Living Right for the Season

Stay cool this Summer

An Ayurvedic diet is always a balancing act. It involves choosing foods that keep the elements of the body in balance. In summertime, Pitta (fire and water elements) is aggravated, so we need to eat cooling foods to counteract the heating qualities of Pitta. Pitta is hot, sharp, oily and light. Eating foods with opposite qualities will help keep us in balance this summer season .

Some foods that can keep you cool in the summer are:

Sweet fruits: Watermelon, mango, berries, peaches, plums, grapes, and coconut

Herbs and Spices: Fresh mint, licorice, fennel, coriander, saffron, and rose

Veggies: Bitter greens like kale, asparagus and cilantro. Summer squash is also cooling.

Other: Aloe vera is cooling, as is cucumber (yes, the saying cool as a cucumber has truth to it!) Basmati rice eaten with mung beans and leafy green vegetables is a simple, healthy, and cooling summer meal.

Avoid or reduce spicy, acidic, extra salty and greasy foods during summer, as they will increase heat in your body. Other heating foods to reduce consumption of in the summer are sour fruits and tomatoes.

Drinking ample water is essential to keep your body cool and hydrated in the summertime. Caffeine and carbonated drinks can increase dehydration, so reach for the water instead! Coconut water is another beneficial and hydrating drink.

You can also stay cool in the summer by practicing mild forms of exercise such as swimming or gentle yoga. Hot yoga is best saved for another season. Moon salutations are more cooling than sun salutations. As pitta can accumulate in the eyes, practice gentle eye exercises such as pretending to look around a clock – gaze up at 12 o clock, and move the eyes slowly in a circle pausing to look at each imaginary number on the clock. You can also alternate looking up and down, side to side, and diagonally with both eyes.

Pitta can also accumulate in the liver and small intestine. Forward bends and twists are helpful yoga poses to balance the pitta in these areas. If you must participate in high intensity outdoor aerobic sports this summer, try to do so in the morning or evening rather than in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. In general, if you are already prone to high pitta, and/or have pale skin, freckles, and moles, staying out of the sun between noon and three pm in the summer is wisest to reduce risk of premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Taking walks under the light of the moon is a better option for summer, as the moonlight is cooling to our bodies and minds. Or walk barefoot on the grass, or in shaded forests (but don’t step on any bees!)

If you have heat based summer insomnia, try rubbing coconut oil onto the soles of your feet and scalp to calm the mind and help you sleep better (wear socks and a hat while you sleep to prevent the oil from staining your sheets). Coconut oil is also a wonderful conditioner to promote beautiful and healthy hair. Additionally, you can add a few drops of cooling lavender or sandalwood oil to your pillow for cool and restful summer sleep. Try to take rest before 11 PM since pitta peaks between 10 PM – 2 AM. Besides promoting restful sleep, coconut oil can be massaged into your skin each morning before you shower to keep you cool this summer. Leave it on for about twenty minutes before rinsing it off with cool or lukewarm water.

Loose, cotton clothing can also help the body stay cool under the heat of the summer sun. Cooling colors to wear are whites, greens, and blues, as they reflect the heat, as opposed to oranges, reds, and yellows which can make us even warmer. Thin, long sleeved options are better for those prone to sun burns, otherwise be wise and put on ample sunblock before stepping outdoors. Our habits today will be visible in our state of health years into the future. If you do get sunburned, apply fresh aloe vera gel onto the burn to help the skin heal.

Pitta aggravated emotions include criticism, anger, and irritation. One trick to reduce these feelings when you get heated, is to dip your finger into a little bit of ghee (clarified butter), and apply a small amount inside or on the tip of your nostrils. Inhale gently. The ghee will send a calming message to the brain.

As for summer pranayama (breathing exercises), try cooling shitali. Roll your tongue (if you are able), and inhale air through the tongue, and then exhale through the nose. You will feel cool air coming into your mouth instantly. Try 10-15 rounds each morning or whenever you feel heated or thirsty. If you cannot roll your tongue, clench your teeth instead, smile, and breathe cooling air into the mouth in this way. Another cooling meditation to try, is visualize a cool, beautiful place such as a forest or lake.

Practice as many of the above tips for a summer lifestyle as you can to stay cool, and balanced in the heat.


Summer Ayurvedic Drink Recipes:

Limeade with Rose Water

Serves 8

  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 6 cups water (spring or purified)
  • 4 tbsp rose water (best organic)
  • 2 tbsp organic maple syrup (or agave or other sweetener of your choice)
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice (strain the pulp) into a pitcher, and stir in all other ingredients for a simple and cooling summer drink.

Mint Tulip Drink

  • 10 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1.5 cups chopped and pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup coconut pieces
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 TBSP Raisins
  • 1 TBSP Orange juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple juice
  • 3 cups water

Sara is a certified Ayurvedic Educator through California College of Ayurveda and a certified yoga teacher for adults and children. She likes to meditate, sing devotional music, and spend time in nature.

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