Summertime is a season of the fire element, bringing in warmth and activity. From the Ayurvedic perspective when ever the external environment heats up there will be a corresponding increase in heat throughout the body/mind. Patterns found in nature can also be manifested in our bodies.
The heat of Summer is associated with a good healthy metabolism and a good appetite. But when we are out of balance we can get overheated. This can manifest as irritation and anger; and create a vulnerability to inflammatory conditions, food allergies and skin rashes especially with too much sun exposure.
Staying balanced in the summer requires adopting a gentler yoga practice, lighter eating habits, as well as mental and emotional qualities that create calmness of thought.
In general emphasize a practice that is cooling to body, mind and emotions incorporating moon salutations, twists, wide-legged variations of standing poses and forward bends. Take extra time for Savasana (final relaxation) and instead of strong vinyasa style classes, consider longer held poses focused on exhales with resting between. Practice poses that create more heat in the body early in the morning. Listen to your body’s needs.
Emphasize a cooling breathing pattern during asana practice where the exhale is longer than inhale and there is a conscious intention to relax during the exhale. If you feel any excess heat sensations in the body, skin, or are mentally or emotionally agitated you can practice shitali and chandra bhedana. Kaki pranayama is also wonderful, especially on the exhale.
Meditation has a cooling quality. Techniques can be enhanced by adding water imagery and toning sounds such as ahhh or shh. Chinmaya mudra is cooling and calming to the mind.
Pace yourself. Summertime brings out a more active lifestyle. Waking early to see the sunrise and doing some of your more vigorous practices at this time is best. Take time during the hottest time of day to rest. A Yoga Nidra relaxation CD is a wonderful way to heal the deep nervous system. Add this to your daily schedule.
Morning garshana in all seasons (dry skin scrubbing with an exfoliation mitt) is essential, especially in the Summer – to help the skin, lymphatics and liver best do their jobs. Follow with coconut oil. This practice helps cool, calm, and prevent heat rashes; and is best done before morning physical activities. Wear loose fitting cotton or silk clothing when the weather gets hot. Avoid sunbathing during the mid-day. Shower off in cool water and nap with a lavendar eyebag mid afternoon.
Swimming is the best exercise in the summer. The cool water balances out the excess heat inside your body.
Take a walk after dinner to wind down and prepare to rest deeply. Go to bed between 10-12 PM. Applying coconut oil to the soles of the feet and scalp before sleeping is very helpful when the weather is hot or if you feel agitated mentally or emotionally.
Get a massage. The body often tightens up in the heat of the Summer. A foot massage is also wonderful. Coconut oil is best for cooling the skin.
During the summer avoid foods that increase the heat in your body such as chilies, vinegar, oily foods, fried foods, fermented foods, salt, cheese and sour foods. In place of these items, eat foods that have a cooling effect on your body such as sweet, watery fruits like melons and mangoes and green leafy vegetables. Favor cooling spices like cardamom, mint, fennel and anise. Avoid salty and picante foods. Favor only light meats and fish, broiled or made into soup.
Drink cool liquids: water, mint tea, fruit juice or “lassi”. Other nourishing drinks for pitta dosha are pomegranate juice, aloe vera juice and coconut water. Make a cooling spice tea adding one quarter teaspoon fennel seed, two rose buds and one clove to freshly boiling water. Steep covered about 10” and cool to room temperature to drink. Avoid ice cold drinks or carbonated beverages as they interfere with digestion. Avoid or minimize all caffeinated and/or alcoholic beverages as they have a strong imbalancing effect on pitta dosha. If drinking alcohol, beer is the best during summer. Follow with plenty of water. Try freshly squeezed watermelon and cucumber juice with a hint of rose water. Very refreshing.
Minimize sugar intake as sugar and most sweeteners (especially honey and molasses) aggravate pitta dosha.
Eat sweet, ripe, raw fruits like melons, apples, grapes, peaches and cherries. Pears are extra cooling for pitta, eat one per day during the summer. If berries are still available, eat them.
Favor salads and cooling foods like cucumber, lettuce, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, rice and milk (dairy, almond or coconut). Lots of kale. Make morning green drinks.
Avoid all nuts except soaked almonds and raw, unsalted, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Eating kitchari (mung-bean and rice soup) is a good source of protein while gently cooling and detoxifying the whole body. Add shredded coconut for extra cooling qualities.
Common Summer Herbs
Mint– is a cooling herb physically, mentally and emotionally, and supports digestion. Lime water with fresh mint made as a sun tea is very refreshing.
Fennel– seeds can be chewed after meals to support digestion. Combining fennel, cumin and coriander seeds (CCF tea) as a tea to drink throughout the day is wonderful for digestion and balance.
Asparagus Root (shatavari) – both a summertime rejuvenative herb as well as an excellent herb for women’s health. Prepare by simmering one tsp. in a cup of rice, almond or organic whole milk with ½ tsp of dried ginger powder before breakfast (per Dr. Scott Blossom).
Triphala– probably the oldest Ayervedic herbal recipe for detoxification and rejuvenation of the whole body. Take one to three capsules before sleep or in the morning for good elimination patterns and to detoxify the organs.
*Photo via Chalkboard Mag