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Summer is pitta dosha time! Here's how you can stay balanced with yoga and Ayurveda this season


If you practice with me, chances are you have heard me weave knowledge from Ayurveda into classes. What is Ayurveda you may be asking? It is the world's oldest holistic health system with its origins in Inda some 5,000 years ago.

The word Ayurveda literally translates to the "science of life". It looks at the bodymind connection of each individual and aims to bring, or keep, that individual's heath in a state of balance. This is done by diet, lifestyle, the right level of activity for that individual, daily self-care rituals and mental health practices.


You may have been hearing a lot of talk lately about gut health and the link to mental health - Ayurveda has always known that. Whereas in western medical systems, everything was split apart and compartmentalised - you have doctors specialising in cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, psychology, etc., Ayurveda has always looked at the Whole.


Ayurveda also sees that the key to good health comes from optimal digestion. What we don't digest and eliminate properly gets stuck in our gut, which then absorbs into our body, and can manifest as autoimmune disorders and mental health struggles. Thus, the root of all dis-ease comes from our gut and digestion.


Now, each person is individual and digests things differently. We each have a different metabolic rate. We each have things that we can eat with no problem and other things which irritate us. It explains why some diets work for some people and not for others. And its also no just what we eat, but how and when we eat. Are we eating on the go, mindlesly shoving whatever we can into our mouths? Are we eating without really being hungry? Are we eating late at night right before bed? Are we eating the wrong things at the wrong time? Are we eating under stress?


The Doshas

If you go to an Ayurvedic practitioner, doctor, consultant, or counselor, one of the first things they will do is determine your dosha - your unique mind-body type.

There are 3 - Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Each is associalted with the elements and season ;


  • Vata - Air and aether - Autumn/early Winter

  • Pitta - fire and water - late spring/Summer

  • Kapha - earth and water - late Winter/early Spring


Most people will be a combination fo two, for example I am Pitta-Kapha. Some people are tridoshic, or display an equal amount of each dosha. We are all born with our own dosha, and it is through life and changes and times of day and times of year that causes us to get out of balance. The symptoms that manifest when one is out of balance can determine which dosha there is too much of.


In Ayurveda, opposites balance, and like increases problems. For example, in winter, which is Kapha dominant, the energy around is cold and dense, therefore we want to avoid eating things such as ice cream and instead bring in a warm spiced curry or soups.


All of us have the innate sense of what is best to eat a certain times of year, but it is the temptation of ultra-convenient and accessible foods that distract us from our intuition!


And when it comes to our individual doshas, certain times of year can throw us off.

For example. because I have a lot of pitta naturally, I struggle with summer. If you know me you will have heard me say that summer is my least favourite time of year! (yes, I get a lot of backlash for that, but I am what I am!) I favor the autumn. In fact, I feel such a releif at that time of year. If you are a vata person, you may absolutely love the summer and dread the colder times of year. Same with a kapha person.


Since we are in the summer months, we are going to have a look at pitta dosha.


Pitta Dosha



Pitta, the firery and steamy element, is prominent when the sun reaches its optimum height in the sky. And not just in summer, but also the time of day. Pitta time is between 10a-2p, and Ayurveda says it is when our digestion is at its most firey, so we would want to take our largest meal of the day at that time.


Ironically, pitta season in the summer is when our digestion is weakest. You may notice that you crave less heavy and dense foods at this time of year, and that your appitite is not as strong. Thats because the energy of your body is working to keep you cool by bringing blood closer to the surface of your skin. It also explains why you may have a more rosy complexion during this time of year.


There are foods that we want to eat more of and avoid at this time of year.

We want to bring in sweet and cooling foods such as cucumber, coriander, strawberries, dill, mint, fennel, beans, amaranth, just about anything that is is season. We want to avoid heating foods such as chillis, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. (I hear you,, "What is life without onions and garlic??" You'll be ok if you eat a spicy arrabiata pasta, but maybe serve it with a cooling cucumber salad. Balance, you see!)

You also want to minimise or avoid salty and greasy foods, as well as alchohol and caffiene.


Pitta imbalance usually manifests in digestive issues like heartburn, indigestion, and loose stools, or can show through the skin as breakouts or rashes. It can also manifest in hot emotions, such as anger, jelousy, over-competitiveness, and a short temper. These are your waring signs that you may have too much pitta in your body.


Lifestyle-wise, the vibrant energy of pitta may see us with a more busy social calendar and a drive to get things done in the garden, at home, or anywhere else you may have projects. It is easy to overdo it, though and sometimes we can get the burnout feeling in late summer/early autumn. So it is best to make sure that we are at our most physically active in the morning and the evening. Seek the water if we can. Just talking a walk by a lake or river is beneficial. And maybe best to not pracice heating excercises like HIIT or hot yoga, especially if you are pitta dominant in your dosha. Bring those back in after summer.


Pitta Dosha and your yoga practice

Just like you can balance pitta with diet and lifestyle, you can also modify your yoga practice to help keep you balanced. This may be the time of year that we practice slower-paced classes like Hatha or Yin, and maybe incorporate Restorative yoga into our schedule. If you are an avid Ashtanga or Vinyasa practitioner, like mentioned above, practice these either first thing in the moring or in the evening (not too close to bedtime though!)


  • We also want to dial back the intensity of our practice - instead of going all out, go 80%. effort. Practice at a moderate place and leave some juice in the tank!

  • Enjoy movement in your poses - try to avoid being too static. Allow for freedom and creativity in your practice.

  • avoid practicing in a heated room

  • avoid being self-critical and competitive

  • focus on your exhales

  • keep your drisht (gaze) downward or at the horizion

(for example, in Trikonasana/Triangle pose we generally take the gaze up towards the thumb that is overhead, but in this case we would keep the neck neutral and gaze either down on the foot or towards the horizon line straight ahead)

  • HAVE FUN!


Types of poses to do more of and types to avoid:

AVOID:

  • being in a standing forward fold for too long as it brings heat to the head

  • minimse inversions (headstand, handstand, etc.) and dont hold for too long. Shoulderstand is ok because it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.


DO:

The seat of pitta is in the liver, small intestines, gallbladder, spleen, the navel and the solar plexus (bewteen navel and base of breastbone), so to release excess pitta we want to open that part of the body





  • Backbends such as Cobra, Sphinx, Bow, Camel, Fish, Bridge

  • Side body stretches, such as Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Swaying Palm, Gate

  • Twists

  • cooling pranayama such as Chandra Bedhi, Sitali or Sitkari



There are a great many resources out there on Ayurveda, including online dosha quizzes you can take. Here are a few of my favorite websites:


And last but most importatly, my dear friend Emily Lindleys website: https://ayurvedasecrets.co.uk/


Before you go!

If you found this interesting, and would like to explore this topic a bit more, join Emily and me at Yoga Kula Leeds on Sat 6 June 2-4pm for an Urban Retreat. You can have a look and book your spot here:




Thanks for reading!

Hari Om Tat Sat

Jenny xx

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