This summer, try these pitta-pacifying techniques to keep your cool.
Of the three doshas, pitta has the most in common with summer. Imagine a bubbling pot of steaming hot, sour, and spicy soup—that's the nature of pitta. Made up of the primal elements fire (mainly) and water (secondarily), pitta has hot, oily, sharp, light, sour, fluid, and pungent attributes—many of the same sensory qualities that summer surrounds us with.
It's a fundamental principle of Ayurveda that like increases like. In Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing (South Asia Books, 1998), Ayurvedic teacher and author Maya Tiwari writes, "The doshas are not simply the dynamic energy within the body; rather, they are influenced primarily by seasonal variations." As summer heats up, we become prone to accumulating excess pitta. If we already possess a pitta prakriti (nature), we're at an even higher risk of becoming out of balance.
Signs of pitta imbalance include diarrhea, burning sensations, skin irritations, odorous sweating, fever, inflammation, and a hypercritical or intense mental outlook. Pitta governs digestion and metabolism, so the fire may flare first in the small intestine and the stomach—pitta's main seats in the body—with excesses of digestive acid and bile.
What to do when pitta's boiling over? Keep in mind that doshic imbalances can vary in manifestation and severity, depending on many factors. If you suspect any health problems, seek a qualified practitioner. But if you're simply a touch overheated, tune in to your senses and try applying opposing qualities to maintain balance in the midst of summer's swelter.
TASTE Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes calm pitta, so eat more foods like apples, grapes, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, and fresh organic dairy. Eliminate or reduce your intake of alcohol, heavy meats, and fried, oily, salty, spicy, and sour foods. Instead of salt, use fennel seeds, coriander, fenugreek, and fresh lime juice for seasoning.
TOUCH Wear breathable natural fibers that have a cooling effect, such as cotton and linen.
SMELL Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet of tuberose, gardenia, or freesia. Or dab on a diluted essential oil: Try rose, jasmine, geranium, vetiver, or ylang ylang.
SIGHT Take a break from work that requires intense visual focus. Gaze at summer's verdant trees and meadows. Surround yourself with cooling hues of pearl white, blue, green, silver, and gray.
SOUND Listen to flute music and devotional songs to calm your heart and soothe your spirit. PRANAYAMA Try cooling pranayama techniques, like Sitali and Sitkari, which are done by inhaling through the mouth and exhaling through the nose.
To do Sitali, sit in a comfortable position, make an O shape with your mouth, and curl the tongue lengthwise. Then, as B.K.S. Iyengar instructs in Light on Pranayama (Crossroad, 1998), "draw in air...as if drinking with a straw and fill the lungs completely." Withdraw the tongue, close the mouth, and hold the breath for five to 10 seconds. Exhale through the nose. Repeat this cycle for five to 10 minutes and then rest in Savasana (Corpse Pose).
If you can't curl your tongue, try Sitkari, which is similar to Sitali except that the tongue is kept flat. Part the lips and allow the tip of the tongue to protrude slightly. Practice gently and without intensity early or late in the day, when the air is cool.