I get cranky when it’s too hot. It starts off with tiredness and feeling like everything’s too hard. Then something flips my switch and I’m off. Raging. Every day occurences suddenly becomes an unbearable provocation and I find myself giving my son a roasting for the terrible crime of spilling pencil shavings on the rug. So what happens to me when the temperature rises? And is there anything I can do to keep calm? The answers can be found in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science.
Ayurveda describes three basic human constitutions - the three doshas - Pitta, Vata and Kapha. Pitta dosha is made up of the fire and earth elements and, as the temperature rises, the fire element can get out of control. That's what brings out the heated behaviour my children have been witnessing! My constitution is mainly Pitta, but, because we all have some Pitta in our make-up, these hot summer days can aggravate even the coolest customer. Here’s a run-down of Pitta characteristics and some tips for keeping that fire in check during the hot weather!
Disease Patterns of Pitta
When Pitta dosha becomes imbalanced, you are more likely to suffer from ‘heat’ related conditions – inflammatory diseases, fevers, rashes, burning sensations, ulceration, sore throat, and irritations such as conjunctivitis. You may also find yourself feeling more irritable or even angry.
Lifestyle tips to keep Pitta dosha balanced
Things to avoid: Too much heat aggravates Pitta dosha, so avoid heated environments and take special care during the summer months to stay cool. Make sure you exercise during the coolest part of the day (no jogging at lunchtime!) Swimming's a good option during the warmer months.
Strong, spicy, stimulating foods can also provoke Pitta Dosha (ie. Chillies, garlic, raw onion, coffee, salt), while oily foods or acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruit should also be avoided. Pittas function best on a predominantly vegetarian diet, so keep consumption of animal products to a minimum.
Things that balance Pitta dosha: Try eating ‘cooling’ foods. This doesn’t mean ice-cream! In Ayurveda, cooling foods and spices include fresh vegetables and fruit, cinnamon, coriander, fennel and cardamom and coconut milk.
Cooling yoga practices when you get overheated are extremely helpful - there are lots of poses and breathing techniques specifically designed to balance Pitta dosha. Try some seated forward bends and start to focus on gently lengthening your exhalation (always check with a qualified teacher before practising at home).
Pitta dosha health check:
- Avoid excessive heat
- Exercise during the cooler part of the day
- Eat cooling foods and avoid hot, spicy foods
- Practice a gentle, restorative yoga pose such as this one