Ayurveda for Summer
Good health is more than mere absence of disease; it is a state of harmony of one’s inner environment with the outer, at all levels of being. So, as the season changes along with our environmental conditions, our bodies and mental being, require different types of sustenance in order to remain in balance.
Ayurveda is not just body type specific, but it also looks at each season specifically and suggests that we follow a lifestyle to suit that specific season. According to Ayurveda, summer is predominantly a Pitta season whereby there is excess heat not only in the environment around us but also within us. And the aim is to reduce this heat so that it does not lead to imbalances like inflammation, stress, skin conditions, headaches, migraines etc.
Ayurveda has laid out a few guidelines that people can follow during summer. These guidelines are something that anyone can follow irrespective of their body type, due to the reason that in summer the heat or fire element (Pitta) generally rises within all of us.
The aim during summer is to focus on foods that reduce that excess heat in the body.
· According to Ayurveda its best to avoid excess of spicy, sour and salty foods as these tend to increase heat, inflammation in the body.
· On the other hand foods that are bitter, naturally sweet and astringent are good to calm and cool down the body. Anything that is green, has bitter qualities. And bitter taste helps to reduce heat and inflammation. Best examples foe greens are all green vegetables including green salads.
· When we say naturally sweet in Ayurveda, we mean fresh fruits and vegetables that are sweet to taste. These flavours not only help to reduce heat and Pitta Dosha but also help to reduce stress in the body.
· Coconut water is a very good example of naturally sweet food/drink. Therefore the aim is to drink plenty of coconut water during summer time. It’s no wonder that all hot and tropical countries have coconut trees naturally growing in the area!
· Aloe Vera juice is a very good example of sweet/bitter taste. Aloe Vera is known as a very good anti inflammatory plant and it also helps to reduce stress.
· Cumin seeds soaked in water overnight and drinking that water next day is an ideal Ayurvedic tip for summer time. Cumin seeds are known to help strengthen the urinary system and therefore will help towards preventing dehydration and urinary tract infections during summer season.
· Lassi, also called as the Indian Buttermilk, is best drunk during summer. It is a yoghurt drink which pacifies Pitta Dosha. Take one quarter of yoghurt and 3 quarters of water and whisk them together. You can add a pinch of salt and sugar if needed. Alternatively, cooling spices may also be added like coriander powder and cumin powder.
The classical herbs that are traditionally suggested during summer time are Brahmi, Turmeric, Neem and Shatavari.
· Brahmi which is known as a nervous system strengthening herb helps to reduce excess heat in from the nervous and the endocrine system. Furthermore, it also helps to remove excess heat from the head and neck region, therefore helping to prevent migraines and headaches during the summer.
· Turmeric is widely known around the world for various health benefits. According to Ayurveda, turmeric is known to have a very good anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, anti fungal properties. These properties therefore makes it the ideal herb for every one during the summer as it also helps to prevent acidity, ulcers and any heat related skin ailments.
· Many people think that Shatavari is solely a woman’s rejuvenating herb. What many people don’t know is that it also has very good liver strengthening and anti inflammatory properties. During summer, heat may accumulate in the liver and taking Shatavari regularly helps to cleanse and yet nourish the liver, spleen, blood and the digestive system.
· If someone seems to suffer from excess sweating during summer time, then Neem helps to cool down the body and reduce that excess sweating and water loss. It also has very good stress relieving properties
Ayurvedic massages with Pitta reducing oil will help during summer.
· Foot massages are the best massages during summer time. Especially when done with coconut oil or Ghee (clarified butter). It helps to eliminate heat from the head and neck region and hence prevents migraines. Furthermore, it also helps towards a good night’s sleep
· Ayurvedic head massages with Brahmi Amla Oil are highly recommended for summer. The cooling effect of Brahmi Amla Oil helps to remove tension and heat from the nervous which in turn helps to calm and clarify the mind and the head.
· Summer is the best time for Moon Salutations. As the name goes – saluting to the moon – helps to bring a refreshing effect.
· Moon salutations are known to reduce Pitta and induce calming effect on the body and mind.
· Breathing exercises during summer to help reduce heat or Pitta Dosha will be beneficial. Some examples are Cooling Breath Exercise (Shitali), Left Nostril Breathing (Chandra Bheda) and Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
· Tratak – Candle light meditation helps to remove excess heat from the nervous system.
· Sit comfortably in front of a candle light flame. Make sure that you are sat at arm’s length away and the candle flame needs to be approximately at the same height as your eyes. You could use a stool to keep the candle light. Start by focusing on the candle light flame, trying not to blink. Hold this focus for a count of ten. Then close your eyes and relax visualising the image of the flame in your mind’s eye, for a count of 10. Repeat this for approximately 10 rounds. At the end of the practice your eyes may start watering and this is a good sign as it helps to remove all the heat out of the body. To conclude this practise, apply rose water eye pads on your eyes and lie down for 5 – 10 minutes. This practise can either be carried out towards evening so that it helps with sleep.
· Summer is not the best time to follow any fasting rituals. It is believed that there is excess heat in the body, and fasting may increase this heat leading to dizziness and light headed feeling.
· Cooling colours recommended during this season are light and airy colours like white, blue, green, lighter shades etc.
· Essential oils like Sandalwood, jasmine, rose, or lavender are best in summer to eliminate excess heat.
Credit: Dr Deepa Apte - Ayurveda Pura