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Beat the Heat: 5 Simple Ayurvedic Tips for a Cooler Summer

Summer is here! You may enjoy hot summer days, or literally wilt and groan in the sun! According to Ayurveda, this is partly because of your constitution (prakriti) or imbalance (vikrati). Summer is Pitta Season (the principle of fire and water) and normally a time to go on vacation, swim, barbeque, play outdoors, sip cool drinks, and meet up with friends!

Here are five simple tips to help you beat the heat with Ayurveda!

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Eat Pitta pacifying foods, hydrate enough and avoid hot drinks. Cut back on spicy, sour, salty and heating foods, fried food and processed food, vinegar and too much alcohol or red meat. Favor astringent, sweet and bitter tastes which palliate pitta. Try cooking in the morning instead of in a hot kitchen during midday. Have light or moderately heavy, cool and bland food, sweet fruits and salads; vegetables like leafy greens, summer squashes, cauliflower and cucumber; grains like basmati rice, oats, quinoa and barley; legumes like mung beans, black beans, garbanzo beans and split pea; water-rich and sweet fruits such as melons, grapes, berries, peaches and pears; cooling spices like cilantro, mint, dill, fennel and coriander; oils like coconut, avocado oil and ghee and all unrefined sweeteners in moderation (except honey and molasses).

Stay hydrated! Replace (sour) lemon juice with (bitter) lime. Other refreshing drinks are milk, rose water (sherbet) or rose milk, coconut water, buttermilk, pomegranate juice, lemonade, and hibiscus-mint herbal tea. Avoid hot water or drinks that are too hot. Lukewarm or cool tea is better than coffee.
Eat at regular meal times to avoid pitta accumulation (acidity, headaches, heat rashes, inflammation, and irritability).

Some herbs that pacify pitta are Amla, Guduchi, Yashtimadhu, Neem, Manjistha, Brahmi, Satavari and Avipattikar Churna—but in Ayurveda one size doesn’t fit all. Consult an Ayurvedic professional for recommendations pertaining to your unique body constitution and imbalance.

Recipe: Ayurvedic Buttermilk (Takra)
Combine one cup of organic homemade or Greek yogurt and two cups of water in a blender really well. Add ½ tsp of roasted cumin and ¼ tsp of Himalayan Salt (or to taste and a pinch of dry ginger is optional). Garnish with coriander or mint leaves and serve at room temperature. Packed with probiotics and electrolytes, Takra is a refreshing drink useful in many health conditions, particularly digestive disorders.

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Take cool showers; avoid excessive massage and steaming. While an abhyanga or self-massage would be good to relax, try to make it light with coconut oil or sunflower oil. Avoid excessive steaming. If you do steaming, make sure it is very light and have cool showers instead of using hot water for bathing. For calming aromatherapy, try cooling and sweet oils like sandalwood, khus, rose, and jasmine.

Wear loose, breathable clothes made of cotton, hemp, or linen in fresh, lighter, pastel shades like white, ocean blue, green and use cotton bed sheets if possible.

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Avoid excess heat and strenuous exercise. Yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and early morning/evening walks, and spending time in nature are all good for slowing down, relaxing, and grounding. Exercise during the cooler time of the day and try an early morning practice of walking on the grass.

In your yogic sequence, avoid heating and intense postures. Make your practice restorative and calming with cat/cow, cobra, boat, spinal twists, gentle forward bends, and go easy on spinal compression or backward bends. Make sure to end with Savasana or Corpse Pose.

Pranayamas or breathwork to favor are Sheetali, Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril breathing) or Chandra Bhedana (left nostril or cooling breathing) followed by Nadi Shodhan.

Protect yourself from the sun (wear hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses). Stay indoors if possible. If you have sunburn, apply ghee, aloe vera pulp, rosewater for the face, cilantro and turmeric paste or sandalwood paste. Try a neem paste for bug bites.

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Chill! This is a great time to hang out with friends and family. Try a middle path in anything you do—work hard and celebrate and enjoy summer activities, but make sure to slow down and nourish yourself.

Aggravated pitta is super productive; bring it into balance by consciously relaxing!

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Cool the mind with meditation. Whenever I drive during hot summer days I notice how people seem more impatient, on the brink of honking and often drive faster. There are two Ayurvedic principles for establishing balance; like increases like and opposites balance each other. That explains why the fiery Pitta season is the best time to cool your mind with meditation.

Most of all, enjoy a balanced, relaxed summer!