In previous blogs we have talked about the correlation between ayurveda and yoga and how to best harness the therapeutic benefits of both to get the most out of your practice and to keep your doshas in balance.
Yoga for your ayurvedic dosha talks about the optimum practice for your unique make up. In addition to doing the best yoga for your ayurvedic dosha, which yoga practice you do is also affected by the time of the year and the seasons. In fact it is not only your yoga practice that requires some modification with the season but also your diet and other ayurvedic routines to keep your health at optimal levels and to keep those doshas in balance.
In the summer months the temperature outside rises, which in turn increases fire element as there is more heat. Summer is commonly known for ailments and irritations such as skin rashes, heat stroke, sunburn, allergies, fevers etc.
Affect on pitta doshas
This increase in heat impacts our doshas and particularly pitta dosha due to the increase in the fire element. Summer and pitta qualities are similar so if you’re predominantly pitta dosha you have to be more aware of the changes that need to be applied during this time of year to make sure you don’t go out of balance.
Pitta people whose doshic energy is primarily fire, need to do a quieter and calmer practice during the summer so as not to further increase this element in their bodies. Otherwise they will increase pitta and could be prone to the disorders of pitta.
Dos and don’ts
What does this actually mean then? Strong vinyasa, ashtanga style yoga can aggravate pitta dosha even more in the summer but if it must be done there must be a lot of time for cooling down and can be complimented with the cooling pranayama practices to help with keeping balance in the practice and oneself.
Reduce the amount of Surya Namaskar, (Sun Salutations) you do and slow them down, doing them in time to the inhalation and exhalation and with full awareness of the body and the breath. This will help to limit the heating nature of the practice as sun salutations are one of the most heating and therefore pitta increasing within yoga.
Pitta people benefit from a grounding, surrendering practice especially during the summer. Gentle hatha type yoga focusing on mind, body and breath awareness, with slow movements and encompassing lots of seated, supine and prone postures allowing calmness into the body, mind and energetic fields is perfect for them.
Yin yoga or any restorative type of yoga is also good to practice during this season. The focus in these practices is on holding few postures for longer in a calm and quiet way, surrendering and observing rather than a strong dynamic flow or ashtanga practice.
Pitta reducing postures
The seat of pitta mainly resides in the abdomen, liver, skin and eyes so postures that focus on these areas help to eliminate pitta and as such are all cooling, surrendering and grounding. The following postures are all good for a summer practice for the reasons outlined above.
In many traditions of yoga we start with our standing postures and slowly move down into seated poses then prone and end the practice in a supine position, just think of Shavasana, (Corpse Pose).
In our standing postures the emphasis is on abdominal squeezing, so any twisting or forward bending postures are highly beneficial, this is also true when you are in any position, i.e. seated etc.
Revolving Trikonasana (Triangle)
Padangusthasana, (Big Toe Pose)
Prasarita Padottanasana, (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Seated positions in yoga are all excellent as they are grounding and surrendering. They help to calm and quieten the mind as well as reduce the ego, which is very good for pitta types who can be prone to domineering and bossy behaviour.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) pose
Baddha Konasana, (Bound Angle Pose)
Balasana, (Child’s Pose)
Eye exercises such as palming, which involves rubbing your palms together while seated in any comfortable posture and then placing your palms on your eyes is good for reducing pitta from the eyes.
Blinking with awareness involving rapid blinking also is good.
Lying on our front in a prone position we are already putting pressure on the abdomen, and those positions that are forward bending are more beneficial again.
Danurasana, (Bow Pose) Eka Pada Raja
Kapotasana, (Sleeping Pigeon Pose)
We end our practice with lying on our back positions as our final asana is always Shavasana, (Corpse Pose).
Pawanmuktasana, (Wind-Relieving Pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, (Bridge Pose)
Natrajasana, (Lying down twist pose)
Sitali and Sitkari, (The Cooling Breath) are two pranayama practices that are particularly good in the summer as they are said to calm the nervous system and cool the body.
Sitali pranayama is performed by rolling the outsides of the tongue together to form a straw like appearance. You then inhale through the tongue and mouth, close the mouth and exhale through the nose.
Sitkari breath is done by closing your teeth together, opening your mouth and inhaling through your teeth then closing the mouth and exhaling through the nose. You can practice this if you can’t roll your tongue.
Brahamari is another pranayama that will help. This is done by first closing the eyes, then inhaling deeply through the nose blocking the ears with your fingers, keeping your arms out to the side and above so the chest is open and exhaling slowly whilst making a humming bee type sound.
Chandra Pranayama or Left Nostril breathing is also very cooling, here you just close of the right nostril. Nadi Shodan, (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is also good.
Trataka or concentration meditation on an aquamarine crystal or other cooling crystal and not on a candle flame as it is usually done is very good for reducing pitta as there is focus for the eyes which is a seat of pitta and meditation is calming and quietening. With the addition of the aquamarine crystal it also becomes a cooling practice.
In addition to yoga we should also look at our food and general routines at this time of year to help pacify pitta.
Foods that are hot, sour, pungent and oily all increase pitta so to keep pitta in check it’s best to eliminate chilli and hot foods, including spicy, oily, pungent and sour foods. Save those curries you love for the winter and minimise your yoghurt intake as well as sour cream. Instead swap spicy, oily curries for light, cooling foods such as salads, coconut, cucumber and mint.
Rice, pasta and bread are all pitta pacifying as well as milk, butter and ghee, though these are best organic and in their raw / original forms.
Fruits such as melons, mangoes, pears and grapes are also good and many vegetables including broccoli, courgettes and asparagus are all cooling.
Other tips related to your normal routine includes massaging with coconut oil every morning and evening, making sure that you bring the coconut oil down to the soles of your feet especially at night to draw the heat away.
Swap hot baths for cool showers, avoid saunas and steam rooms and cardio workouts outside on hot summer days.
The best thing is to be aware of how you feel before, during and after any activity, meal or routine. If you feel yourself becoming irritable and impatient then you know you have done something to aggravate pitta dosha.
If you feel calm and relaxed then you are on track for having a happy, healthy and wealthy day, health is wealth after all. J Until next time, have a safe and happy summer.