We’ve entered Pitta season – summertime! There’s no better time of the year to do some sun worshipping. No, not sun worshipping in the traditional, not-so-healthy sense, but literally honoring this incredible ball of energy that makes life on earth possible. Every moment of daylight is being energized (for free!) by this magnificent entity. It allows the plants to grow so that we may be fed, it keeps us warm and lifts our spirits, among many other things. The power of the sun cannot be denied and as with any enormous, burning ball of fire, balance is always needed so that we may harness its energies without getting too burned in the process.
Those of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area may feel the heat of Pitta a little later in the season, but the main principles of maintaining balance still apply. Pitta is the fire element, so our main focus is on tempering heat through our daily routines and diet. Pitta predominant people and those dealing with excess Pitta may find that their symptoms aggravate the most during this time of year and should take special care to stay cool and calm as heat accumulates in our environments and constitutions. Here are a few pointers for maintaining health and balance during Pitta season:
1) Water is your friend.
One of the most important elements for balancing fire is the water element. Being cool and soft, water inherently balances those hot, sharp qualities of the fire element. Soaking in water and drinking plenty of room temperature or cool water (not iced or cold) can go far in keeping the Pitta heat at bay. (Limit your liquid intake during meals to no more than 1/2 cup as too much liquid with meals can hamper digestion).
2) Emphasize Pitta reducing foods and limit pungent, sour and salty foods that aggravate the fire element.
You may notice that during the summer you naturally gravitate toward lighter, cooling foods such as grains, sweet fruit, leafy greens and raw veggies. This happens because these specific tastes (sweet, bitter and astringent) reduce the fire element in the body.
Emphasize the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. The sweet taste includes grains, fruit, dairy and sweeteners. Enjoy ripe fruit that is sweet (rather than sour), such as watermelon, mangoes, coconut (water, milk and flesh), melon, dates, and avocados. Grains such as white basmati rice, oats and wheat are best. Milk, ghee and cottage cheese are ideal dairy products as well as dairy substitutes like coconut, almond or oat milk. Maple syrup is an optimal natural sweetener.
The bitter taste includes most leafy greens such as spinach, kale, dandelion greens, chard, cilantro and lettuce. Aloe vera juice is also a wonderfully cooling and moisturizing drink for summertime.
The astringent taste includes legumes as well as raw and cooked veggies, such asparagus, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli.
3) Take a vacation.
This advice goes out especially to Pitta types, who can become overly focused on work, productivity and ambition. A vacation is one of the best remedies for softening the intensity of Pitta focus and preventing the accumulation of more heat in mind and body. Mental and physical rest also prevent “burn-out” – a classic Pitta symptom in which the excess fire of Pitta literally begins to burn up the essential vitality of the body and mind.
4) Avoid excessive sun exposure between 10am-2pm, peak Pitta daytime hours.
The doshic influence changes every 4 hours. Being the primary source of Pitta/fire element, when the sun peaks, so does Pitta dosha. Noon is the critical time to take cover on especially hot days, and is the best time to eat lunch, the largest meal of the day. After lunch be sure to take a little rest and relaxation.
5) Use cooling, calming essential oils such as rose, lavender and sandalwood.
Make use of these oils in your diffuser or spritzer regularly, or place a drop or two of lavender on the edge of your pillow at night to help calm and cool the mind and induce sleep. Spritzing yourself with Rose Petal Water throughout the day is a lovely and simple way to bring calm and cooling to body, mind and spirt.
6) Do a self-massage (abhyanga) with coconut oil before showering.
Massaging the body (including scalp and soles of feet) with coconut oil daily before showering can help to disperse and calm the excess accumulated heat in the body and mind.
One of the strengths of Ayurveda is its emphasis on recognizing the qualities of each season and using these energies accordingly to create harmony in body, mind and spirit. Moving with the rhythms of nature supports your body’s innate healing intelligence. Disregarding the rhythms of nature creates obstacles to healing. May you use the wisdom of Ayurveda and harness the gifts of nature during this Pitta season to cultivate optimal health and wellness.