Pitta Season: It’s Finally Here!
Today is the Summer Solstice for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in New York City where I live, the weather bounced back and forth like a ping-pong ball for several weeks. I love ping-pong, but my body had a really hard time adjusting to all of the weather fluctuations. In the month of June so far, we went from hot and humid 90’s, to windy and rainy 50’s, and back to warm and sunny.
The reason this has been so trying for many of us is because the junctures between the seasons (usually a two-week period) are when it is most difficult to stay balanced and we are more vulnerable to illness. When the weather fluctuates drastically during this juncture, that vulnerability becomes even more pronounced.
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’ prakritis 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 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 doshas.
If you are unsure of your dosha, you can take this quiz. Or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner to help you figure it out and make proper lifestyle adjustments.
According to the Ayurvedic calendar, we have entered Pitta season (late spring through summer). The elements associated with Pitta are fire and water. It is the energy of transformation, 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.
Some characteristics of people with Pitta in their constitution:
- Highly organized and self-confident
- Good public speakers, leaders, politicians, teachers, writers
- Highly intelligent
- Warm, friendly
- Independent, courageous
- Have a 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 grey or balding.
And on the downside–characteristics of an out-of-balance Pitta:
- 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
Some tips for remaining balanced 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, the warm water will help it penetrate the skin. Essential oils of sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, mint and rose are also cooling.
- Don’t skip meals or let yourself get dehydrated. This is especially important for Pittas.
- Drink coconut water. It’s a great hydrator 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.
- 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am are Pitta times of day. It is at this time that your metabolism kicks into high hear. That is why Ayurveda recommends eating your main meal between 10am-2pm (preferably 12-2pm). Your body will be able to digest this meal the best. Remember the old adage “Eat breakfast like a queen, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper”? It’s true. As for the 10pm-2am 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 10pm (Pittas love to burn the midnight oil). Getting to bed before 10pm will not only allow you to sleep more soundly but will let your body repair itself much more efficiently.
Summer is the time to chill and not take on overly taxing projects. So act like this polar bear at the Central Park Zoo and 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.
Happy Summer Solstice!
Here are a couple of great Ayurvedic resources to help feed your hungry Pitta:
Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, Daniel Rhoda and Johnny Brannigan
Living Ahimsa Diet by Maya Tiwari