoot in the grass in the evening, then treat yourself to a cool footbath on the back porch. Throw in herbs, rose petals, or your favorite essential oil.
4. Take a siesta.
There’s a reason why siestas are taken in places with a hot climate. Chill out in the shade when the sun is highest and hottest. If you can do that in a hammock, all the better. Enjoy the sun in morning and in the evening. Exercise or do outdoor chores in the a.m. Connect with family and friends, play or enjoy light activity in the p.m.
5. Underschedule yourself.
Summer is the perfect time to say no. Practice saying it to yourself. Do I want to sign the kids up for back-to-back camps all summer long? No. Do I want to go shopping as a form of entertainment? No. Do I want to go to this event simply out of FOMO (fear of missing out)? No. Practicing on yourself will make it much easier to say no when family and friends ask you to do things you really don’t want to do. Use your time to do things you WANT to do simply because you enjoy them. Bonus points if you use your time to do nothing. (OH! That should be its own number.)
6. Do nothing.
Yep, that’s right. Do nothing. If you know this is something you would really, really struggle with, start by doing nothing for a minute. Each day, increase your “nothing” time by another minute. Taking a little time out of each day to do nothing is one of the best somethings you can do for your body and mind. If you need practice, come to a restorative yoga class where you can do nothing for an hour with other people doing nothing for an hour. Which leads me to . . .
7. Change up your exercise routine.
If your go-to mode of exercise is go hard or go home, you can balance pitta dosha by going easy and going home. Trade power walks for slow or moderately paced walks; trade running for swimming; trade power vinyasa for a gentle class, yin, or restorative. You can still get a hard workout in once or twice a week, but use the rest of the week for easy and moderate exercise of the body and the mind.
As individuals with our own inherent biological energies living in area that experiences a full range of seasons from hot, humid summers to cold, snowy winters, it’s important to recognize that we can support our bodies and our minds with a few simple seasonal changes. If you’d like to learn more about living seasonally, balancing the doshas, or the yoga lifestyle (aka Ayurveda), email me at email@example.com. You can also meet me on the mat every Sunday evening at 6:00 for a pitta-balancing yin yoga or restorative yoga practice.
See you at the studio.