Here, in the Pacific NW, we’ve already had a good number of smoldering days…. pitta season has landed! Time to shift gears in our practice, diet and lifestyle rhythms so that we can balance out the increased fire element that pitta season brings. I find such great value in aligning my practice, diet and lifestyle with the flow of the seasons and the moon. Attuning to seasonal rhythms is called ritucharya, a derivation of “ritus”, the external seasonal rhythms, and “charya”, which means to follow.
This wasn’t always the case for me. Culturally we aren’t taught to follow these rhythms. In fact, we’re taught to ignore them and our bodies, and push through life at high speed. This isn’t how our bodies work. Like the earth and its seasons, human biology is cyclic. We’re most healthy in body and mind when we flow with the natural rhythm of the seasons.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties and trying to be “healthy”, I would eat a cold salad every day for lunch at work. Lots of veggies … that’s good, right? Oh also, I was living in Wisconsin, where cold and snow dominated the scene for almost half the year. When it’s cold outside, Ayurveda recommends eating warming foods. Cold salads certainly don’t fit into the “warming foods” category. As I was eating my raw veggies, I would experience a deep chill to the bone, specifically in my low back / kidney area. As I reflect back on that time now I had a myriad of other symptoms of this mal-aligned dietary choice. It took me years to get out of this habit because … well … it was a habit, and I thought I was doing the right thing. If we know what to pay attention to and listen, our bodies are constantly communicating with us.
So here we are in pitta season, and I want to help you learn how to best support yourself during this time of year. The pitta dosha is composed of the fire and water elements and is related to all the transformative processes in the body and mind. These processes include the digestion of food and the processing and assimilation of experiences and emotions. Pitta dominant folks are passionate, ambitious, and tend toward the “type A” personality. When the pitta dosha moves into excess there can be irritability, reactivity, anger and jealousy, inflammation, rashes and other “hot” conditions. As the outside temperature rises, we’re best supported by cooling, soothing and calming practices. When it’s warm outside, our body pushes our internal heat to the periphery to disperse it, and this means that our digestive fire (jatharagni) actually decreases.
PITTA SEASON RECOMMENDATIONS
ASANA: Include lots of variety, less intensity, and postures that promote a sense of ease and lightness. Work at 80% of capacity and don’t take yourself too seriously! Include poses which put pressure on the belly like Locust and Bow pose which build jatharagni, lots of Twists and Side Body openers, like Revolved Triangle and Revolved Head to Knee pose, which improve circulation and clear stagnation of the abdominal organs, and Forward Folds like Wide Legged Forward Fold, to calm the nervous system during the busy season of summer. Add in more Restorative and Gentle Yoga practices. You may use a Lowered Gaze, dristhi to root and soothe.
MEDITATION: Focus on the coolness of the inhalation. Visualizations of non-firey images, such as a lake, a river, a mountain, or a blue sky. Affirming mantras cultivating non-judgement, compassion, and forgiveness.
MANTRA: “There’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing you need to do, there’s nothing you need to undo, and there’s no one you need to be” (A mantra inspired by my yoga therapy teacher, Sarahjoy Marsh) Let these words really sink in … What does it feel like to not have to do or be anyone during your practice?
DIET: Focus on eating and drinking lightly, with a mix of raw and cooked veggies, and incorporating sweet, bitter, astringent and cooling foods. Sweet foods such as fresh fruit, grains, and lightly cooked root vegetables can “sweeten” the sharpness of the pitta dosha. Bitter foods such as leafy greens, green vegetables, cumin and saffron are cooling and drying, balancing the heating effect of pitta. Astringent foods (one’s that leave a puckered or dry sensation in the mouth) such as legumes, some fruits such as apples and pomegranates, some veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, as well as basil, coriander, dill, fennel and parsley, can also aid in cooling and creating a sense of lightness. As the temperature rises, remember to include lots of good oils, like avocado and coconut, and stay hydrated with electrolyte-rich fluids, like herbal infusions – nettle and oat seed is a fantastic combination with the qualities of sweet, bitter and cooling. You can find out how to make herbal infusions here .
Beginning this week, we’ll be discussing pitta characteristics, symptoms of imbalance and practicing pitta pacifying yoga. If you want to learn more about how to practice wisely during this season, join me!