In class, we’ve been exploring how the wisdom of Ayurveda can help us to tailor our yoga practice to suit the “energy” of the summer. Ayurveda, as the sister science of yoga, offers guidance to maintain physical and emotional health. It is based on three constitutions, or doshas, namely vata, pitta and kapha. Each of us has all three doshas, but usually one or two dominate.
It’s thought that our dosha make up is determined at conception. However, many lifestyle-related factors influence our dosha balance, such as our diet, schedule, and our sleep and play habits. In addition, the time of day, the time of year, and the phase of life we are experiencing all alter our dosha cocktail.
Each dosha is associated with certain times of the day or night. For example, the pitta times of day are from 10am-2pm, and 10pm-2am. Similarly, the seasons and the shift between them correlate with a dosha … kapha, to pitta, to vata, and back to kapha. Currently, we are immersed in pitta season, which runs from summer to early fall.
Pitta is a mixture of fire and water, and has the qualities of being hot, light, sharp and penetrating. Fire is the element of transformation, so pitta is related to all the transformative processes in the body. In the physical body, this manifests in digestion, metabolism, and energy production. In the mind, the action of fire determines how we digest our experiences and transform patterns of thought.
When pitta is in balance, there is passion, ambition, determination, strength, compassion, outward sensitivity and adaptability. Pitta dominant folks are natural leaders. When pitta is out of balance, people will have a tendency to be angry, impatient, irritable, and jealous. They will experience not only fiery emotions, but also acne, rosacea, rashes and eczema. Likely, they will also have an overly acidic digestive tract, resulting in heartburn and diarrhea.
Even those who are not pitta dominant are still influenced by the fire of summer season. Therefore, we should all seek to modify our habits and practice to counteract the hot summer months. Pitta-pacifying poses are cool, and calming. Focus on forward folds, twists and side body openers. It’s helpful to include a lot of variety, and less intensity/rigidity, so we practice in a more relaxed manner and don’t push ourselves too hard. Experiment with working at 80% of your capacity, and take rest when you notice that your nervous system is getting amped-up. Signs that the nervous system is moving into sympathetic mode include labored or strained breathing, tension in the jaw, tongue and muscles around the eyes, and a darting gaze. For breathing exercises, practice diaphragmatic breath, and chandra bhedena, while making the exhale longer than the inhale.