In order to balance nature’s intense heat in the summer months, it’s time to make some lifestyle changes. Ayurveda calls this the practice of balancing pitta dosha.
Pitta is one of the three vital energies, or doshas that make transformations happen, both within us and in nature. It is responsible for transformation, including digestion, metabolism, and energy movement. It’s also known as the harmonious union of fire and water. This fire and water manifests seasonally as hot, humid summers, which is considered pitta season.
Because we are a reflection of the world around us, increased pitta in nature results in increased heat in our bodies. It’s very logical: in summer, we feel hotter. Nature is simply exerting its influence on us. Pitta accumulates within us, as the summer months go on. Come fall, pitta has reached its peak. We can see this energy manifest in the trees, as the leaves turn fiery red and orange.
If we don’t care for pitta during the summer, it can become aggravated in the fall. This can result in skin rashes, acid reflux, heartburn, stomach ulcers, irritability, acne, and difficulty staying asleep.
In order to keep this pitta from accumulating and aggravating our internal homeostasis, we should try to keep our bodies and minds cool during hot summer months.
Pitta imbalances manifest physically in the form of inflammation, rashes, acne, and acidity. They manifest mentally as emotions such as irritability, frustration, and anger. It’s just as important to keep the mind cool, as it is to keep the body cool.
Pitta is aggravated by heat. When the sun is at its highest, take cover. This may sound obvious, but it’s not a practice that Americans generally follow. Instead, many people seek the hottest sun in search of a golden tan. This doesn’t do anybody good; especially if we’re pitta by nature.
Do as most eastern cultures do and stay out of the midday sun. Plan for the beach or outdoor time in the morning or afternoon. When the sun is at its highest, try having a nice and restful lunch in the shade.
We can keep ourselves cool in the summer by eating a diet, rich with cooling foods. This doesn’t mean ice cream and iced tea, but foods that have a cooling, post-digestive effect rather than being cold in temperature. Watermelon and coconut water are perfect examples.
We’ve all experienced the refreshing effects of coconut water or watermelon juice on a hot summer day. This is due to their cooling quality rather than the temperature at which they’re served. The sweet, astringent, and bitter tastes, all have a cooling effect on the body.
If this all seems confusing, try shopping at the farmer’s market. Each season, nature gives us the foods we need to balance out its influence. In summer, we see loads of vegetables, watermelon, apples, and cucumber—cooling foods that keep pitta in check.
It’s also important not to skip meals. While the digestive fire is naturally weaker in the summer, pitta still gets aggravated when it’s not fed. Make lunch the main meal of the day, and make it leisurely and restful.
Whether it’s yoga, running, or swimming, avoid working out when the sun is in full-force. This is the hottest time of day and also when pitta is as its peak.
Ayurveda explains that working up a sweat at noon on one of those hot summer days, can lead to a pitta imbalance. Instead, work out in the early morning or late evening when the sun is less strong.
The sun is nature’s heating force, and the moon is its cooling force. Take advantage of this by basking in the moonlight. This practice might sound a little odd, but it works. If the sun has a strong effect on the body, then of course the other planets must as well!
Spend a few minutes outdoors when the moon is visible. This shouldn’t interrupt your sleep cycle—basking in the moonlight at 1 a.m. isn’t going to help balance your pitta—but 10 or 20 minutes of moonlight before bedtime will.
Our intuition is to balance summer’s heat by seeking shade, eating watermelon, and relaxing. Listen to the body’s request and keep cool to balance impending pitta.