Summer: Its Pitta Time!

The Season of Pitta: Keeping Cool as the Fire Burns.

It has been a hot and cold summer in Vancouver this year, but regardless pitta dosha: composed of the elements water and fire still dominate this time of year. 

What is Pitta?

Pitta is in the middle between vata and kapha doshas.  It has the lighter element of fire making it subtle like vata, with the heavier element of water, making pitta a bit denser than vata but not as heavy and stable as kapha. Pitta is associated with our intelligence, radiance, sense of humor, and self- pride.  That mischievous glimmer some people have in their eyes is related to pitta.  Pitta is the dosha of transformation. Our pitta stage of life begins in our teenage years and ends in our sixties: a time during which our lives undergo much transformation. 

Aggravated Pitta

Transformation requires a lot of energy, which can be demonstrated by the potentially depleting heat of summer.  When pitta becomes out of balance, it can be hard to control.  On the physical and emotional level aggravated pitta can manifest as heatstroke, exhaustion, sunburn, anger, and irritability.  Pitta is sharp, hot, and penetrating; like a fire it has a tendency to spread.  Seasonally we see this spreading quality in action in the catastrophic wildfires that rage in drier climates during the summer.

Pitta has a strong connection with the skin, as well with our digestion of food.  Excess heat that builds in the body is most easily removed through the skin, manifesting in skin disorders like rashes or acne, or through the bowels in the form of diarrhea or loose stools.   Pitta is also responsible for our digestion of emotions.  Emotional signs of aggravated pitta caused by the increase in heat that you might notice in the summer are: anger, irritability, and harsh criticism of self and others.

Restoring Balance to Aggravated Pitta

Summer can be a very exciting and transformative time.  Culturally, our seasonal flow recognizes that summer is a good time to go on vacation, take a break from our studies, and to be a little more carefree.  Having a lot of responsibility and hard work in the heat and too much time in the sun can make people feel burnt out and irritable.  It is important to stay cool and hydrated in the summer to keep our pitta in balance.    

The Pitta Diet

During this time Ayurveda advises us to favor moist, cooling foods, and sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes.  It is recommended to reduce spicy and excessively oily foods, as well as too much sour, salty, and pungent taste to prevent excess heat from collecting and creating imbalances in the body and mind.  Fruits and vegetables like avocados, seasonal berries, coconut, pineapple, watermelon, plums, pears, nectarines, pomegranates, asparagus, beans, broccoli, celery, cucumber, yams, summer squash, and zucchini will help to cool and calm pitta.  Lentils, split peas, chick peas, barley, wheat, and white rice with lighter dairy products and leaner meats like chicken or turkey will be best digested during summer time.  Choose lighter, cooler cooking oils like butter, ghee, coconut, and avocado; olive oil is great for salad dressing but not cooking at high heats.  For cooling sweeteners and spices favour maple syrup, brown sugar, xylitol, cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel, fresh mint, dill and cilantro.  When it starts to cool off in the evening you may enjoy a nice peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, or vanilla tea to soothe and calm you before bed.  

Yoga for Pitta

Excess exercise can be physically and mentally depleting in any season but with the added heat of the summer it is important to stay balanced with your yoga and exercise routine.  Practicing yoga at a gentle to moderate pace and avoiding self-criticism is especially important in pitta season.  Exercising in the early morning or evening when it is cooler out is recommended.  If you are feeling frustrated and overheated you may want to avoid practicing at lunch hour, which is the peak of the pitta time.  Cooling postures such like child’s pose and seated (paschimottanasa) or standing forward folds (uttasana), and wide legged forward folds (prasarita) are great if you feel hot and irritable.  Cat/cow is a great flow to gently stimulate the core and digestive organs while calming the mind by focussing on the inhale during cow, and the exhale during cat.  Exhaling out your mouth with a gentle sigh will help to relieve excess heat and tension.  Side body openers like exalted warrior as demonstrated in the photo, triangle, and extended side angle, as well as open twists such as revolved side angle and revolved triangle are great for releasing tension in the midsection and digestive organs: the area in the body governed by pitta. 

Excess heat is excreted through the skin in the form of sweating.  Sweat collects in the armpits and inner thighs.  At the end of your yoga practice, taking savasana with open arms and legs will help to cool and relax you.  In fact, if you are really tired you may just want to practice savasana!