I began studying Ayurveda a few years ago. It fits so well with my two other loves: Kundalini Yoga and Aromatherapy. Last February I went to Rasa Ayurveda, a healing center for women in Kerala, India. It was my first trip to India, and I spent most of it receiving pancha karma. That amazing experience solidified my love of Ayurveda. I continue to study with Jai Dev Singh, Dr. Lad, and others, and have started giving workshops incorporating Ayurveda, Kundalini Yoga meditation and essential oils.
Ayurveda literally means the Science of Life. One of my teachers says that Ayurveda is a system of prana (life force) management. Healthy digestion is the basis of good health, according to Ayurveda. When we are in good health we can ingest, extract and process food and/or information, and use that which nurtures us and eliminate that which is harmful. We don’t allow toxic material (ama) to build up in the body, or negative thoughts and habits in the mind. Food is processed and transformed by Agni, the fire element—Pitta, so our bodies can use it. Pitta is that transforming force. Pitta is transformation and digestion. Its function is the digestion and metabolism of food and ideas.
I’d like to share some things to pacify Pitta Dosha—easy tips to cool the mind and body for summer. Summer season is Pitta season. It’s an active time that is hot, sunny and dry. The effects of Pitta imbalance are especially apparent during the hot summer. In Ayurveda, the summer season is from July to October.
Whether you have a lot of Pitta in your constitution or not, we all need to pacify, to cool Pitta during the summer.
Pitta can accumulate in both the body and mind. It can manifest as anger, jealousy, being self-critical as well as critical of others. We can experience burning indigestion, red skin (rashes, acne); burning eyes. Fiery, Pitta-aggravated people can have excessive mental activity—an overactive nervous system (anxiety, anger). They also have sharp minds and are creative and energetic. Pitta is connected to the eyes, and also gives mobility. It is also associated with the feet.
Pitta is hot, dry, unstable and light. Pitta is intense. Fiery and hot.
When Agni is high, it is treated with cooling, bitter anti-bile herbs and foods, and cooling, calming, centering essential oils. To keep Pitta in balance, favor the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Pitta people are impatient and aggressive by nature. Pungent, sour and salty foods intensify those tendencies.
Sweet taste is Earth and Water elements: honey, rice, bread, barley, proteins. Fruits like grapes, cherries, mangoes and melons are sweet. Sweet is the most nourishing of the tastes, but the hardest to digest. It is cooling, which is what we want to pacify angry Pitta. It tonifies the tissues and promotes growth. It relieves hunger and thirst and hydrates. It decreases Pitta because it is heavy and cool. Sweet generates satisfaction.
Bitter is Air and Ether. It is the coldest of the tastes. It decreases Pitta because of its cooling nature. Dark, leafy greens are considered bitter. They cleanse and detoxify. Bitter creates a desire for change.
Astringent taste is Air and Earth and makes your mouth pucker. Pomegranate, cilantro, cranberries are examples--Cool light and dry. It is best for Pitta because it is cooling. Astringent causes introspection. It tones the mind and directs prana inward.
In summer, Pitta season, everyone should eat a Pitta reducing diet—a cooling, lighter diet. In the Pitta Season, we need more energy for the long hot days. All three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) need to be cooled in the hot summer months, but Pittas especially will benefit by accentuating a Pitta reducing diet. Lots of vegetables and fruits: cucumbers, cilantro, dill, fennel—all are very cooling. Rice, especially white basmati rice, and barley for grains are best—60-70% carbohydrates, the remaining divided between proteins and fats. In summer, emphasize foods that are liquid rather than dry; cool or lukewarm rather than hot. Drink plenty of room temperature (or cool) water. Eat a large lunch and a small dinner.
When you are reducing heat (Pitta), your skin and eyes are glowing and radiant. When we look great it motivates us to Keep Up!
Essential oils also pacify Pitta. Jasmine, Rose and Ylang Ylang, all floral oils, are cooling. Citrus Oils, especially neroli (orange blossom), sharpens concentration. Some anti-inflammatory and healing oils for the skin are: lavender, frankincense, rose geranium and helichrysum. Culinary herbs and oils like black pepper, fennel, and ginger stimulate the digestive fires. Always remember when using essential oils, they MUST be diluted in a carrier oil.
Left Nostril Breathing cools the body and mind:
When you need to calm down, when your mind is racing faster than a hurricane, or when you can’t go to sleep, try left nostril (Ida) breathing. Simply take your right hand and, with your fingers outstretched, block off your right nostril by putting gentle pressure on it with your right thumb. Be sure to keep the rest of your fingers straight and pointing up towards the sky; the fingers act like antennas for the “cosmic” energy that surrounds us all. (Alternately, if sticking your fingers up in front of all your friends might not be the most appropriate thing to do, use any finger to block off the side of the nose.) Read more
Guru Bhai (Donna Shepper) lives in NYC, where she is a Social Media Specialist for the New York Open Center. Donna teaches aromatherapy workshops that often include Kundalini Yoga meditations. She can be found at galleries, museums, plays, dance, jazz and classical music concerts, kirtan and group meditation, enjoying the spiritual and cultural life in New York City and beyond. She is a certified aromatherapist and certified yoga teacher (Kundalini Yoga, Radiant Child Yoga, and Chair Yoga) and is currently deepening her study of Ayurveda and meditation.