Ayurveda teaches that you are affected by the seasons, and seasonal self-care is the key to protecting your health. Spring allergies, summer rashes, fall dryness, and winter colds are proof that each seasons has its own unique effect on the body.
Summer heat means that it’s pitta season and it’s time to stay cool in order to protect the internal fire. Excess summertime heat can manifest in many ways: from sunburn, heat rash, heat hives, sun stroke, and even irritability.
These are expressions of excess pitta dosha that builds throughout summer with the heat from the sun. Come fall, it becomes aggravated within the body if you don’t take care of yourself properly.
Check out these three Ayurvedic remedies for summer heat to help balance pitta dosha and cool the body!
Ayurveda has taught me to become aware of the lack of knowledge Americans have around seasonal self-care. I didn’t know any better, either. Summer felt like the time to sunbathe for hours in the middle of the day, go for a run at noon, and eat spicy Thai food.
My idea of summer self-care shifts were skimpy clothes and the occasional layer of sunscreen. But now, I see how I’ve caused myself heat problems in the past. I know better, and I move through this intense season with care.
In my years backpacking around hot and humid Asia, I began to notice that it was only foolish, fair skinned foreigners who laid in the sun, midday or otherwise. Actually, the locals did everything they could to avoid the sun, crossing the street to walk alongside a wall that provided even just six inch of shade, and hiding indoors at the hottest part of the day.
In 90 degree heat, they protect themselves. Midday sunbathing sessions are a bad idea, not only for your skin, but for your overall mind and body health. That scorching sun burns and gives rise to irritability and exhaustion. By seeking shade you can keep pitta balanced.
Perhaps even worse than midday summer sunbathing, though, is a midday workout. Exercise at any time of the day builds heat. But when you exercise in the middle of the day, when nature is already at its hottest, you double your heat. Even yoga practiced in the middle of a summer day can cause an imbalance within the body.
You should shift your workouts to the early morning or evenings during the summer months. You should also try to tone down your workouts as best you can. For whatever reason, Americans behave as if summer is an energy-giver. But if you listen to your body a little more carefully, you can recognize that summer can drain your energy.
As nature’s heat increases, the body self-regulates. It turns down its fire and physical strength wanes. That’s why you feel lazy when it’s hot. You’re not meant to exert ourselves. You’re meant to rest and keep cool. Lighter workouts such as a Yin yoga practice or swimming can protect pitta during the scorching summer months.
In the digestive arena, summer is a time of low agni—or low digestive fire. Hot, cooked food becomes incredibly unappealing and I can never finish what I order. To keep itself cool, the body turns down its agni, resulting in a lower appetite than you experience in other seasons.
Hot, thick soups and stews simply aren’t appealing in summer. You naturally crave what’s light and refreshing, such as raw veggies and fruit. While salads are usually shunned by Ayurveda, they’re okay for most of us in the summer.
Vegetables grown in this season have more agni themselves and augment the agni within. And the sweet, juicy fruits you crave have a cooling effect on the body; especially seasonal fruits such as watermelon and grapes.
Honoring the weakened agni in summer is important. If you overburden the digestive fire with heavy foods such as hard cheeses and meat, this undigested food breeds imbalances. Anything greasy, deep fried, or made from refined sugar and flour should be avoided in these hot months as well. By eating the right foods, excess pitta can become naturally balanced.
These three simple shifts—avoiding midday sun, easing up on workouts and switching them to the early morning or late evening hours, and choosing cooling, light foods are the essence of summer self-care. You can save yourself a lot of trouble if you heed nature and the effects it brings.