Ahhhh! Do you feel it? The sunshine? The warmth? The long days? This is the beauty of summertime. What a welcome change for us northerners used to long winters!
The word “sri” in sanskrit means “resplendent beauty.” I most easily ﬁnd sri in nature, especially on the beautifully sunny, warm, and vibrant days of summer. When I see that beauty reﬂected in the world around me, I begin to feel that same sense of beauty within.
Let Me Count the Ways…
How do we deﬁne the unique qualities of summer? Oﬀ the top of my head:
While some of you may agree with this list, some of you might be thinking:
• sticky / sweaty
So, we might say that the sri of summer is in the eye of the beholder. For a more objective understanding, let’s turn to Ayurveda, the ancient medicine of India and sister science to Yoga.
It’s Elemental, My Dear Watson
Ayurveda oﬀers us the lens of the ﬁve elements (ether, air, ﬁre, water, earth) and their qualities (hot, cold, dry, oily, etc) to understand nature. Summer is the season of the ﬁre element, more speciﬁcally Pitta Dosha.
Dosha is an organizing principle that groups the elements into relationships. For Pitta Dosha, it groups the elements of ﬁre and water together to deﬁne their combined qualities:
• sharp / intense
• oily / greasy
• mobile, with purpose
If you look back at the two previous lists of qualities, you may be able to see how both relate to this master list from Ayurveda without as much subjective opinion.
The hot quality, for example, has a range of relativity from gentle warmth to inferno. While some individuals may enjoy a hot day without disturbance, some of us might do everything we can to stay in the A/C. This speaks to the makeup of our individual constitution, and the unique needs of our body and mind.
Ayurveda teaches that we are continuously in relationship with our environment. Consider how the needs of your body/mind shift throughout the year based on weather and seasons.
When we relate with certain qualities, it’s likely that those same qualities begin to accumulate or build within our bodies and minds. If I take an afternoon in the heat of the sun, it’s likely that I will overheat internally if I’m not taking counter measures to stay cool and hydrated.
If I spend several days in the heat of the sun, I may end up with some internal physical signs of heat like mouth sores, skin rash, acid indigestion, loose stools, overheating while sleeping, exhaustion, etc. I may also notice mentally increased irritability, shortness of temper, or sharpness in my speech to others. These are all signs of a pitta imbalance; I have accumulated more of the qualities of pitta than my body/mind can handle, so it is expressed in unhealthy ways.
On the other hand, after an appropriate amount of time in the sun for me, I may feel energized, inspired, refreshed, and radiant. My digestion might function better and my skin might maintain a healthy glow. My mental attitude may reﬂect more resilience, joy, optimism, and ease.
Here are my top lifestyle tips for enjoying your summer with ease!
#1: Be sweet & take it easy. Ease pitta’s intensity by prioritizing enjoyment: take walks in nature, listen to music, read a book, enjoy time with friends, or simply nap. Practice cultivating sweetness within. Be kind, patient and loving to yourself. Observe as you begin to treat yourself more kindly how it begins to ﬂow out to others as well.
#2: Throw some shade — on yourself. If you are out in the middle of the day, it’s best to shade yourself from the sun with a widebrimmed hat or under a tree. Not only protecting your skin from damaging rays, you will also preserve your energy (prana) and not be as susceptible to heat/sunstroke. If you are exposed to sun, don’t forget to apply your favorite natural sunblock. Also, be sure to protect your sweet eyes with a stylish pair of sunglasses.
#3: Make like a ﬁsh and swim. Swimming is an excellent way to exercise during pitta season! Bathing in cool water is ultimately refreshing and therapeutic in the heat of the day. If you don’t swim or want a more restful experience, you can soak in a lukewarm/cool bath at home with a few drops of pure lavender, spearmint, or sandalwood essential oil.
Nothing beats regular intake of plain old water to stay hydrated. But when you need something a little diﬀerent, try coconut water, mint tea, or a hibiscus infusion (recipe below). Avoid carbonated, caﬀeinated, and alcoholic beverages—especially on hot days.
The sweet taste of hibiscus ﬂowers makes an excellent summer beverage to cool and soothe your body and mind. Simply add 1-2 tablespoons of dried hibiscus ﬂowers per 1 pint of room temperature water. Let it infuse 20-30 minutes, to your taste. Strain the ﬂowers and enjoy!
What About Yoga?
I’m so glad you asked! Overall, favor a practice that cultivates the opposite traits of pitta dosha: slow, cool, grounded, eﬀortless, supported, and calming. Here’s my list of favorite yoga practices during summer.
#1: Supported Child’s Pose
Get creative with your props and make a luxurious resting spot! Soften the ground with extra blankets, put a bolster (or two) under your torso, or place a block under your forehead. Gently slow the pace of your breath. Soften the center of the forehead and relax the space behind your eyes.
#2: Practice Cooling Breath / Sheetkari Pranayama
• Place your tongue behind your upper teeth along the gum-line with your upper and lower teeth gently together
• Part your lips and sip your inhale through the teeth
• Exhale softly through the nostrils
• Repeat 6-12 rounds, or until you feel cool, calm, and soothed
#3: Water Gazing
Whether a natural body of water or a small dish of water, you can soften the focus of your gaze on the surface of the water. Relax the eﬀort of the eyes, absorbing the cool, clear, calm energy of the water. You may ﬁnd with practice that your need to blink becomes less frequent. Start with 1 minute a day and gradually increase your time, being mindful not to strain your vision.
It’s All In You
Can you reframe your experience of summertime in light of this ayurvedic wisdom? If you dread summertime, can you implement some practices that allow for your enjoyment of the season? If you love summertime, can you practice moderating your lifestyle so you don’t overdo it and become burned out?
While these are general suggestions, your best wisdom comes from your direct experience. Become curious about what habits support your wellness and which habits detract from your wellness. Your own creative solutions will be your best allies!
May you ﬁnd more beauty, ease, and joy in your life!
Dive deeper into the wisdom of ayurveda to build a toolset of lifestyle, food, and spiritual supports for all doshas with the Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist program! Come learn with yours truly (Zach Zube), Yoga North’s Molly McManus, and Kathryn Templeton in partnership with the Himalayan Institute.
Unit 1 – September 14-16, 2018
Unit 2 – Online
Unit 3 – January 18-20, 2019
Unit 4 – April 26-28, 2019