It's mid-July now and it's been hot hot hot! I've had a lot of family in town visiting so it's meant eating a lot of things I normally wouldn't this time of year and I've been feeling the pain, I assure you! It's been in the high 80s here, (my iPhone weather app tells me feels like 90+ with the humidity). One of my visiting family members is Thai so of course I had a meal loaded with jalapenos and habaneros. Then the tomatoes are fresh and gorgeous right now, so of course I made a ton of homemade salsa! Add in the lemonade, sangria, lemon desserts, etc. and I set myself up for quite a Pitta problem.
The night I came home from visiting my family and all the peppers, tomatoes and alcohol, I couldn't sleep for the life of me. My legs and feet were hot to the touch and felt like they were on fire, heartburn was coming and I couldn't get settled. My mind was going a million miles an hour, and I was way more annoyed than usual. All the textbook Pitta stuff jumping right to the surface for me! I just kept thinking "man, come on, I should've known better!"
You'll recall that Pitta is made up of fire and water elements. The water isn't like Kapha water though - it's not cool or refreshing. Pitta water is actually more like when liquid becomes a byproduct of heat - sweat, melting, etc.
Here are the top 4 things you can do to stay nice and cool, comfortable and calm!
1. Eat cooling foods.
Just adding in some cooling foods to your day can be really helpful. Especially if you can't resist that extra spicy taco, don't forgo the cilantro! Heck, if you're dying for a drink, make it a mojito, which has cooling lime and mint.
The best foods you'll want to incorporate for summer are:
- Fruit juice
Even just some cucumbers or watermelon for a snack, or changing up the seasoning in your regular recipes can be a big help. My favorite thing to do in the summer is add a couple lime wedges and 6ish mint leaves to my water bottle for a super cooling and refreshing way to stay hydrated!
Here's what you will want to avoid:
- Hot/spicy anything!
- Tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. (acid!)
- Lemon and other sour fruits
- Extra hot temperature food (hot coffee, soup, etc.)
- Salty foods
2. Practice Asana that Cools Your Body
In the summer, we hold all that extra heat in our torso. Side bends, forward folds and twists are really helpful in expelling some of that heat. It opens up our ribs like vents so we can cool.
Another thing that's really helpful are prone poses - lying on our bellies. Pressing the torso to the earth is really cooling on the body.
Here are the poses you'll want to include more of!
- Side bends (i.e. peaceful warrior, triangle, side angle, seated side bends, etc.)
- All twists, especially seated and supine!
- All forward folds! Do 'em standing, seated, child's pose, we don't care!
- Gentle backbends only, extra credit for prone backbends (i.e. cobra, sphinx, etc.)
Poses to reduce for now:
- Lots of sun salutations
- Big backbends are too heating
- Big active inversions are also too heating
3. Choose a style of yoga that works for you on the hottest days
For all the Pittas out there, I'm really sorry to bring this news up (truly) but hot yoga might not work so well for you in the summer. Have you noticed if you feel more depleted after yoga in the summer? More dehydrated? Experiencing more Pitta symptoms (acne, heartburn, annoyed, sweating, can't cool off, etc.)? It could be the temperature in the room... You're adding more fire to a blaze in your body that's already raging - you just don't need it!
Think about it - you most likely like practicing hot yoga to sweat, to go deeper into poses with warm muscles, to challenge yourself. All of those factors are already there in the summer. You don't need to sweat as much in yoga because you're sweating more throughout your day anyway. You don't need to heat the room to get warm muscles, you already have them naturally.
But the good news is that I'm not here to say stop it altogether! Ayurveda really isn't like that at all. It's about the small adjustments we can do to mindfully balance ourselves out. Maybe try (on the hottest days) to go to a non-heated vinyasa class. Better yet would be a yin or restorative class. Again, it doesn't need to be every day. But maybe once a week or when the temperature is at its hottest (like over 90). Just try it once or twice and see how you feel, and you can always decide from there!
4. Ramp up the cooling and calming activities
If you don't meditate, now is a great time to start. If you've never had a systematic relaxation practice (which is lovely AF by the way), now is the time to start that too! This is about balancing the mental affects of Pitta.
How many times have you seen a gorgeous summer day and you just CAN'T resist going hard on yardwork or a run or whatnot because you don't want to waste it? Some of us manifest the motivation of Beyonce on Red Bull during the summer. Sure, we get a ton of shit done, but think of it this way - the fire element in you is already burning hot as Hades - if you try burning the candle at both ends, your candle will just melt much, much faster right now.
Don't forget to relax in the summer. Instead of a full day of yardwork, maybe you get what has to get done finished in the morning, and then take the afternoon to just sit in the shade with your lime/mint water.
Even if you're totally relaxed but working on your tan for a while, make sure to cool down afterward. Take cool showers, wear cool colors, read a fun, lighthearted book.
Summer is the time to luxuriate a bit. It costs more energy for your body to absorb all this heat. So don't be shy about taking a 20 minute nap or going to bed early. Pitta time of day is from 10 am - 2 pm, and again from 10 pm - 2 am. Making sure you're in bed before 10 pm will be really helpful to ensuring you can sleep well also!
If you live in a place with four true seasons, good for you for making it through the winter! We had an especially horrible winter here in Buffalo, so I know I'm taking the summer to just enjoy a bit more than usual too.