Ayurveda 101: 3 Ways to Balance Pitta and Cool Down This Summer

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The summer session of Ayurveda 101 is underway—just in time to help you balance and settle the pitta irritations that inevitably come up during the hot, sticky season. (Sign up now!)

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Prime your body for summer by discovering its natural, seasonal needs. Learn how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal to balance your body and mind. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda, and Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga’s elemental sister science. Sign up for the summer session now!

We all have all three doshas, but some of us are born with mostly pitta in our constitution. Someone like this will feel the hot summer season with more of an amplified sense, and be more aggravated and irritated by the excess heat. When it’s hot and humid outside, pitta is also hot and humid inside. These qualities can stack and create discomfort. The pitta person tends to run hot, because they’re born with lots of fire in them. If you shake their hand, their skin is warm and a bit oily to the touch. They’re the type who will spend the summer with the AC blasted and sleeping with one foot sticking out from under the covers to cool off during the night.

High pitta also shows up in the the digestive tract as acid reflux and diarrhea and can turn into an ulcer. It can also manifest on your skin (acne, hives, rashes, or an allergic reaction); in the eyes (burning eyes, red eyes, or yellowing eyes); in the hair (early graying or balding); and in your emotions (aggression, agitation, irritation, or frustration).

However, simple diet, exercise, and lifestyle adaptations can help. Even if you aren’t predominantly pitta, everyone’s got some pitta in their constitution, and it can get aggravated over the summer. Pitta governs digestion (physical and emotional) and transformation for everyone. It also helps us digest experiences, relationships, and information, learn from our mistakes and move forward. Here are three ways to balance the pitta dosha and feel your best this summer.

3 Ways to Balance the Pitta Dosha for Summer

1. Avoid hot foods.

Too many hot, oily, greasy, fried, acidic, spicy, salty, sour, and fermented foods can aggravate pitta, as can coffee, alcohol, and red meat. Even onions, garlic, and nightshades like tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes are difficult for pitta to digest, especially when it’s hot and humid outside.

Instead, favor the summer harvest. Enjoy cool and refreshing fruits and veggies, leafy greens, bitter and astringent sprouts, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, and pretty much any grain.

2. Cool down  your exercise regimen. 

Exercising in a way that is too intense, sharp, and heating can aggravate pitta. One solution is to shift your workout or practice to the cooler early morning or evening. It also helps to practice in a cooler environment, with a fan or AC.

You also might want to adjust the type of practice you do in the summer. Mix it up and do things that are a little more fun and playful. Instead of doing the more intense kind of asana practices, like arm balancing and inversions with long holds, take a break and do a maintenance practice to stretch, tone, stay strong and flexible, and boost circulation. Start your practice with poses that are more challenging and end with poses that are cooling and refreshing, like wide-legged and wide-arm poses to release heat from the groin and armpits. You can also cool down with pranayama practices like Sitali and Nadi Shodhana.

3. Relax your lifestyle.

If your lifestyle is very intense and on-the-go, with lots of stress and multiple responsibilities and not a lot of time for rest (i.e., excessively vata), this can also fan the fire of pitta.

The solution: Slow down, set aside quiet time, and prioritize self-care. Take a non-working lunch and enjoy a mindful meal—this supports good digestion in body and mind. Turn off the radio in the car or leave your earbuds at home when you go for a walk or a run. Take a vacation where you do cooling things like swimming or spending time in the shade. Do some stargazing. Staring at the dark indigo night sky in the cool fresh air is a really meditative practice for pitta. And don’t feel you have to say yes to every social invitation and work obligation—take some time for yourself!

Eager to learn more? Register now for Ayurveda 101 with Kripalu's Larissa Hall Carlson and John Douillard.