Cool As a Cucumber: 5 Ayurvedic Tips for Summer
Summer is Pitta season according to Ayurveda, an ancient holistic healing system. Pitta, one of the three doshas, or constitutions, in Ayurveda, is characterized by the qualities of oiliness, sharpness, heat, light, movement, fluidity, and acidity.
Because of the sun’s intensity during this time of year, it is easy to become overheated and skin-related problems, such as sunburn and rashes, are common. Excessive heat can also manifest as exhaustion, anger, jealousy and impatience. To balance these forces, Ayurveda recommends practices and food choices to balance pitta’s fiery intensity.
Here are five (5) tips to help you stay cool this summer:
Tip #1: Rise with the Birds
Exercise early in the day when it’s cooler, before 7AM if you can. Take advantage of early morning yoga classes on the beach or in a nearby park or use the early morning time for a quiet practice at home.
When you do exercise, aim for 50-70% of your capacity so as to not become overheated and fatigued. If you have to exercise later in the day, choose a leisurely walk in the evening or practice restorative poses, like Legs Up the Wall (Vipariti Karani). Restorative yoga before bed has the added benefit of setting you up for a restful night’s sleep.
Not sure how to do Legs Up the Wall? Check out this video.
Tip #2: Hydrate
Citrus fruits, melons and other sweet fruits are hydrating and cooling. According to Ayurveda, summer is the time to focus on food that are sweet, bitter and astringent in flavor. Eat citrus, melon and berries and other summer fruits often as a refreshing snack or try adding them to your water. There are lots of combinations to try, but experiment with seasonal fruits and herbs like watermelon, lemon, lime, raspberries, thyme and mint.
While you might be tempted to add lots of ice, don’t. Icy foods can be shocking to your digestive system, especially when you are overheated. Aim for cool and refreshing. Fortunately, there are lots of great summer fruits to enjoy.
Tip #3: Refresh with Cooling Summer Scents
Don’t you just love the fragrance of summer roses? Light, cool and so refreshing! Ayurveda recommends using rose water (available in your local health food store) for its cooling, calming effect on both the body and mind. Try spritzing some on your face, pulse points or neck when you feel overheated or agitated.
Other summer-friendly, cooling scents are jasmine, mint, chamomile, sandalwood and lavender. You can make your own body oil by adding 15-20 drops of essential oil to 4 ounces of fractionated coconut oil. Use the oil as a body lotion after bathing to hydrate your skin.
You can also use your body oil to give yourself a foot massage before bed. To prevent oily sheets, follow your foot massage with a brief foot soak in warm (not hot) water. What a wonderful way to sooth hot, tired feet!
Tip #4: Practice Twists and Cat-Cow
Our digestive fire is particularly strong during summer but can become overheated, making us irritable and impatient. One way to keep cool during hot, humid days and release any excess internal heat is to practice poses that wring out the abdominal area, such as twists and my personal favorite, Cat-Cow Pose (Cakravakasana).
Cakravakasana is a flowing version of Cat-Cow that is beneficial for your spine as well as digestion. It can also have a calming effect on your nervous system. Here’s how to do it:
Begin on all fours in tabletop position with your wrists under or slightly in front of your shoulders. Knees should be directly under hips.
On an inhale, draw back on the palms and lengthen the chest forward. There will be a small arch in the lumbar spine. Keep the neck long and chin slightly tucked. Then on an exhale, engage your low belly as you bring your forearms to the floor and hips towards your heels. Be sure to relax your head & neck as your forehead comes to the floor.
With the next inhale, draw your chest forward, arching the low back slightly as you come back into tabletop. Repeat 6-8 times, finishing by resting in child’s pose with your head resting on the floor, folded arms or stacked fists.
Practice Cakravakasana before bed or in the cool, early morning hours. Then get out there and enjoy the summer sun!
Tip #5: Get Enough Rest
It’s so tempting on summer nights when it doesn’t get dark until late, to stay up watching TV. Ayurvedic wisdom, however, advises that it is best to go to sleep by 10 or 11PM to avoid over-stimulating your mind.
Struggle to fall asleep? Try lying on your right side so you breathe more through your left nostril. This activates the lunar pathway in the left nostril, which is calming and cooling. Sweet dreams!
I hope these tips help you make the most of the long, luxurious days of summer. Look for my next blog for Ayurvedic tips for summer eating called, “Beat the Heat: Eating for Pitta Season.”