Cooling Practices to Pacify Pitta
Last month I created a workshop to share cooling practices derived from Ayurveda in order to help us beat the heat of summer through diet, yoga, and lifestyle. Here is the outline of our discussion and asana practice:
During the changing of seasons, our bodies require differences in how we eat and behave in order to maintain balance. Mind-Body therapies such as Ayurveda and Yoga help us to naturally adjust to these changes.
Pitta dosha is a combination of the water and fire elements. It is responsible for transformation within the body (metabolism). Its qualities, or “gunas", are hot, oily, liquid, sharp, light, and spreading. Symptoms of excessive pitta dosha may include irritability, anger, aggression, inflammation, and redness. Summer has arrived and with it the strong sun and hotter days and nights. These conditions can aggravate Pitta and cause disturbances in sleep, digestion, and mood.
How to reduce Pitta:
Avoid very hot, fatty, acidic, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol and other stimulants.Opt for foods that are cooling and sweet by nature, such as: cucumber, coriander, melon, celery, rice, bread, zucchini, and most sweet ripe fruits. Eat in moderation, since Agni (digestive fire) is weaker and avoid iced and carbonated beverages.
Dairy products (milk, fresh cheese, ghee and butter) are also refreshing and can be consumed, but only when there is not too much Kapha in the body (watch for signs such as mucus, congestion and feeling heavy). Minimize yogurt.
Drink cool teas, coconut water or fresh fruit juices. A good choice is water flavored with refreshing herbs like mint, basil, lemon grass or lemon slices.
Perform physical exercise or the practice of asanas in the coolest hours of the day, preferably at dawn or dusk.
Massage with coconut oil. It not only refreshes the body but is perfect for moisturizing the skin after prolonged exposure to the sun's rays.
Reduce excessive stimuli such as tumultuous places with a lot of noise and violent movies or music.
Refresh the senses with walks in the early morning or around dusk, green landscapes and swimming.
Wear comfortable and loose clothing with light fabrics such as cotton and linen, with light colors.
Use aromas such as rose, jasmine and geranium.
Recipe: Fennel Tea
Crushed fennel seeds (1-2 teaspoons)
1 cup boiling water
For our asana practice we focused on postures which distribute heat and energy from the center of the body outward as well as gentle stretches along the small intestine, liver, gall bladder, and heart meridians. We adopted a manner of practicing that is non-competitive and compassionate and invited a sense of ease and quiet.
Some of the postures we used include:
Gentle twists (Reclining and Thread the Needle)
Triangle w/ Block
Easy Bow Pose
We finished by practicing "Sitali" breath in which one inhales through a rolled tongue as if sipping the air through a straw, then exhaling through the nostrils.