Although the term ‘pitta dosha’ might sound like something you’d order at a restaurant with a side of chips, it actually refers to a type of person, and the various mind-body qualities that person displays.
Ayurveda, a.k.a the ‘science of life’ or ‘knowledge of longevity’, uses the dosha system to determine each person’s prakriti. Prakriti essentially means ‘nature’, and each one of us has natural instincts, physical aspects, predispositions and personality traits that make up our own individual nature. We all have three energies within us: Kapha, Pitta and Vata, and the word dosha refers to our most predominant energies (for example, you may be a Pitta type person, a Kapha type, or a combination of Vata and Pitta). It literally translates as ‘fault’, which isn’t to say a dosha something bad or a mistake, rather it’s more suitable to think of it as similar to a fault line – the sort of thing that makes a country or part of the world more likely to experience an earthquake. When triggered, there’s a reaction, and in the same way, when we are each triggered, our personality types become most obvious.
The thing is, we’re all being triggered by one thing or another all the time. The very act of being alive means we have to react and adapt constantly to maintain a state of homeostasis, and so our mind and body types become our identity. Each type exhibits specific qualities (you can read about balancing Vata and Kapha here) and for the Pitta dosha, the most obvious qualities are fire, heat, oiliness, anger, frustration, dominance, leadership skills, determination, focus, and transformation – which can refer to transformation of ideas into actions, and also the transformative process of digestion, which is generally strong within Pitta-type people.
Each season is governed by a particular dosha, and Summer is all about Pitta. The hot, dominant, irritable qualities pitta types can often (but not always!) exhibit are strongly linked to some of the feelings we may all be more susceptible to in the Summer. As mentioned, Pitta is related to transformation, and specifically the transformative process of digestion. Within Ayurveda, digestion is considered one of the most important aspects of health and wellbeing, and the digestive fire or agni is something to be cared for and kept in balance. A strong agni is perfect for turning food into energy, low agni can make us feel sluggish with weak digestion and constipation, whilst agni that is ‘deranged’ or too high burns nutrients quicker than they can be absorbed, usually resulting in nutrient deficiencies and malnourishment.
It’s All About Balance
Ayurveda guides us towards a life of balance, so the Summer season is suitable for focussing on balancing the Pitta dosha for all of us – especially if you’re already a pitta-type person. (Note: We all need different things day-to-day, and the UK climate isn’t always ‘hot’, so take into account all the info for Vata, Pitta and Kapha types as the weather changes rapidly and our needs do too).
Some of the symptoms we may experience when the Pitta quality becomes too high are:
- Short temperedness
- The need to dominate a situation
- Excessive hunger
- Excessive thirst
- Greed for material possessions, money or knowledge
- An uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body
- Red, flushed skin
- Excessive sweating
- Oily skin
- Being excessively critial
- Mouth sores, ulcers, acne, cold sores and blisters
- Red or inflamed eyes
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Acute inflammation
- Excessive perfectionism
Sound familiar? If so, work on some of the following to bring yourself back into balance. Pitta types have a natural tendency towards perfectionism, dominance, inflammation and frustration, which is simply part of their nature, and does make them excellent leaders, and wonderful for actually ‘getting things done’. When it gets out of hand however, its important to seek out ways to reduce the fieriness that has accumulated. If you’re not a Pitta type, practice these sorts of things during warmer months, when you feel irritable, or if you’re experiencing a lot of inflammation, heat or acidity.
Balancing The Pitta Dosha This Summer
Out Into Nature
The slower pace of walking, coupled with shady leaves and a breeze through the trees can help calm heat and aggression. Look around you and absorb the calming colour green, and listen closely to the sounds of nature.
Walk By Water
Naturally, the antidote for fire is water, so take a walk by a stream, lake or visit the beach on a day when the waves are calm. Dipping your feet in can also help physically lower any sensation of being overheated, whilst cooling the mind too.
Cool the eyes
The eyes are strongly governed by Pitta, as they ‘digest’ all of our experiences too. If your eyes are irritated or inflamed, try Ayurvedic eye drops, which are included in a typical Ayurvedic dinacharya, or daily routine. These are available easily through ebay or amazon.
The calming influence of certain types of breathwork can do wonders for calming excessive amount of pitta – try alternate nostril breathing, sitali breath (rolling the tongue like a straw and breathing in ‘through’ the tongue and out through the nose – this is a particularly cooling breath) or simply extending your exhale to relax the nervous system.
We’re subtly influenced by colour all the time, and utilising colours can be an effective way at balancing the body’s energy. To calm pitta, wear and surround yourself with pastel shades of green and blue.
Food For The Fire
Ayurveda never really recommends eating raw food as this can be difficult to digest, however Pitta types can handle raw food best, and the Summer months are the time we can add a small amount of raw food to the diet without having too much of an impact upon the digestive system. Try the following foods to cool excessive amounts of fiery Pitta:
- Fresh coriander
- Green leafy vegetables
- Kefir or lassi
- Coconut and coconut oil
Self Massage (Abhyanga)In all months other than the middle of Spring when we can feel heavy and lethargic, self-massage is advised in order to nourish the skin, muscles and joints, as well as calming the mind and maintaining a harmonious mind-body connection. Whilst sesame is advised during Autumn, switch to coconut oil in the Summer – especially if you’re a Pitta type of person – as this can be cooling and calming.