Balancing the Fire of Ayurveda

The term ayurveda means the “science of life.” Its practice utilizes diet, herbs, bodywork, breathing and meditation in a holistic fashion for healing the body. Ayurveda teaches us how to harmonize ourselves with sunrise and sunset, the seasons of the year and the stages of life. Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences that grew up from the same root in ancient India.

Ayurveda recognizes that we all possess individual constitutional types or doshas in mind and body. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the specific doshas and the categories by which the science of ayurveda is designated. Someone’s dosha can be determined by their body type, their temperament or even by the kind of food, exercise and lifestyle they gravitate toward. Ayurveda can give us a better understanding of our unique nature.

As summer approaches and things begin to heat up, it’s a good time to consider the concept of Ayurveda and discover what the Pitta (fire) dosha has in store for us. The practice of ayurveda can help to alleviate any excess heat that we experience in these months because we all gravitate toward a specific dosha in certain seasons despite our natural inclination.

Any activity in the summer can get strenuous. These are the months when our bodies generate the most heat. To combat the warmer temperatures, we should eat refreshing fruits, seek the shadiest spots and relax near the water with a good book. Inherently, we are searching to balance summer’s intensity.

Warmer temperatures tend to aggravate or even initiate a pitta constitution. In general, pitta types are fiery in nature and tend to exhibit the main characteristics of a strong metabolism, good appetite, oily skin and hair, irritability, intensity, and inflammation. Emotionally, when there is too much heat or passion in the system, pittas demonstrate anger and aggression. However, when balanced, the pitta constitution is capable of forming dynamic, focused and determined individuals.

Because pitta is the fiery or transformative force responsible for digestion, warmth and inflammation, the small intestine is its main site in the disease process. Therefore, pittas should watch their habits and attempt to balance their food choices (especially in the summer months).

Pittas tend to eat lots of food and get irritable if a meal is missed. They are drawn to hot, oily, and spicy foods which aggravate their already heated dispositions.

To balance the extreme inclinations in diet, pittas should:

  • In general, choose cooling, nutritive, lactovegetarian diets.
  • Take in more of the lighter, summer fruits & vegetables.
  • Use sweeter oils such as sunflower, coconut and ghee.
  • Incorporate cooling spices such as: coriander, fennel, cumin and turmeric.
  • Try herbs such as aloe gel/juice, shatavari and licorice to offset the pitta heat.

The practice of yoga also has ways to balance the heat in the body and reduce pitta tendencies. 

  • Take a slow and easy form of Sun Salutation.
  • Use the breath and focus on spine lengthening for seated Forward Bends and gentle Back Bends.
  • Do Twists!
  • Limit your time in poses that invert the head.
  • End your practice with a short 5 min relaxation pose (& gradually lengthen over time).

Pittas need to realize that they can use their powerful will to maintain a soft and gentle approach. When a pitta constitution is balanced properly, one should feel a sense of coolness, calmness, openness, patience and tolerance.

Over the next few weeks, I will share more ways that we can balance the fire within us.

Until then, stay cool.

Namasté, Kim 🕉

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