According to Ayurveda – often referred to as Yoga’s ‘sister science’ – there are three Doshas which each person is governed by. The word Dosha literally translates as ‘fault’, however that doesn’t refer to anything ‘wrong’ with the body or mind – it simply means that each person’s dosha is what makes them human. A person’s dosha will decide their characteristics, their likes and dislikes, their idiosyncrasies, their reactions to stress, what they find painful and what gives them pleasure in life.
The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone has these doshas within them at all times, however one or two of the doshas will be more prevalent. If we are to link the doshas to the seasons, vata would most represent Autumn and early Winter, kapha would represent late Winter and Spring, and Pitta would represent Summer. Wind and air link to vata, fire links to pitta, and earth and water link to kapha.
The things we choose to do or not do will have an effect on how ‘balanced’ or ‘imbalanced’ each person’s dosha is. For example; a pitta person who is balanced is a natural leader, logical, powerful, strong, fit, with a great appetite and metabolism, and is wonderful at ‘getting things done’. When they accumulate too much pitta energy however, or they bring themselves ‘out of balance’, they can exhibit qualities that make them seem aggressive, bossy, demanding, hot-headed, impatient, irritable, with an insatiable appetite and a lot of inflammation.
Generally, the qualities of pitta are hot, light, quick, intense, pungent, sharp, acidic, oily, and passionate. A person of a pitta constitution is usually of medium height and build, with light or reddish hair, and a tendency to be quite competitive.
The Summer months can be especially aggravating for those of a pitta predominance, and can enhance the qualities of pitta in everyone else too. In order to stay balanced this season, here are 10 ways to stay calm and cool off!:
- Recognise what aggravates your pitta: Hot and spicy foods, stressful situations, argumentative company, being too hot in general, over-exertion, dehydration, and competitive games or sports are sure-fire ways to bring pitta energy out of balance. Take a step back and reflect upon what you may be doing (or not doing) that could be taking you out of balance, or increasing pitta qualities within you. The first step to making a change is recognising where you’re starting from.
- Consume Cooling Cuisine: Favour sweet, bitter, astringent, cold and oily foods that decrease inflammation. Cucumbers, leafy greens, broccoli, courgette, asparagus, fennel, avocado, melons, cherries, grapes, pears, mangoes, ghee, basil, coriander, dill, mint, lentils and mung beans are all great for reducing pitta.
- Stay Hydrated: The Summer is an especially common time to become dehydrated due to extra sweating and extra outdoor activity. Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day, and add a pinch of good quality salt (preferably pink Himalayan salt) in order to increase the body’s ability to absorb and assimilate the nutrients. To make the water even more pitta-pacifying, add cucumber and mint.
- Balance Activity and Rest: Generally, pitta people love intense exercise, and crave the burn of a workout. The thing is; they’re also likely to burn themselves out by over-doing it. In the Summer, it’s wise to go gently if the temperature is especially high so as to avoid exhaustion, and as the old saying goes “listen to your body” honestly, so you’re able to use your energy in the best way possible in all aspects of life.
- Practice Pranayama: Cooling breathing techniques such as sheetali breath or nadi shodhana are wonderful for balancing and calming the mind and emotions. These are gentle, cooling breathing techniques that relax the nervous system and aid in enhancing focus. For more detail on how to practice these pranayama techniques, click here for sheetali breath, and here for nadi shodhana.
- Use Aromatherapy: Cooling oils include peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and lavender, chamomile, bergamot, ylang ylang and frankincense are particularly calming. Gently inhale or diffuse them, or add to your self massage oil.
- Use Coconut Oil For Self Massage: Coconut oil is cooling for the body, although if you’re one of those people who is ‘always cold’ and experiences frequent aching joints and anxiety, stick to warming sesame oil. For everyone else – especially pitta types – lather on coconut oil as it is both nourishing and cooling for the body, helps keep the skin soft, muscles supple and joints mobile, and is totally natural and chemical-free!
- Take walks by cool water: Doing something calm and gentle beside cool water is one of the most simple and effective ways to reduce an accumulation of pitta. Spending time in Nature is a wonderful way to relax the nervous system and de-clutter a busy mind, but it’s also emotionally ‘cooling’ and can help gain back perspective in times of difficulty or stress. Find somewhere with lots of trees and green leaves, with plenty of shade.
- Choose non-competitive sports: Competitiveness is a primary quality of a pitta person, which often leads to aggression, and argumentative behaviour. Practice swimming, Yoga asana, or cycling as a more claming and meditive solo way to move.
- Practice Selfless Service: One characteristic of excessive pitta energy, is a big ego, and the need to gain recognition and praise for doing something for someone else. One way to calm this down, is to do something good, either for charity, for a family member, by volunteering, or donating, but doing it anonymously, or doing it without telling anyone or sharing it with the world on social media. Try it – and notice how good it feels just knowing you’re generating more positive energy in the world around you.
Pitta Pacifying Recipe
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
- 1 cucumber
- 1 handful mint
- a small chunk of fennel
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 cups almond milk, kefir or lassi
- If you want to sweeten the drink even more, stick to maple syrup, as honey can be warming and increases pitta qualities.
Add all ingredients to a blender and whizz to create a smoothie-like consistency
Traditionally, it is not recommended to add ice to Ayurvedic recipes, as this can diminish digestive fire and cause sluggish metabolism, so drink this recipe whilst it’s still naturally cool, and keep your digestive system happy!