While we all love the summer elements of beach, bare feet in the sand, flip flops in exchange for heels, the summer comes with heat, intensity, long days, bright sunshine and this intensity is characteristic of Ayurvedic Doshas known as Pitta and Vata*.
*(Please see below for a full explanation of Ayurvedic Dosha’s)
What is Ayurveda (Ay-oor-ve-da)?
Ayurveda is a system of medicine rooted in Eastern India and is used as alternative medicine here in the West, but is a legitimate medical science in most Indian communities. Therapies are typically herbal compounds prescribed based on your particular Dosha and any impending illness you are treating. Unlike many other natural remedies, Ayurvedic practice in ancient times even utilized surgical treatments like rhinoplasty and wound suturing. Body work and topical treatments are also employed to speed up healing as well as many types of detoxification to stimulate the healing process. All remedies are based on your Dosha.
What is a Dosha?
A Dosha is a characteristic assigned to you based your physical and emotional attributes. Basically, it’s what makes you, you. To diagnose a Dosha a patient will fill out a lengthy questionnaire which comprehensively asks about what you eat, your digestion, your temperament, your place of origin, health history and then a full physical evaluation.
You’ll then be diagnosed as a variant of the three Doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and typically have one leading Dosha. I am, for example, a Pitta-Vata and can be easily aggravated in summer. I typically love the cold and the snow, which you’d think would be uncanny for a person whose roots are tropical.
I’m always finding ways to cool down in this intense heat! For most of us this summer we’ll be experiencing new things, visiting new cities, driving down foreign roads and maybe even learning a new language to get around town. All of the hustle and bustle can certainly be exciting and stimulating, but it’s important to maintain balance and good health by keeping cool and keeping calm. So how do we go about this? Easy.
For the Common Summer Pitta-Vata Imbalance
Are you feeling a little parched, and is the heat starting to aggravate your nerves? If so, you could be suffering from Vata-Pitta imbalance. This imbalance can manifest as a sunburn, rash, body aches, nausea and can even effect your gut. You’ll become irritable, impatient, perhaps a little obsessive compulsive. So here’s what you do.
By sticking to a healthy balanced diet of raw and cooked foods while incorporating these more bitter fruits you’ll be helping your digestive system stay on point. If you think about it, all tropical fruits have these characteristics, as do summer berries. A good rule? Stick to foods that are fresh and in season. This way you can’t go wrong.
I bet you saw this one coming! The use of ghee in your diet is helpful in a variety of ways. The butyric acid naturally occurring in ghee helps your body assimilate nutrients and supplements, the healthy MCT and SCT (Medium and Short Chain Triglycerides) will help you metabolize your foods faster and the full feeling will keep you calm and going all day long. Put some in your morning oatmeal, on your paleo bread or in your coffee.
As if your body didn’t have enough to do, don’t give it extra to gnaw on. This includes fake meats and super processed power bars. If you’re hot and intense during the summer your body is not digesting at its prime. Stick to what you know will go in and go out. It’s that simple. Don’t overload your system. Eat just enough of the good stuff.
I know the days are long and you think you can squeeze a work out in by the end of the day, right? Not always. In fact, I’d argue that for most if it’s not done in the morning it’s not going to get done by days’ end. Peel yourself out of bed and get to work before you go to work. I doubt I’ve ever heard somebody say, “damn, I really wish I didn’t work out this AM.” You’ll never run farther then when it’s still brisk outside, and the yoga mat never feels better then when it’s crisp and cool under your feet before getting it all wet and sweaty. Enjoy the “ah” of your “ha”.
5. Try a daily meditation
If you can sit on the toilet for five-ten minutes checking Facebook you can probably swap that out for a guided meditation. Perhaps you can even do a walking mediation where you just try to focus on one thing in the distance and follow your breath in and out of your body. If your mind wanders just take it back to the breath. Try setting a timer each time you mediate. Start with 3-minutes and move up to 15. If you hit 15, send me a message and we’ll take it from there.
Meditation isn’t only good for you, it’s good for those around you. One characteristic of a Vata imbalance is the inability to think clearly due to overwhelming stress and outlying circumstances. The only way to truly grab hold of this imbalance is to commit to meditation. I’ve mentioned this in other posts but Headspace is a great place to start.
Some benefits of meditation are…
You can’t go wrong spending 5-15 minutes. You deserve it!
Clearly we can use these tips any time of the year, but what a better time to start than in the summer? Summer is the perfect time to adopt something new so by time your New Year resolution comes up, you’ll have to do some thinking!?
The Dosha Basics
Vata is typically thin, blonder and lanky. Their skin is typically dry and they run cooler than most. While they have immense strong bursts of energy, they’ll hit a wall eventually and have to gain some momentum to pick up again. The sleep light, eat light as their digestions tend to be a little more finicky than Pitta. An imbalance Vata patient typically experiences excessive weight loss, hypertension, arthritis, and feel anxious.
Since Vata is associated with the air element you can imagine they like to move fast and go with the flow. They’ll be wildly energetic and the belle of the ball and love taking on new people and new conversations. That said, they can get overwhelmed and will need to recalibrate now and again or they may just verbally attack you without notice. You’ll want to keep them fed and calm.
Pitta’s are the middle ground of the three Dosha’s and are typically medium in build and weight. Digestion is excellent and their body temperature runs warm, they sleep short and hard and love to make love. When they are balanced they radiate from the inside out with glowing skin and a healthy appetite but when they’re out of balance rashes occur and excessive body heat can cause ulcers, and some digestive problems may arise.
Pitta’s have strong personalities and as you’d guess, they are fire inside and out. When balanced they are leaders, teachers, counselors, medical professionals and speakers. They have a pivot heal wit that’s hard to beat. However, avoid them when they’re off balance as you might get a tongue lash and a little defensive attitude.
You can imagine Kapha as a strong, grounded human with a larger frame, typically thick brown head of hair and the personality of a big huggable teddy bear. We all know this person and we all want to hang out with them. Why? Because they are nurturing, tender and grounded people. They radiate loyalty, strength, stamina and patience. However, imbalance Kapha’s tend to easily gain weight, retain excess fluid and may suffer from diabetes, depression and or breathing problems like asthma.
Kapha is typically calm, patient, nurturing and warm. They are lovers of life and loyal people who love routine. When they are balanced they are rocks and the people you go to when you need solace. When imbalanced they tend to be stubborn and not have the ability to let go when it’s necessary. Perhaps they’ll stay in a relationship longer than is healthy or perhaps they’ll ignore the issue at hand.
These are just the basics of Ayurveda. To learn more on the subject we recommend contacting your local Ayurvedic practitioner. I hope these small steps will lead you to a lifetime of curiosity about Ayurveda and how it can enhance your life and daily well being.