The long awaited great British summer seems to have finally arrived and I am sure the summer activities are well and truly in full swing from picnics, BBQ’s, day trip in the country, water based sports etc. as we transition from the spring to summer.
Just as the seasons change so does our body’s internal environment. The ancient sage Charaka said that strength and lustre is enhanced in a person that understands and applies a the diet and regimen suitable for each season.
Beat the heat this summer with an Ayurvedic regimen!
The body is comprised of three doshas, vata (ether & air), pitta (fire & water), kapha (water & earth). As we enter the height of the summer period, the pitta season, the sun rays dries out the moisture from the environment and the body becomes dryer.
Our doshas are inherently influenced by seasonal variations as well as our diet and lifestyles. For those of us with a pitta dominant constitution the summer can aggravate the pitta in the body leaving us feeling out of balance. It is therefore important to adapt our diet and lifestyle so we can maintain our dosha balance while we enjoy the summer sun.
Over the summer months our digestive fire reduces due to the heat and we generally experience a decrease in our appetite. Since this is a natural response by the body we should honour this change by eating in moderation. Opting for sweet, liquid and cooling foods and avoiding sour, pungent, salty foods and alcohol/coffee.
Diet over the Summer
Digestion is not as strong in the summer months and therefore it is best to opt for a light and easy to digest foods. Pitta is naturally increased especially in dominant people naturally due to the rise in heat. A pitta pacifying diet is most suitable with foods that are naturally sweet or bitter. These foods can include: asparagus, broccoli, artichoke, cucumber, lettuce, green beans, courgettes, carrots, bitter gourd, bell peppers, kale, okra, summer squash, coconut, ghee, plums, pears, sweet grapes, figs, dates, melon, barley, cous cous, spelt, rice, all lentils.
The herbs of choice for the summer months should be cooling by nature such as coriander, aloe, cardamom, fennel, cumin, dill, mint, rose water, saffron etc.
Portion sizes can be moderated. Reduce intake of foods that aggravate pitta, such as fried, fermented, processed, pungent (spicy), sour, salty, heavy meats, excess nuts as well as alcohol . During the summer food tend to go rancid quickly, avoid stale foods that may contain harmful bacteria and opt for freshly cooked foods
Since our bodies are made up of 70% water element is important to keep hydrated and help flush away toxins out of the system. Our bodies will naturally require more liquids in the heat and although cool drinks are favourable be careful not to douse the 'agni' by excessive cold drinks and ice during or after meals. Mint tea however is a perfect choice!
During this season, I highly recommend avoiding over exertion, and physically challenging exercise instead engage in calming activities such as walks in nature, and calming exercise such as yoga, tai chi, walking or swimming. Keep a cool and calm mind and take up the practice of regular meditation. Nurture yourself with daily self-massage, listen to calming music, eating is a peaceful environment – it’ a perfect time for al fresco dining.
Protect yourself from the heat opting for breathable fibres such as cottons and linens that keep the body cool in soft and light cooling colours, keep the head covered from direct sunlight to protect the sun's intense rays from over heating the scalp.
Cool off with Pranayama
The wise yogi's knew that breath work helps us stay cool! Two pranayama techniques, Shitali and Sheetkari have a profound effect of cooling the body and the mind. This pranayama cools the respiratory and circulatory system, bringing the heart rate down, relaxing the muscles and lowering the body temperature. This is therefore useful in conditions of high blood pressure, stress and conditions related to excess heat.
More seasonal advice through out the year in the book: Ayurveda-Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing