As temperatures begin to reach well over 40°C here in Australia the joys of summer begin to fade. The simple pleasures of juicy summer fruits, swimming in the ocean and outdoor gatherings are overshadowed as the fire element makes its presence felt and we all run for water and sunscreen.
Ayurveda , the ancient Indian “science of life” and a sister art to yoga, is based on practical principles that help you maintain balance in accordance with the seasons. During these summer months that translates into practical ways to avoid the symptoms of overheating. Excessive heat brings with it dehydration, skin rashes, sunburn, lethargy and irritability. So whether or not your constitution is governed by Pitta ( the fire element), we all need to find ways to cool down – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Staying cool is not just about staying comfortable. It is about staying balanced during the warmer months.
One of the most important tips to adhere to during the summer is to stay hydrated. Coconut water, with its high mineral and electrolyte content, as well as water served at room temperature and herbal teas are great hydrating summer beverages.. Aloe Vera juice or gel added to your water is another cooling option. Be sure to avoid the stimulating and dehydrating effects of caffeine during these warmer months.
A cooling Ayurvedic diet in summer includes a lot of fruits and vegetables that are sweet, juicy, bitter and astringent in nature. Choose fruits such as melons, pears, cherries, mangoes and grapes. Vegetables to include are cucumber, broccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Fresh, homemade vegetable smoothies are a good inclusion.
Avoid hot, spicy and sour foods. Instead use cooling spices such as mint, coriander/cilantro, fennel, anise and cardamom in your preparations. You should also avoid foods with heating properties such as tomatoes, hot peppers, radishes, onions, garlic and spinach.
Eating more lightly is also encouraged. Avoid deep fried foods and minimize the consumption of red meat and excessive amounts of alcohol.
COOLING YOGA AND EXERCISE PRACTICE
Any form of exercise should be done in the cool parts of the day. Try rising early and going for a beach walk, a swim or practicing some yoga, or get to a yoga class later in the evening. Avoid running or vigorous exercise in the middle of the day. Whatever your choice of exercise, practice non-competitively and without force or aggression in order to prevent overheating. Cultivate a sense of calm and serenity to help cool the mind and body.
Your yoga practice at this time should be slower, less vigorous and more nurturing, in an attempt to calm the nervous system. Including poses such a seated or lying twists, supported back bend or shoulder stand, seated forward bends or any wide legged poses will cool the body and help it regulate naturally.
COOLING LIFESTYLE PRACTICES
The mind is susceptible to overheating which leads to both mental and physical symptoms of irritability. To reduce the activity and stimulation of the mind avoid overworking and too much activity. Maintain balance with relaxation practices. A regular meditation practice or at least space for quiet time each day will help to quiet and still the mind.
Bathe in some moonlight to balance the sun’s energy. Take a walk after dark or practice yoga in the garden.
Cool your skin with unrefined coconut oil. Try a daily massage before your shower allowing the warm water to help it penetrate the skin. This helps to protect against dryness whilst also cooling the skin.
Favour aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile are all recommended.
Remember that summer is a time to slow down and take it easy. So relax in the shade, read something for pleasure, swim in cool waters or do whatever you love that is calming and cooling. By taking action to keep your internal cooling system working at its best you will notice a real difference in the way you cope with the summer heat.