Summertime—and the living could be easier. But as the mercury rises, your temper doesn’t have to flare up too. Sure, you can always take refuge in AC, but doesn’t it strike you as a tad artificial to be shivering through a heat wave? Instead of fighting the heat, try aligning yourself with the season.
A good starting point is a rudimentary understanding of Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine. One of the tenets of Ayurveda is the doshas, the three main patterns of energy—vata (wind), pitta (fire), kapha (water)—that circulate both through our bodies and the world at large.
In the summer months pitta dominates. It’s the dosha responsible for transformation and is associated with our digestion, assimilation and metabolism. When it’s out of whack, excess pitta tends to show up as irritability, skin inflammation and acid indigestion. If that sounds all too familiar, you are probably experiencing some degree of overheating. Come back into balance with these four simple ways to keep your cool—and still enjoy summer’s bounty.
As refreshing as an iced tea or coffee sounds on a hot day, the drink is doing you no favors on two counts. First off, Ayurveda considers ice a digestion killer, meaning that it puts out the flame of our digestive fire. When digestion is slow, you feel sluggish—you may notice the couch looking irresistibly attractive. Plus, caffeine dehydrates, so you are sipping on a double whammy that robs you of both water and energy.
Instead, choose to replenish with a healthy electrolyte and mineral supplement. Potassium, calcium and magnesium are important electrolytes, as well as trace minerals. In summer we lose more electrolytes through sweat and dehydration and can forget how critical they are to basic biological functions. High-quality coconut water and electrolyte drinks make good natural choices.
To keep pitta in check, favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and avoid salty, sour and hot or spicy foods. Fully ripe, sweet, juicy fruits like melons, cherries, grapes, pears and mangoes and vegetables such as cucumber, broccoli, zucchini and asparagus are great for tempering pitta’s fire. Cook with cooling spices such as fennel, mint and coriander, and reduce hot spices such as dried ginger and mustard seed.
It’s not just what you eat, but how much and when. Aim for eating your biggest meal midday, when digestion is at its peak. And eating smaller portions throughout the day will keep you cooler than chowing down on big meals.
Move slow The laws of physics rule our body temperature. Although it sounds strange, physiologically speaking, if you have more heat, everything moves faster—even our thoughts. The reverse is also true: the faster you go, the warmer you are. So listen to your intuition, and let summer be a time to slow down and move at a more leisurely pace. There’s a reason people take more vacations in the summer. Allow more time for sleep, relaxation and rest. Stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga and even lying in a hammock help to calm the system and reduce inflammation. Walk in the early morning when the air is cool or at night when the sun goes down.
Refresh the senses Give your skin a little extra love, and you may be pleasantly surprised by how less sticky you feel. A daily massage with coconut oil, known for its heat relieving properties, works wonders on rashes and sunburns.
As far as it’s practical, favor cooler colors in your clothing and environment such as blues, greens and silver. Lightweight cotton clothing, sheets and pillows are the best choices for summer because of the fabric’s ability to breathe.
For the final coup de grace, indulge your sense of smell by spritzing yourself and/or your environment with aromas that soothe. Ayurveda recommends sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel and chamomile as the most cooling, but feel free to follow your own nose. You might come up with a signature blend that evokes a private idyll—breezes included.