Ayurveda…by now you’ve probably heard the word on multiple occasions. Maybe it’s on the label of your toothpaste or you’ve gotten into a conversation about your ayurvedic dosha, or “type”. Perhaps a yoga teacher has even mentioned that summertime is ruled by the fiery dosha, pitta.
Ayurveda, meaning science of life, is Indian classical medicine with 6,000 year old roots. Ayurveda, along with yoga, believes that humans share the same characteristics as the earth. Ayurveda looks at the seasons and five elements – ether, air, fire water, earth – and identifies those characteristics within our bodies. These 5 elements combine to create the 3 doshas, or humors, which describe us: vata, pitta, kapha. Some of us are spiritual and airy, but not grounded (vata). Some of us are full of fire and drive (pitta). Others are cooler and grounded, like the earth (kapha).
Ayurveda looks at the whole body and not just symptoms, with the overall goal to balance the elements in our bodies.
The seasons, like our bodies, run hot, cold, wet and dry. Summertime is ruled by pitta – the fire/water element. That means summer is the time when visionary, expansive, creative, wild and passionate energies rule. It also means we can easily overdo and overheat. According to Ayurveda, when it’s hot and dry, we need to eat wet and cooling foods and develop practices to keep us healthy and hydrated! Summer is the easiest time to become dehydrated.
Common signs of dehydration are:
- Dry skin, mouth, lips
- Decreased urination (even when drinking plenty of water)
- Cracking joints
- Sore muscles that won’t recover
- Shiny “oily” looking face
- Big bags under the eyes (kidney area of the face)
- Slower brain function (like a hangover)
- Irregular bowel movements
This summer, avoid getting too hot and bothered by using some traditional and modern ayurvedic techniques to keep cool and in control!
1. Up your electrolytes! Electrolytes are a combination of minerals (Magnesium-Calcium, Potassium-Sodium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate, hydrogen bicarbonate) that we need for optimal functioning. The best way to get electrolytes or “trace minerals” are from naturally occurring “good salts.” These “good salts” include Celtic Sea, Atlantic Grey, or Pink salt. According to author Dr. Barbara Hendel, co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life : “These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated…. We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to seawater. “
We are often told to avoid salt– and it’s really table salt (including kosher and “natural sea salts”) that we need to avoid. These “bad salts” are often bleached, refined and striped of their minerals. Good salt, on the other hand is critical to our health and will not spike blood pressure levels, because it doesn’t contain excessive sodium or refined sodium chloride. Unlike table salt, which causes swelling, bloating, and edema, good salt actually hydrates you. Switch to a “good salt” and watch your intake of “bad salts,” which are hidden in tons of common foods like crackers, chips, pretzels, olives, cheese, pickles, and take out-food.
In addition to eating good salt, which provides enzymatic support for the pancreas to break down sugars, taking good salt straight in water, called sole, gives the adrenals and kidneys a boost for the hot sweaty days ahead.
2. Take more RAW oils- In order to absorb our electrolyte-filled water, we need essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs are oxygen-rich oils that bind with the oxygen in our water and allow for our cells, skin, and organs to be hydrated, healthy and pliable. EFAs also assist healthy brain function, alleviate depression and help synapses in the brain fire more smoothly. Look for cooling oils such as olive, flax or hemp (often RAW oils are labeled “cold-pressed” or “extra virgin”). However, the oxygen molecule in these oils cannot withstand heat, so when you heat them, their molecules shifts to mimic free radicals (pre-cancer cells) in our bodies. Rather than sauteing in oil, begin to steam, grill and poach your food, or saute with water and spices. If you need to use an oil, try coconut oil or ghee, which can be heated to higher temps without going rancid. To get the healthful EFAs, put up to 4 TBS per day of RAW oil on your food. It will bring out the unique favor of the food and retain the healthy, raw quality. Feel free to use these cooling oils in a salad dressing or just drizzle them over salads, veggies, soups and grains.
3. Eat your (wet white) veggies – Pitta is ruled by the fire of digestion and during the summer you want to eat as many cooling, alkaline veggies as you can. Go for alkaline and potassium rich wet white veggies. Load up on cucumbers, jicama, bok choy, turnips, radishes, daikon, fennel bulb. If you’re not sure, taste test some at a local farmers’ market. Turnips are great sliced like chips and dipped in hummus. You can also cool off any foods by garnishing with fresh cilantro, basil, mint, fennel root, and lots of lemon and limes. If you need a summer taco fix—smother them in lime and cilantro, and munch on radishes!
4. Cool it off -Hydrate your whole body by spending more time in the water! Truly, a good swim or cold shower can really help cool off a hot body and over-active or frustrated mind. Make sure you get your head wet to blow off steam, and take deep slow breathes. After a shower or swim apply coconut oil to wet skin to keep it moist. This traditional practice of “abhyanga”, or skin oilination, is helpful to ground and hydrate the body. Make sure the skin is still wet (apply before toweling off) so it can fully absorb.
5. Do less and put your legs up! The pitta person, often a natural leader, is always overdoing and under pressure. Summer is fun, but also often full of doing, often resulting in burn-out! Whether it’s simple exhaustion or full-blown adrenal fatigue, it’s important slow down and do less. Make a list of all the ideas, projects or trips you want to do this summer and decide on three to really focus on and follow through with. Put the others on hold, or let them go! Find 15 minutes everyday to be still. Try Viparita Karani aka “legs up the wall pose.” The relaxing and passive inversion helps calm the nervous system, move the lymph, reduce swelling in the feet and get you on the cool earth. And have a truly sweet, sweaty and cool summer.
Kameko Shibata, ERYT-500, has a love affair with yoga that has spanned ten years and five continents! And her teaching reflects her love, curiosity and dedication to yoga and the exploration of breath. Her delicious vinyasa classes invite you to come deeply into your breath and body through safe and challenging sequences combined with sound, breath, and core work.
For more about Kameko visit: www.nadigirlayurveda.
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