Oh summer

Written by Rhian Hunter

Oh summer; the heat, the long days of bright sun, the sharp intensity, and the transformative nature of the season and a New Year.

Like each of the seasons, summer arrives with its own distinct personality.

Depending on your constitution, Summer may either increase your internal sense of harmony, or it may aggravate one of your innate tendencies, either you chase an endless summer or you’re someone who can’t wait for it to end.

Enter the season of Pitta; our hot-natured (pitta dominant) individuals will feel hotter than most, usually to the point of discomfort as the heat of summer intensifies, while someone who is vata dominant and feels challenged by the cold will relish the warmth of summer.

One of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda is that our habits, routines, and dietary choices should ebb and flow with the seasons, and in doing so the seasons need not be an intrinsic source of fluctuating dread, and bliss.

If you are unsure of your individual constitution, there are many quizzes you can take online that will help you determine it.

In Ayurveda, it is said that like increases like, and that opposites create balance.

This is why summertime stirs up something different in each of us.

Our primary focus through the summer months should be to keep pitta balanced by staying cool, mellowing intensity with relaxation, and grounding our energy.

It’s important to note, that summer also has some distinctly vata characteristics, so you’ll also want to stay hydrated, foster stability, and balance vata’s natural expansiveness and mobility with quiet, restful activities.

The following recommendations are appropriate for most people during the summer.

Toward the end of Spring, your body may already be naturally craving smaller meals, and lighter foods such as fresh fruit and salads. This is because the Agni (digestive fire) a strong source of internal heat disperses in order to keep us cool.

Most people find it easier to rise early in the morning during the Summer months. This is a natural and beneficial rhythm to embrace. Early morning is also the best time for exercise, avoid exercising during the heat of the day, especially from 10am –2pm. Start your day with garshana (dry body brushing) and abhyanga (self-massage) with a soothing and cooling oil like coconut, avocado or jojoba, and spritzing yourself all over with rosewater.

Dress in light, breathable clothing made of cotton, linen or silk, and favour colours and shades that counter warmth like whites, greys, purples and greens.

Spend time outside but protect yourself by wearing sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. If you are outside during the heat of the day, wear sunscreen and try to stay in the shade.

When you experience a lull in energy in the afternoon, it’s more likely the heat causing it than the extra calories you consumed over the festive season, so take this as your permission slip to have a nana nap. Then you can enjoy those summer nights either by the beach or catching up with loved ones all refreshed.

Allow your exercise routine to be guided by relaxed effort: move gently, fluidly, and gracefully, keeping the breath stable. Cultivate a calm inner awareness rather than pushing yourself to maximum capacity with precision and sharp muscular effort.

And for my yogi’s out there: Since our solar plexus tends to hold heat, favour yoga poses that massage, strengthen, and wring out the abdominal region such as:

-Side Stretches

Self-reflecting, yin (cooling) poses and are also very beneficial during the pitta season, and some of these include:

-Child’s Pose
-Forward Folds
-Moon Salutations

Always end your practice, no matter how small it is, with a few moments in Savasana (corpse pose).
In terms of dietary choices, the good news is, summer is a time to favour the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, and relish in cool, liquid, even slightly oily foods. Go easy on unripened fruits, aged cheese, and warming spices, and avoid spicy foods altogether.

The following foods will serve you well this season:

Adzuki beans, apples, avocados, avocado oil artichokes, asparagus, barley, basil, basmati rice, brown rice, berries, beet greens, black beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cardamom, cauliflower, cherries, chicken, chickpeas, celery, chard, coconut, collard greens, coriander, crab, cranberries, cucumbers, dill, fennel, freshwater fish, grapes, green beans, green peas, kale, lettuce, lemons, limes, mangoes, maple syrup melons, mint, mung beans, olives, olive oil, okra, parsley, potatoes, pears, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, prawns, soy beans/soy products, split peas turkey, watercress, zucchini.