How to keep your cool during summer.
Do you love the long, hot summer days? Or do you go out of your way to avoid the intensity of the summer sun?
This time of year really lifts the human spirit. Ram and I really enjoy the lighter evenings and warmer temperatures, we love to go for evening walks or take an early evening swim. There’s also something quite special to observe mother nature in her full bloom.
Yet, for those who struggle in hot temperatures, summer is not so welcome. The ancient science of Ayurveda provides practical tools and tips to stay cool during the summer months.
What is Ayurveda?
If you are new to Ayurveda, Ayurveda translates as the ‘science of life.’ It is the sister science of Yoga and like Yoga it dates back thousands of years. In Ayurveda, good health is defined as a balance between body, mind, spirit, and social wellbeing.
One of the main principles of Ayurveda is that to maintain balance of your health and vitality than your habits, routines and diets should adapt to suit the season.
Ayurveda is built around the five elements of nature: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). There are three main ‘doshas’ that form a combination of each element. VATA, PITTA and KAPHA. VATA is governed by air and ether, PITTA by fire and water and KAPHA dosha is governed by earth and water.
We are born with all three doshas, yet we have either one or two doshas that are dominant, and it is this that defines all aspects of who we are. If you would like to define which dosha is your dominant one you can try this quiz.
It’s all about balance
There is a simple rule with Ayurveda, ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites balance’.
We are all unique individuals, you may be a person who loves and thrives during the summer months, it compliments your personality, increases your internal sense of harmony. Or you maybe someone who dreads this time of year, it makes you feel physical exhausted, disturbs your sleep pattern, and leaves you feeling irritable and uncomfortable as the heat of summer intensifies.
But you can have too much of a good thing, and that’s why we need to find ways to keep our balance during the hotter months.
You can stay in harmony with your health and vitality during summer by making a few adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. This prospect may seem a little daunting at first, but you may notice that you are already making these adjustments naturally. And you will be surprised how a few simple changes can increase your health and vitality during this time of year.
Summer is the season of Pitta
The ancient science of Ayurveda says summer brings with it qualities that are hot, sharp, and penetrating. It is the season when the PITTA dosha is more prevalent.
PITTA is the dosha that controls our metabolism and can cause us to overheat especially during summer.
So, if during the heat of summer, you find you are more irritable, frustrated and impatience. Physically feeling more discomfort through overheating, hot flashes, sunburn or experiencing skin irritations, acne, or diarrhoea. There’s good chance your PITTA is a little out of balance.
The aim during the summer months is to keep PITTA balanced by staying cool, grounding our energy, and incorporating more relaxation into our daily life. Generally slowing things down…
Make adjustments to your diet
During the summer months mother nature provides access to an abundance of the most delicious summer fruits and vegetables.
- Eating for the season is the number one thing to do in order to eat well in summer. You may find you are instinctively adjusting your diet already. Ram and I are eating much lighter foods, and are really enjoying a lot of beautiful green salads.
- Cooler foods don’t necessary mean cold food. More that they have a cooling energy. At this time of year, it’s advised to choose foods that cool your body and calm your mind. Opt for bitter, astringent flavours, leafy green vegetables like kale, zucchini (courgettes) cooling cucumbers, watermelons and summer berries.
- Avoid foods that will aggravate Pitta, foods that are overly salty, fried, processed and spicy. Minimise using ingredients like chilli, garlic and onion. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spice things up! Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, and basil have wonderful cooling properties and also provide anti-inflammatory qualities. Cilantro, turmeric and fennel seeds are also wonderful herbs and spices.
- Stay hydrated The summer heat drains more moisture from the body, so the need to stay hydrated increases significantly during the summer months. Drink lots of water and avoid or significantly reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake as they dehydrate the body. Don’t be afraid to add a pinch of salt into a glass of water to help you keep hydrated. Coconut water is incredibly cooling and a beautiful refreshing and hydrating drink, try adding mint!
Adjusting your Yoga and Meditation practice
It’s traditional to practice yoga early in the morning before sunrise. But if you can’t quite manage to rise at this time don’t worry! It’s still recommended to practise in the mornings or late evenings when the sun and temperature is not so intense.
- Yoga Nidra, this is a magical practice to deeply relax your body and mind, and rejuvenate your energy at any time but especially during these summer months. It is my saviour when I am feeling my energy levels drop in the heat. If you would like to give Yoga Nidra a go, you can access a free audio 20 minutes practice by following this link.
- For your Yoga asana practice, SLOW IT DOWN! Opt for gentle movements and restorative practices, they work best at this time of year. We really recommend you avoid a hot intense asana practice as this will increase the heat in your body and also your mind!
- Pranayama (breathwork) Practice Sheetali (cooling breath) or Seetkari (hissing breath) pranayama practices to cool the mind. These are also great practices for anyone experiencing hot flashes!
Here’s how to practise Sheetali Pranayama.
- Find a comfortable sitting position.
- Gently close your eyes
- Bring your awareness to the sounds around you
- And then to your natural breath
- Stick your tongue out as far as is possible and roll it like a tube.
- On the inhalation breath in slowly through ‘the tube’ you have formed with the tongue.
- Close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose.
Repeat this another 3 or 4 times. On completions, spend a few moments to notice the effects from the practice.
If you find it difficult to roll the tongue, you can practise Seetkari Pranayama,(hissing breath), you follow the same instructions as above….
- Instead of rolling the tongue, slightly open the mouth and bring the teeth gently together.
- Inhale slowly through the teeth, (it will make a hissing sound)
- Close your mouth and then exhale slowly through your nose.
We really love summer, but there’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable or finding it difficult to sleep in the summer heat. Ram and I mainly have a dominant Vata Dosha constitution, so find air conditioning and fans aggravating and noisy. It’s the windows open and the hope of a natural breeze that keeps us cool during the night!
Here’s a couple of ideas from Ayurveda that may help you to sleep better in the summer heat.
- Take a cool or even cold shower before bedtime, it is the best antidotes to an overheated body and mind.
- A beautiful bedtime ritual for your feet! Washing your feet before bed in cool water and then massaging them with coconut oil is a wonderful thing to add to your summer bedtime routine. Coconut oil is cooling and calming for the skin, it’s also great if you are sunburnt, it will cool your skin down.
- Ayurveda generally suggests sleeping on the left side. However, if you sleep on your right side, it encourages you to breath more through the left nostril that corresponds with the Ida Nadi energy channel, which relates to the cooling moon (lunar) aspects. This helps to cool down the mind.
We hope you have found these tips useful.
The important thing is to establish a summer routine where you eat foods according to the season and remain hydrated. These small changes will help to maintain balance during the heat of summer.