Discover our top 10 Ayurvedic Tips for feeling your best this Summer
Burn baby burn, summer inferno....
The sun is shining, the world is sparkling, we lay back and enjoy the rays - summer is here! As the seasons change and the days grow longer (and the nights shorter) the world is light, bright and full of life. Sunrise begins before 6am and old Mr. sunshine doesn't hit the sack until late into the evening. What a wonderful time to be alive!
Happy Summer Solstice
Happy holidays folks! That's right, this time last week was the Summer Solstice (Litha), the exciting midpoint of the annual calendar where we have the most light and least darkness for the whole year! During this holiday Pagans and non-pagan folk alike gather, often at Stonehenge (though sadly not this year!), to celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year and the abundance of creative and passionate energy flowing through this season. We may not be able to get out to the beaches, festival fields and parks like we used to this year, but many of us will still be grabbing as much of the beautiful rays as possible. So - to keep your health, digestion and, of course, pitta-dosha in check - we have 10 Ayurvedic Tips to keep you calm, cool and balanced.
Make the change to avoid the strange
As the cool damp rains of Spring become a distant memory and we are enveloped in baking hot heat, early mornings and late nights, our agni (digestive fire) becomes gradually more depleted (as the blood leaves our digestive organs to flood our extremities), we have less deep sleep causing pitta-aggravation and (for some) this means short tempers, irritability, heartburn, skin rashes, loose motions, insomnia, tiredness and lethargy. To ensure our mind, mood and motions remain in balance during the transition, Ayurveda recommends adapting the way we live and eat as we move through Summer.
Using Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle through the hot months will help you to maintain digestive composure, mental calmness and clarity, abundant energy and fresh and radiant skin. This is particularly relevant for Pitta (fire-water dominant) Prakriti/Vikriti people who may already struggle with the heat, skin rashes and allergies. As Summer is a predominantly Pitta season (due to increasing temperatures) burning inflammatory conditions can get much worse, if a supportive lifestyle and diet are not adopted promptly. We recommend, particularly for pitta types, taking on board as much Ayurvedic advice as possible, as often as possible, if you want to avoid the burn!
To help you design your own Ayurvedic Summer Regimen we have listed our 10 things to consider:
1) Pitta-Pacifying Qualities: As we move from Spring to Summer the changes we began to make to our diet (less heavy stews and more lighter, fresher, greener fares) should continue. In Summer, agni is weak so portions should be small, warmish (not ice cold!) and enjoyed with sips of room temperature water or fennel tea (never drink ice cold water with meals as this weakens agni even further!).
To support natural cooling, moisturising and cleansing of the gut and skin, prevent hyperacidity and loose motions (which in turn can cause malnutrition,) Ayurveda recommends a pitta-pacifying diet. Think white and green! This means some grains, lean white meat, fish, fresh dairy (not mature!), lots of vegetarian food and PLENTY of fresh fruits and greens. Reduce your use of pitta-increasing sour, salty and pungent tastes and enjoy more sweet, bitter and astringent tasting foods. Right now, warm or room temperature salads with good sources of whole carbohydrates and light fresh protein (beans are perfect) with lashings of fresh herbs are just what you need!
A word of warning though when it comes to keeping cool: try not to overdo it on the ice cream/ice-cold drinks etc as agni is already weak and excess use of really cold food and drinks (especially by vata or kapha dominant prakriti types) and heavy dairy produce can cause indigestion, gas and constipation. Instead, think room-temperate (as often as possible) if you can't hack hot.
Also if you like to enjoy alcohol on occasion: stay away from hot, sharp, sour pitta-increasing alcohols such as wine, cider and spirits and instead enjoy cooling, sweet, bitter and astringent drinks such as beer, gin or refreshing mint/cucumber-based cocktails, you won't feel as rough the next day!
2) In-season foods: Get to grips with what foods are in season right now. Mother nature has very cleverly given us a plethora as delicious pitta-pacifying foods to help us keep cool and balanced. White, green and purple foods, such as broad beans, sprouting broccoli, courgettes, summer squash, artichokes, mint, parsley, coriander, lettuce, rocket, spinach, chard, potatoes and berries are widely available from June onwards and naturally support digestion and/or pitta. Also, when paired with lighter (largely vegetarian) protein sources, your summer plate will not only taste great on the lips and but will feel good on the hips and help you keep your summer body (and radiant skin!)
3) Go crazy with the sweet cool herbs! To boost weakened agni and prevent malnourishment, loose motions or heartburn we highly recommend adding lashings of sweet, bitter and astringent spices and herbs to every meal possible! This means cardamom and fennel in sweet breakfasts and desserts (hello halwa!) or fresh and powdered coriander, fennel seed/powder or leaf mint and parsley added to lunches and dinners (or cocktails). Just try it, your taste buds will let you know what they think ;)
4) Relax: The best way to keep calm and cool in summer and prevent the dreaded 'pitta-rage' or exhausting 'burn out' is to not plan too much and take more time just chillin'. We know this can be REALLY difficult as there is sooooo much fun stuff to do in summer: so many events to go to, so many social gatherings and so so much temptation to gorge on booze and ice cream and stay up all night. BUT, both you and I know, it just ain't sustainable and in the long run, will leave you feeling and terrible and to susceptible disease. Mix and match crazy summer days with restful afternoons and gentle evenings taking time to meditate, enjoy relaxation in (or near) water or taking short (no longer than 30 minutes) afternoon naps to replenish energy.
5) Try to keep sleep in balance: "It's too hot, I can't sleep" famous words eh? BUT did you know that between 10pm and 2am is PITTA time, meaning you are naturally hotter and less likely to sleep? Luckily, between 6pm and 10pm is cooling, calming, sleepy kapha time making it easy to fall asleep. If you get into a rhythm of hitting the sack earlier (before 10) you will not only find nodding off much easier, you will actually produce more growth and repair hormones (released during 10pm and 2am) so you wont SO exhausted when the sun wakes you up at 5-6am. You might even start to naturally wake earlier giving you more time to enjoy yoga and meditation before the sun gets up (and you get too hot and bothered to attempt exercise!). Added bonus: being up for pretty quiet sunrises is just the dream! Learn more about the importance of sleep form a scientific perspective watch this video.
6) Avoid overeating: Although it's likely that the invitations to late-night socials and alfresco meals out are set to increase in summer, sadly, agni does not go with it! To prevent gradually increasing toxin load (which will express as heaviness, loss of appetite, skin rashes) it's important to make sure that meals are light, fresh and easy to digest. Ayurveda recommends checking your tongue for coating and using a tongue scraper every morning to assess bowel health and digestive function and clear away superficial toxins from the mouth.
Ayurvedic Home Therapy
7) Self-Massage: 2-4 times weekly massage in the mornings with warm, organic (cold-pressed) coconut oil will help to moisturise and nourish hot dry skin (this is especially important if you are prone to sunburn) and will help to keep you feel calm and cool. Daily massage also helps relax an overactive nervous system that may be aggravated by stress and insomnia and will promote relaxation and sound sleep. Daily massage of the feet before bedtime with lavender essential oil/a carrier oil also improve ease and quality of sleep.
8) Get herbal: Digestive, liver and skin support in Summer are crucial. We suggest adding coriander, cardamom and teas to your 'must drink' list. Also, Ayurvedic herbs and formulations such as guduchi, amalaki, neem, shatavari and triphala are great if you want more intensive support and help with mood, emotions, hot flushes, allergies, rashes and gut health. We strongly advise consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner on correct herb selection and usage for you individually however.
9) Wear cooling colours: This one may sound a bit far-fetched but it's true that wearing cooler colours (blues, whites, greys and pastel colours) not only helps you feel cool by affecting the 'tone' of what you are seeing but - according to Ayurveda - contributes to dosha pacification. Wearing colours which we instinctively recognise as 'cooling' such as the those of water (blue), snow (white), grass (green) and sky (grey/blue), rather than colours of the fire and the sun (red/yellow) help to increase water, earth and air element (and their respective dosha -kapha and vata) and thus, balance pitta.
As more research is conducted on fringe healing techniques such as colour therapy, there is growing popularity for this kind of healing. As we begin to understand more about the effect of various shades on our energy centres (chakra) and the impact on mood and emotion, we hope in the future this will be something considered by all needing healing. That said, if thinking this way just isnt for you then instead remember white reflects the sun! So wearing more of that will definitely keep you cooler!
10) Meditate! When the inner mind is calm and cool, so are the emotions, body, energy and spirit. If you don't already have a regular meditation practice, now is the time to get one! Your partner, friends, kids, pets, and most of all YOU will thank you for it. Regular time to unwind, cool down, relax racing thoughts and get a bigger picture of your life, will literally make a UNIVERSE of difference in how you experience summer (and life in general). Not sure where to start, check out Headspace and Calm, they are great places to start!
So, is summer a drama-pitta-rage-burn out season for you? Or calm-cool-composed-collected-celebration season? The choice is yours!
Like the look of Ayurvedic Routines? Visit our Charya (Routine) page for the scoop on daily routines for health and the other seasons!