Summertime is pitta time. What this means is that all people, regardless of how strong pitta is in their constitutions, will be challenged during summertime with high heat in the body and mind. In the body, this may result in hyperacidity, skin rashes and headaches along with other symptoms characterized by their heating nature. In the mind, one may experience more intense feelings of anger, judgment and blame. Although these are common reactions to the intense heat of the summer, they are not inevitable; they are signs of imbalance and may be tempered by applying cooling principles in the body and mind.
For all-over cooling, we can make small adjustments in the foods we take in and our activities during the day. Our summer diet will serve us best if it incorporates foods that are grown locally and are minimally processed. Spicing during the summer months should be cool and savory, emphasizing herbs such as fennel, coriander, and cumin. Meals should be lighter as the external heat tends to extinguish the digestive fire. Dining consciously, with regard to the effect that a meal is having on the body and mind, will go a long way toward correcting any summertime imbalance.
The fruits and vegetables of summer provide the antidote to the heat that is being generated internally and externally. Ayurveda does not promote a pure raw foods diet, although the raw fruits and vegetables that are abundant now can be consumed by all types. A freshly made mixed vegetable juice will cool the fires of pitta and assist the liver with clearing out impurities from the bloodstream. Include sweet green or red peppers, cucumber, broccoli, cilantro, celery and kale in a super cooling and healthy green drink. Leafy greens provide excellent nutrition and support and can be used on their own or in combination with the other vegetables. If smoothies are your passion, consider using almond milk with sweet summer fruits or yogurt with sour summer fruits to start your day off with a light, vitamin- and anti-oxidant-packed breakfast.
The pitta diet favors foods that are cooling. Pitta food lists may be found in Ayurvedic cookbooks or through an internet search. Making food choices from these lists enable us to modify our diets to match the season. A good rule of thumb is that if a food feels heating to you, wait until the weather is cold to include it in your diet or use it in small amounts with other, more cooling foods. With Ayurveda no food is forbidden, although some may be more beneficial if eaten in smaller quantities.
Activities also play a major role in the physical and mental effects of the summer heat. Limiting strenuous activities to the early morning and evening hours when the sun’s heat is less intense will bring greater balance during the summer months. Avoid raising heat in your body between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This includes limiting physical exercise and mentally stressful situations such as competitive activities, conflict resolution or intensity in your work or home life. Even driving in traffic is best left to cooler times of day. Daily meditation, restorative yoga, and cooling breathing practices all help to offset the challenges of a pitta-increasing day. Practicing compassion for yourself and others and contentment are essential to diffuse any potential pitta fires that may ignite due to overheating.
Surrounding yourself with the cooling scents of rose, jasmine, lavender or ylang ylang can be helpful for pacifying the emotions. Include up to 20 drops of one of these scents in four ounces of distilled water in a diffuser and use in your home, work or car. Dressing in blue, green or white and limiting red, orange and yellow will help you to create greater calm in your mind. Spending time in nature, especially near water, will help you to bring greater balance as well.
As in all things, remain conscious of the reactions in your body and mind to the heat of the day and the heat of your foods or activities. As you begin to recognize how these relate to and affect each other, you are then empowered to make the changes necessary for bringing the greatest harmony to your daily life season after season. Enjoy your summer!