Tips for Balancing Pitta in Summer

In the dog days of summer, pitta aggravation is in full force for many of us. The hot, moist/oily, light, spreading, penetrating, and pungent qualities of the summer season have settled into the body and mind for many of us, creating dis-ease. This is especially true if your constitution is primarily pitta—one of the three Ayurvedic doshas. When pitta is in balance, it can bring about courage, leadership, steady digestion and elimination, a good sense of humor, love, and luminosity. When not balanced, it can show up as follows:

  • Skin irritations: acne, rashes, hives
  • Burning or itching sensation of the skin
  • Red burning eyes
  • Acid indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Loose stools
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Being overly critical
  • Irritability
  • Impatience

Try the following practices to balance your pitta.

  • Avoid the hot sun of midday.
  • Take a walk barefoot at dawn in the dewy grass.
  • If your skin is reacting to the heat, apply a thin layer of coconut oil followed by a lukewarm shower.
  • To cool the skin and eyes, keep a bottle of rosewater around you and spritz your face and skin regularly.
  • If you’re experiencing acid indigestion, nausea, or loose stools, practice a pitta-pacifying diet.  Favor the flavors of sweet, bitter, and astringent. Foods like fresh green vegetables, basmati rice, coconut water, sweet apples, ripe bananas, watermelon, cucumbers, and cilantro are all terrific for cooling the hot belly.
  • Avoid pungent, salty, and sour. Avoid overly salty, oily, fried, and spicy foods, including onions, garlic, processed, and canned foods. Avoid all alcohol and coffee; especially if your skin is irritated.
  • If your mind is going down the pitta spiral of irritation, try Sheetali or Sitkari pranayama to cool the mind—simple yogic breathing techniques that are safe and effective for cooling down excess pitta dosha.
    • Instructions for Sheetali: Curl the sides of the tongue together so it looks like a hot dog roll.  Inhale through curled tongue. On the exhale, flip the tongue up so the tip touches the hard palate while exhaling through the nose. If you’re unable to roll the tongue, you can receive all the benefits of Sheetali by doing Sitkari.
    • To do Sitkari, simply allow the tongue to float in the mouth while the teeth lightly touch.  Inhale through the mouth, spreading the lips away from the teeth while they are lightly touching. On the exhale, flip the tongue up so the tip touches the hard palate, while exhaling through the nose.
    • During times of anger or frustration with yourself or a loved one, try the practice of metta (loving-kindness). This is a simple practice of sending loving words, thoughts, and feelings to yourself or another. This is a practice to cultivate love and tenderness within oneself: Find a cool, quiet, comfortable place to sit for several minutes. Bring a loved one to mind or focus your attention on yourself. Make it easy by focusing on someone who doesn’t trigger you. Perhaps a pet, grandparent, niece, or nephew. Repeat the following phrases for five to 15 minutes: May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from suffering. May you flow with grace and ease.

Erin Casperson, Lead Kripalu Faculty and Director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, is passionate about sharing how the ancient practices of Ayurveda can be applied to modern-day living.

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