Summer is upon us, and thanks to climate change it feels hotter than ever in Santa Fe. I wish I could tell you that the ancient medical science of Ayurveda holds the key to controlling the weather. But the truth is that it does contain the secrets to staying cool when the temperature is reaching record highs. Summer is fire season, and when you learn what to eat and how to act to balance this element, you will feel cooler and more comfortable all season long.
Ayurveda describes summer as Pitta season. Pitta is made of fire and water, and its qualities are hot, sharp, oily, and light. During summer season you can reduce Pitta heat within your own body by eating a diet of cooling foods.
Most people regardless of their Ayurvedic constitution will feel more comfortable during the summertime by following a Pitta reducing diet. The best foods to keep you cool during summer are watermelon, cucumber, mint, coconut, summer squash, fennel, cilantro, and aloe vera. It's best to avoid spicy, acidic and greasy foods during summer as they will increase the heat in your body and make you feel hotter. For a complete list of Pitta reducing foods, open the food guidelines PDF here.
It's important during every season to exercise regularly, but the type of exercise you do should be in balance with the time of year. During the heat of summer, it's best to swim and do gentle yoga. If you prefer biking and running, try to save it for the early morning and evening when the temperature is slightly cooler.
A lot of people who do yoga love Bikram's hot yoga, but I would encourage switching to a cooler type during the heat of summer. Specific yoga postures and breathing exercises are more cooling than others. Moon Salutation is more appropriate during summer than Sun salutation for example. For instructions on how to do Moon Salutation, click here.
Here's a video demonstrating a Pitta reducing yoga practice that is really helpful for cooling your whole system during the heat of summer.
Ayurveda is big on oil, both internally and externally. I've written before about the calming effects of massaging warm oil into your body before bathing, but in summer it's important to use a cooling oil made with cooling herbs. Especially if you have trouble sleeping because of the heat at night, you'll love rubbing Brahmi Oil made from coconut oil and brahmi (gotu kola) into the soles of your feet and the scalp to calm the mind and promote restful sleep. You can use it on your whole body as well to counteract summer dryness and dehydration.
Keeping It Cool
I hope you try some of these suggestions from Ayurveda for staying cool this summer. Of course, if you tend to be cold no matter what or you live in the Arctic, then you should follow a plan appropriate to your particular situation. Most people, however, will notice a real difference in their experience of summer heat when they take action to keep their internal cooling system working at its best.