Pitta Season How to Keep Your Cool
Pitta Season has officially arrived here in the Northeastern US. When I returned from relatively cool Scotland I was greeted with a blast of heat and humidity. My Vata-Pitta body said, “Oh boy, here we go.” Of course, it’s back down in the 50’s right now and more confusing to the body.
Two years ago I learned just how dangerous the heat can be to someone with my body type. You can read about it here.
Knowing some basics about Pitta dosha can help us stay healthy (and cool) during the hot summer months.
And if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, heading into winter, you can tuck this information away until your Pitta Season comes around again!
Ayurveda’s seasonal calendar revolves around the three doshas–Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are forces or energies comprised of the five elements–space (ether), air, fire, water and earth that make up our human physiology. The same elements that are in nature are within us, as well.
Your Prakriti (or Prakruti) is your individual constitution which you were born with and it never changes. It is determined by the combination of doshas which are dominant in your psycho-physiological makeup, dependent upon your parents’ Prakriti at the moment of your conception.
All three doshas are present in each of us, just to varying degrees. Most people are a combination of two dominant doshas–rarely just one. Even more rare is a Prakriti with three equal doshas (tri-doshic).
Your Vikriti (or Vikruti) is your current state of balance and is influenced by diet, lifestyle, emotions, the seasons, etc. We want to strive to be balanced in mind, body and spirit while paying special attention to the balancing properties of our particular dominant doshas.
Discover Your Ayurvedic Constitution
All About Pitta
The elements associated with Pitta are fire and water. It is the energy of transformation and the metabolic force in our body that rules digestion. Pitta also rules our intelligence, our eyes, body temperature and skin coloration. It is seated in the stomach and small intestines.
The qualities of Pitta are hot, sour, sharp, moist, pungent, slightly oily, light and fluid. In Ayurveda, like increases like, so in choosing foods to balance Pitta, choose sweet, bitter and astringent foods, such as fresh sweet fruits, vegetables, and grains, salads, beans, legumes, etc. At the end of this post, I’ve listed some great resources to help you find a pitta-balancing diet.
Here are some characteristics of Pitta-types:
- Highly organized and self-confident
- Good public speakers, leaders, politicians, teachers, writers
- Highly intelligent
- Warm, friendly
- Independent, courageous
- Strong athletic, medium build
- Doesn’t like the heat (makes a Pitta tired)
- Sensitive skin, usually pale with freckles and moles. Prone to skin eruptions and rashes–i.e. acne, eczema, psoriasis
- Excessive sweating (often pungent)
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Strong digestion, but needs regular meals (Pittas get crabby if they skip a meal!)
- Hair is smooth and shiny, often blond or red. Later in life, hair is often prematurely gray or balding.
And on the downside – characteristics of an out-of-balance Pitta-type:
- Stubborn, hot-headed
- Hot flashes
- High acidity
- Loose stools
- Prone to headaches, fever, acid reflux, heartburn, colitis
- Can be spiteful, jealous, angry–especially when stressed
- Domineering, vain, ambitious
If you’re someone like me (Vata-Pitta) with Pitta being your secondary dosha, you’ll likely find that just some of these traits apply to you. The important thing to remember is to tune into your body.
Vata-Pitta and Pitta-Vata types often have more trouble adjusting to seasonal fluctuations than other constitutions. Basically, if you’re feeling hot, tired, stressed or experiencing some of the other symptoms above, focus on pacifying Pitta. If you’re feeling cold, anxious and fearful, pacify Vata.
That being said, Vata is the queen (or king!) of the doshas and because of its quality of movement, it pushes (and thereby unbalances) the other doshas. So, keeping Vata balanced is a good rule of thumb for all of us.
You may be someone who rarely feels hot in your body but you have a hot personality! There are varying degrees of the doshas in each of us. And other factors such as age can influence how strongly we experience an unbalanced dosha. Again, just pay attention to your own body/mind’s signals.
Here are some tips for remaining balanced and healthy during Pitta season:
- THINK COOL and reduce anything that heats the body: saunas, steam rooms, hot showers and hot spicy foods. Stay out of the hot mid-day sun. Pittas already have an abundance of heat in their bodies and can damage their organs with too much heat.
- Avoid drinking a lot of cold beverages, especially with meals. I know this sounds contrary to what I just wrote about staying cool, but drinking cold liquids is a shock to the system and puts out our digestive fire, resulting in poor assimilation and digestion.
- Avoid excesses of foods that are salty, spicy, sour, hot or pungent.
- Avoid coffee–it is especially unbalancing for Pittas due to its acidity.
- Cool your skin with unrefined coconut oil (I massage it in daily before my shower–it really helps to protect and cool the skin. By applying it before showering, (wait 20 minutes), the warm water will help it penetrate the skin. Essential oils of sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, mint and rose are also cooling. I love this combination brahmi/coconut oil during the summer months.
- Don’t skip meals or let yourself get dehydrated. This is especially important for Pitta-types.
- Drink coconut water. It’s great hydration and neutralizes acid so it can also help with heartburn and acid reflux.
- Take walks or bike rides in the cool morning or evening. Moonlight is especially healing for Pittas.
- Take time each day to do some slow, deep breathing and meditation.
- Take lukewarm or cool showers or baths and run cool water over your head and the back of your neck before getting out. This helps to reduce excess Pitta.
- When it comes to exercise, especially during Pitta season, cool it! Don’t over-exert yourself, especially by running in the hot afternoon sun.
- Keep a spray bottle with rose or lavender water in your refrigerator and spritz yourself when you get overheated. The rose water is also excellent for dry, sore eyes. Just be sure it’s a good quality that is made with real rose petals.
- 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. are Pitta times of day. It is at this time that your metabolism kicks into high hear. This is why Ayurveda recommends eating your main meal between 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.). Your body will be able to digest this meal the best. As for the 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. time – during these hours the body goes to work making repairs and burning stored fat. It wants to be sleeping during this time and not digesting a heavy late dinner or snack. Metabolism is active during these hours and it’s the reason you get your second wind around 10:00 p.m. (Pitta-types love to burn the midnight oil). Getting to bed before 10:00 p.m. will not only allow you to sleep more soundly but will let your body repair itself much more efficiently.
If all this information seems daunting, just focus on a couple of tips that you think will help you feel more balanced.
Summer is the time to chill and not take on overly taxing projects. Get adequate R&R during Pitta Season.
Find a hammock in the shade, read something you enjoy (not something you have to read), swim in a lake or the ocean or do whatever you love that is calming and cooling.
Here’s hoping for a slightly breezy, not-too-hot Pitta Season!
Helpful resources for a Pitta-pacifying diet:
Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, Daniel Rhoda, and Johnny Brannigan
Living Ahimsa Diet by Maya Tiwari