Balancing Excess Pitta

If summer's heat leaves you hankering for shade, try these pitta-pacifying techniques to keep your cool.

Of the three doshas, pitta has the most in common with summer. Imagine a bubbling pot of steaming hot, sour, and spicy soup—that's the nature of pitta. Made up of the primal elements fire (mainly) and water (secondarily), pitta has hot, oily, sharp, light, sour, fluid, and pungent attributes—many of the same sensory qualities that summer surrounds us with.

It's a fundamental principle of Ayurveda that like increases like. In Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing, teacher and author Maya Tiwari writes, "The doshas are not simply the dynamic energy within the body; rather, they are influenced primarily by seasonal variations." As summer heats up, we become prone to accumulating excess pitta. If we already possess a pitta prakriti (nature), we're at an even higher risk of becoming out of balance.

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Signs of pitta imbalance include diarrhea, burning sensations, skin irritations, odorous sweating, fever, inflammation, and a hypercritical or intense mental outlook. Pitta governs digestion and metabolism, so the fire may flare first in the small intestine and the stomach—pitta's main seats in the body—with excesses of digestive acid and bile.

What to do when pitta's boiling over? Keep in mind that doshic imbalances can vary in manifestation and severity, depending on many factors. If you suspect any health problems, seek a qualified practitioner. But if you're simply a touch overheated, tune in to your senses and try applying opposing qualities to maintain balance in the midst of summer's swelter.

Taste: Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes calm pitta, so eat more foods like apples, grapes, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, and fresh organic dairy. Eliminate or reduce your intake of alcohol, heavy meats, and fried, oily, salty, spicy, and sour foods. Instead of salt, use fennel seeds, coriander, fenugreek, and fresh lime juice for seasoning.

Touch: Wear breathable natural fibers that have a cooling effect, such as cotton and linen.

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Smell: Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet of tuberose, gardenia, or freesia. Or dab on a diluted essential oil: Try rose, jasmine, geranium, vetiver, or ylang ylang.

Sight: Take a break from work that requires intense visual focus. Gaze at summer's verdant trees and meadows. Surround yourself with cooling hues of pearl white, blue, green, silver, and gray.

Sound: Listen to flute music and devotional songs to calm your heart and soothe your spirit.

Pranayama: Try cooling pranayama techniques, like Sitali and Sitkari, which are done by inhaling through the mouth and exhaling through the nose.

To do Sitali, sit in a comfortable position, make an O shape with your mouth, and curl the tongue lengthwise. Then, as B.K.S. Iyengar instructs in Light on Pranayama, "draw in if drinking with a straw and fill the lungs completely." Withdraw the tongue, close the mouth, and hold the breath for five to 10 seconds. Exhale through the nose. Repeat this cycle for five to 10 minutes and then rest in Savasana (Corpse Pose).

If you can't curl your tongue, try Sitkari, which is similar to Sitali except that the tongue is kept flat. Part the lips and allow the tip of the tongue to protrude slightly. Practice gently and without intensity early or late in the day, when the air is cool.

Pitta Pops

Try this frozen treat on a hot afternoon.

Serving Size: Makes eight 4-ounce popsicles


  • 1 quart vanilla almond milk
  • 1/3 cup raw or turbinado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons powdered cardamom


1. Pour one cup of the almond milk into a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar and cardamom and heat to almost frothing. Turn off the heat.

2. Pour the remaining almond milk into a large bowl. Add the hot mixture and whisk to combine all the ingredients. Allow to cool, then pour into Popsicle forms and freeze.

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