September is a month of transition, hanging as it does between summer and fall. The abundant harvest of late summer and early fall invites us to enjoy local, seasonal produce just as people did in the time the Ayurvedic texts were written.Continue Reading >
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from studying Ayurveda is that the juncture between seasons is a tenuous time for our health. The body struggles with the irregularity and often abrupt changes in the weather and needs some extra TLC.
And so, as the heat of pitta season gives way to the cold, dry, windy nature of vata season, there are a few easy and important things we can do to stay healthy.
Expel Accumulated Heat from the Body
Ayurveda wisely teaches that the excesses which accumulate during each season must be cleared out in order for the body to maintain a healthy balance during the upcoming season. As pitta season begins to wane, it’s excess heat that needs to go.
Pitta-type individuals will especially need to heed this warning. Summer can literally leave them hot and agitated.
Playing in the sun is just too tempting for us humans and too much of it can take its toll on the body. It’s easy enough to notice external signs like sunburn and rashes, but excess heat even taxes our internal organs, especially the liver.
“According to Charaka: ‘All diseases begin at the junctions of the seasons,’ and so all types are cautioned to be especially aware during the seasonal transitions.”
Here are some signs that you may have accumulated too much heat during the hot months of summer:
- Burning or itching sensations
- Digestive issues such as heartburn, burping, nausea, acid reflux, loose stools or diarrhea, intense hunger
- Skin problems such as rash, eczema, hives, psoriasis, or dermatitis
- Feelings of heat trapped in the body, hot flashes
- Yellow coating on the tongue
- Excessive sweating (pungent smelling)
- Bleeding gums or canker sores
- Excessive thirst
- Feelings of jealousy, criticism, anger, or impatience
All of these symptoms are red flags of imbalance that, left untreated, can lead to more serious problems.
Vata by nature is dry and mobile, and if the excess heat from the summer is not properly expelled before entering vata season, the dry/hot energy that prevails will start to move upward in the body, making us more susceptible to colds and flus, allergies, and digestive and respiratory conditions.
The body produces reactive mucus to combat excess dryness and, while we might blame someone for giving us their “cold,” it’s often nothing more than our own body attempting to lubricate the dryness.
Eat Seasonal Foods that Are Naturally Cooling
Take advantage of Mother Nature’s wisdom and choose foods that will help expel heat from the body. Luckily, you need look no further than your local farmer’s market. Chances are that most of the seasonal foods you find during late summer/early fall will be of a cooling nature, so take advantage and eat lots of fruits and vegetables at summer’s end.
A few foods that are especially effective are apples (the sweet kind are best for pitta- and vata-types), pomegranates, and beets.
Keep in mind that eating lots of these foods may create looser stools. This is actually a sign that the body is pushing out excess heat. So be sure to stay hydrated by sipping water and coconut water throughout the day.
For a complete list of foods that are cooling, refer to this resource on pitta-pacifying foods.
People with more of a vata-type constitution can benefit from fresh-squeezed lime juice with a pinch of sea salt in water to help ward off dehydration. Because they are already dry by nature, a hot summer can be a precursor to a particularly troubling vata season. This can be especially true of those in the vata time of life (approximately 50 years and beyond).
For a list of foods that pacify vata dosha, refer to this resource on vata-pacifying foods.
Kapha-types are cold and wet by nature, so summer and fall are generally not as problematic as they are for pitta and vata folks. Still, a hot and humid summer can leave them miserable and overheated as well. They need to pay particular attention to eating more diuretic-type foods because of their propensity to retain water.
This list of kapha-pacifying foods can provide guidance.
Anyone, no matter their constitution, can end up with an imbalance in a dosha—but in the summer, the dosha most likely to be affected is pitta. It’s good to familiarize yourself with foods and lifestyle habits that pacify pitta dosha in case you are experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned above.
And remember that things can change. My own constitution is predominantly vata. I was always cold and I used to savor hot summers. But the past few summers of extreme heat and humidity forced me to focus on pacifying pitta more than I ever have before. I just cannot seem to tolerate the heat and especially the humidity.
It’s a juggling act pacifying vata and pitta at the same time, but I do my best. Shade has become my good friend and I choose foods that are easy to digest but won’t overtax my system. These are two simple things that help me stay balanced.
The Change of Seasons Is a Prime Opportunity to Cleanse
AFTER you've worked to pull any excess heat out of the body, you might want to consider a cleanse.
Unlike harsh cleanses which can leave the body in a weakened state, an Ayurvedic cleanse gently clears the body and mind of toxins and brings the doshas back into balance. It's important to cleanse according to your Ayurvedic constitution and to seek guidance from an Ayurvedic practitioner if Ayurveda is new to you.
It’s not just eating proper foods that can help us with this seasonal transition—sometimes a cleanse is exactly what you need to make a smooth transition.
Commit to Your Daily Routine
The truth is, our daily routine and lifestyle can make or break how well we move from one season to the next.
Vacations and irregular schedules in the summer are unavoidable and, let’s face it, welcome relief! Who wants to be rigid during the summer months? “Not me!” says the vata-type who loves movement and change. But, the more we can adhere to a daily routine, the more smoothly the seasonal transitions will be. I say this from experience.
As much as I’ve always loved autumn, even before Ayurveda came into my life, I’ve also been aware of the feelings of anxiety and ungroundedness that the season brings. As the weather cools and the wind begins to blow more, I can become unmoored very quickly. These are common vata traits and they’re exacerbated during vata season.
And as much as the word “routine” makes me cringe, truth be told, it’s been the best remedy for balancing my often anxious constitution.
Waking, sleeping, and eating at regular times (as much as possible!) and balancing pitta before vata season is underway can help make for a smooth and healthy transition into the beautiful, colorful, sweater-wearing season of autumn. Oh, Ayurveda—you’re so wise!