by Monica Bloom
In Ayurveda, there are three energies (doshas) that govern the Universe, our bodies, and everything in between. Vata is the first dosha, the energy of movement which is made of space and air. The second dosha is pitta, the energy of transformation, made of fire and water. The third dosha is kapha, the energy of lubrication and structure, made of water and earth. We have all three doshas in our bodies, but we will tend toward one or two.
Remembering this connection to nature, summer is hot and sunny (fire) and therefore the pitta energy in all of us gets stronger. Vatas and kaphas will enjoy the counterbalance of their normally chilly selves and will find that they feel more balanced during summer. Pitta people can easily imbalance this time of year. Ayurveda’s foundation is “like increases like” which means too much of the same thing will cause imbalance and we need opposites to balance. Here are some lifestyle tips for summer health and lifestyle, especially for pitta-type people.
Are you a pitta? Take the dosha test!
In general, and especially during summer, pittas should avoid excess salt, spicy foods, yogurt (always), sour fruits, tomatoes, red meat, soy, alcohol (sorry) and fermented foods. These foods all have “heating” qualities to them which will send pitta swimming through the body like a hot oil, increasing the emotional, mental and physical fire. Pittas should favour the “sweet” taste by eating fresh sweet fruits like mango, coconut, berries and peaches. Other foods that balance pitta are ghee, milk and grains. Seasonal fresh fruits and veggies are awesome too. Tip: seaweed is a pitta superfood!
Pittas should avoid exercising in the sun or participating in anything overly competitive because competition increases emotional heat, stress and intensity. Brisk evening walks, early morning bike rides or jogs are fantastic. Swimming is best for our hot-bodied friends. Yoga is good for all bodies all year round, but absolutely NO Bikram yoga for pittas!
Our lucky pittas friends are generally blessed with good digestion and a zooming metabolism. Their main problem is if they don’t eat, they will get cranky until someone feeds them. Any indigestion pittas may have will tend to be heartburn, acid reflux, or loose poops. Spicy foods and “red” foods such as tomatoes, red peppers, red meat and red wine will contribute to internal heat. Pittas should stay sweet and cool by eating plenty of veggies, sweet fruits, ghee and grains. Tip: ghee cools heat in the digestive tract while maintaining a strong digestive fire.
Ever get a “second wind” at night with a sudden urge to clean the house from top to bottom? Or maybe you come up with a brilliant idea that can’t wait until morning? Welcome to pitta time (this goes for everyone, it’s nature’s law). Pitta time comes around twice a day, from 10 am-2 pm and again from 10 pm-2 am.
10am-2pm Around 10 am, we might get a little hungry for a snack. That’s because pitta energy has just moved in, increasing our agni (digestive fire), prepping us to eat. The sun is strongest at noon and so is our agni (fires are aligned, like increases like!) so lunch should be the biggest meal of the day. Pitta time is also a great time for strategic thinking, organizing, and any brainy activity because our mind is sharpest at this time.
10pm-2am Once 10 pm rolls around, pitta kicks back in. This is bedtime. Pitta’s job is to process all food, emotions, thoughts, ideas and stresses, ridding what we no longer need, while we sleep. If we stay awake we will relive all the crud we were supposed to process! No bueno. This can result in feelings of unrest, anxiety and stress during the day because there hasn’t been proper processing. The body is smart and if we sleep when it cleans house (like we’re supposed to) we will wake up refreshed to begin everyday stress-free.
Pittas hold the most weight on their shoulders, after all, they’re the leaders. To calm the mind and relieve stress, practice Nadi Shodhanam (alternate nostril breathing) daily. The nostrils are the quickest passage to the mind (that’s why aromatherapy works). And when the mind is easy, the body follows suit and stress, anger and emotional roller coaster ride will disappear.
Sandalwood is instantly cooling, which makes it very soothing for the skin and as an added bonus, it rids negative energy! Pittas love the smell of sandalwood. It’s calming, grounding and comforting. Mint, ylang-ylang, camphor, rose and jasmine are some other scents to balance pitta.
Author of In Your Elements: A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life and creator of heymonicab.com, Monica Bloom is an expert at tucking Ayurveda neatly into a busy modern life. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on beer, cheese, fried things and Green Bay Packer football games on Sundays. She currently works a job-job with a 2.5 hour daily commute in tech-crazy San Francisco and comes home to an endearing husband, a spritely toddler, two dogs and a cat. She practices Ayurveda while juggling the busy-ness of life and has been actively sharing Ayurvedic wisdom since 2008. If she can incorporate Ayurveda into her wonky-busy schedule, you can, too.