Pitta Season: How to stay cool and balanced this summer
by Anne-Sophie Eckert
‘In summer time one should enjoy forests, gardens, flowers, and cool water. During the night one should sleep on the open airy roof of the house, which is cooled by the rays of the moon’.
– Charaka Samhita
As spring slowly turns into summer, we are beginning the transition into what Ayurveda refers to as “Pitta season”. This is the time of the year when you are most susceptible to having an increase of Pitta Dosha. Maybe you have been experiencing inflammation, redness of the skin, irritation of the eyes, burning sensations, or intense pains in the body? These symptoms are the result of the untreated accumulation of Pitta.
“Pitta governs digestion, heat, visual perception, hunger, thirst, radiance, complexion, understanding, intelligence, courage and the softness of the body” – Ashtanga Hridaya
An excess of Pitta Dosha can also be expressed on an emotional level, through anger, impatience, frustration, intolerance, and jealousy.
The ancient scriptures of Ayurveda prepare us for this seasonal change, describing in great detail the appropriate regimen to follow. During summer, the Fire element is at its peak, so we have to balance the qualities of heat and sharpness associated with it.
Ayurveda has a basic principle that says ‘‘like increases like’, which means that anything that brings heat to the body will increase and destabilize Pitta Dosha. Therefore it is wise to introduce cooling, smoothing, and grounding qualities into your diet and lifestyle during the summer season.
Here are some simple adjustments you can incorporate to your summer routine:
1. Wake up before sunrise
Have you ever experienced the paradox of oversleeping in the morning, yet still feeling heavy and lethargic upon waking up? In my own experience, when I start the day before sunrise I usually feel more energised and stable throughout the day. According to Ayurveda, the best time to wake up is about an hour and a half before dawn.
Ayurveda attributes this sluggishness in the morning to the accumulation of Kapha Dosha as the sun rises. Kapha’s qualities of heaviness, sluggishness, and slowness are experienced during the first phase of the day. In the hours preceding sunrise you are still in the Vata period, and with the quality of movement associated with Vata Dosha and the coolness of the night, this is the best time to start a summer day.
2. Practice summer asanas
The early morning is the most auspicious time in summer to exercise. Favour mild cooling exercise, such as a gentle yoga flow or moon salutation sequence. It is also beneficial to avoid any asana that brings too much heat to the head (such as headstand). Shoulder stand is fine, as it creates coolness by activating the moon energy around the throat area.
Spinal twists are excellent during the Pitta season, as they release tension from the mid-abdomen, the small intestine, and the liver. These are locations where Pitta tends to accumulate.
Personally I like to practice the following asanas in summer: all types of twists, boat pose, bow pose, fish pose, and cobra. And to make sure you’re properly cooled down, you can finish your practice with a cooling pranayama such as Shitali.
3. Cool down with coconut
Abhyanga (or application of oil to the body) is a recommended daily practice in Ayurveda. Warmed oil is applied to nourish the skin - in summer you can opt for coconut oil. Coconut oil tends to liquefy around 24 degrees celsius, so you don’t even have to warm it up.
Coconut oil can not only be used to nourish the body, it is also a great option to cook with! I like to use it when roasting oats for my morning porridge or when cooking pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Adding shredded coconut in dishes is another add-on that will provide sweetness and a cooling effect. You can add a few spoons to your rice dishes such as kitchari.
4. Use sweet, bitter and astringent tastes
In summer, Agni, the digestive fire, can create more heat in the body if not sustained. This means that it is important to have a regular eating schedule and avoid skipping meals. If you want to fast, opt for intermittent rather than prolonged fasting.
Another Ayurvedic tip to keep Pitta in balance is to avoid sour, salty and spicy food. This leaves us with the other three tastes of Ayurveda: sweet, bitter, and astringent.
The sweet taste is present in most grains (such as rice and wheat), and is grounding and cooling. Foods and spices with an astringent taste are cooling and heavy in nature. Examples of astringent foods are chickpeas, pomegranate, okra, alfalfa sprouts, turmeric, and green beans. Bitterness is also cooling in nature, and is abundant in green leafy vegetables, aloe vera, rhubarb, dandelion, and fenugreek. It is important not to overuse the bitter taste as it increases Vata Dosha, the dosha which is most easily imbalanced.
5. Sip CFF tea throughout the day
Cold or icy drinks are not recommended in Ayurveda, not even in summer, as they prevent digestion and increase the chance of developing Ama (undigested material which is the cause of most diseases).
CCF Tea is a great remedy for staying cool, a useful tip I have learned during my Ayurveda Practitioner Studies at Delight Academy. The abbreviation CCF stands for Coriander, Cumin and Fennel seeds. The mix contains an equal amount of each ingredient- just add one part Coriander seeds, one part Cumin seeds and one part Fennel seeds to a container (I have a ready-made jar in my spice drawer). Then you can infuse the mix in a metallic thermos for about ten minutes before straining!
Fennel, Coriander and Cumin seeds have cooling properties. These herbs are also carminative, which means that they help with digestion. You can sip some throughout the day as well as during meals. In summer, I would recommend consuming the CCF tea at room temperature. Enjoy!
This blog was written by a student in our Ayurveda Practitioner Studies degree programme. If you are interested in becoming an Ayurveda Practitioner or want to deepen your professional knowledge, skills, and experience in the field of Ayurveda - see our website here.
Anne-Sophie is an Ayurveda Practitioner Training student at Delight Academy. She also is also a lawyer, a dancer, and a yogini. She has lived in France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and has now settled in the Netherlands with her son and partner. Her aspiration is to spread the beautiful wisdom of Ayurveda and collaborate with students and practitioners all around the world. She has been finding inspiration in Vedic sciences and philosophy including Yoga, Vedanta, Vedic Astrology, and Ayurveda.