Summer is one of the best seasons of the year. It’s the season of rooftop sunsets, days at the beach, and plenty of barbecues and celebrations. It’s also the season of hot weather and lots (read: LOTS) of sweat. In Ayurveda, the seasons reflect all three doshas—Pitta (fire), Vata (air), and Kapha (earth). Because summer is hot and dry, it’s associated with the Pitta dosha. We all want to go out and have some fun in the summer months, but finding balance so you don’t get too hot, literally, is very important.
Every person has all three doshas within their body. Ultimately, you want all three of these doshas to be in balance with each other. But when one of our doshas gets out of whack due to stress or illness or a change in diet, we feel it both physically and emotionally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely thrown us all out of whack, so it’s important to get ourselves back in balance. Here are some tips for finding balance this Pitta season, while also making sure to keep your immune system strong and healthy for the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Establish a routine
Many of us have spent months cooped up inside, only going out for essentials or fresh air. Over time this can lead to imbalance, as ` moves to heaviness: heaviness of body and mind. This heaviness can lead to oversleeping, overeating or eating a less balanced diet, and not enough exercise, which we definitely don’t want. Establishing your own routine will help with maintaining organization and feeling productive, and, most importantly, keep you moving.
2. Spend time in nature (but at a distance)
It’s important to get out of your own space and spend time in nature when you can. Go for a nice bike ride or for a walk in the morning or at sunset, when it’s not too hot. You want to make sure you’re not moving around outside during the hottest parts of the day to keep your body from overheating. The earlier and later hours of the day are also the times when less people are usually out and about, making it easier for social distancing. Be sure to take breaks in air conditioning or a cooler space when you can to make sure you don’t get too hot or irritated. That can mean stopping in a shaded area or, if places by you are opened up, making a quick pit stop to take advantage of some good old AC.
3. Consume foods and drinks that help you cool down
In Ayurveda, one of the first things you learn is “like increases like.” Hot and spicy foods are only going to make you hotter, and because it’s already easier for your body to overheat in the summer, that’s something we want to avoid, add some water-rich fruits and veggies like watermelon, apples, peaches, cucumbers, and zucchini to your diet. We also recommend eating nutrient-rich foods like broccoli, sweet potatoes, yogurt, and spinach as they will promote gut balance while also boosting your immune system. You really just want to make sure that you’re eating as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible because they are abundant in “prana” or life force energy. Room temperature juices, water, and coconut water are perfect for hydration; you want to avoid ice cold drinks as this puts out your “agni” or digestive fire. If Pitta is out of alignment, you’ll notice physical symptoms like acne, rashes, heartburn and acid reflux, low blood sugar, and insomnia.
4. Eat smaller meals, but eat more often
I’m sure you’ve been talking with your friends about how hard it is to not snack all day since you’re spending more time at home, and your kitchen is right there. I’m here to tell you it’s OK to not resist eating all the time. In fact, I’m telling you you should eat more often, just smaller portions. Big, heavy meals can be too much for any dosha in the summer. Sometimes if we eat too much at once, we could feel sluggish and uncomfortable. And also because the days are longer, it’s possible that we may be hungrier because we are more active during the day and for a longer period of time. Give your body the fuel it needs to keep going all throughout the day. And don’t worry if you find yourself getting up and going to the pantry more often.
5. Get your body moving with meaningful exercise
Spending more time indoors means spending more time sitting. And so it’s important to get your body moving so your body doesn’t get sluggish. Exercise helps to stimulate the lymphatic system which in turn helps to strengthen our immunity to disease. Plus, sweating is one of the ways we expel waste from the body. Sweating also helps increase circulation, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and expels congestion in the body. Exercise outside when you can, whether that means a run through the neighborhood or finding a secluded section in your nearby park. And if possible, go swimming! Not only will you cool off, it’s a great way to exercise. Make sure to listen to and honor your body and give it the exercise that it needs for that day. Some days it might be restorative yoga and some days it might be an intense HIIT session.
6. Rest and Relax
Your body and mind need time to rest, repair, and replenish themselves. The ways we all prefer to rest are different, but make sure you are prioritizing restoratively. Surround yourself with sweet smells, scenes, and company. Listen to soft, peaceful music. Meditate or practice personal prayer or reflection, daily. You can also engage in the practice of “pranayama” or breathing exercises. One very simple pranayama is just breathing out a longer exhale than our inhale–it enhances our relaxation responses. Make sure you are spending plenty of time away from screens and devices, especially before bedtime. I know this can be hard since we aren’t really able to go out and do all the same things we are normally able to, but there are plenty of screen-free activities you can do like reading, playing or listening to music, playing a board game, or painting. Prioritize sleep so you can wake up the next day refreshed and renewed.
7. Talk about your emotions
Emotional stress or suppressed emotions can increase Pitta. Spending increased time indoors and away from the people we love can be incredibly difficult for the psyche. Stay connected with your friends and family through regular FaceTime and phone calls. And, if you’re able to, have a socially-distant gathering like a picnic or movie night. Check in with yourself daily; ask yourself ‘how am I feeling?’ We are all going to have good days and bad days. Don’t be afraid to talk with anyone if you’re having a hard time, whether that’s a friend, family member, or a professional. Try to be positive and encourage yourself to be patient and tolerant.
We are definitely living in uncertain times, and finding your own balance in a world that is unbalanced can be difficult. Especially during Pitta season. Thankfully, through Ayurveda and its practices, we can learn to live in harmony with nature, while also creating harmony within ourselves. I hope these tips help you maintain your health and wellbeing while also being mindful of protocols in the current pandemic.