Is this line ringing true for you? Summertime does invite us to relax and let loose. Whether it’s the longer days, the balmy weather or the abundance of outdoor art festivals, at this time of year it is natural to feel the pull towards nature, beach fun, biking, concerts in the park. Much to love about the summer for sure. And then there’s the heat and humidity. Which I personally love but not everyone feels that way.
If you don’t handle high heat very well, you may find that during the summer months, it builds up within you and causes what Ayurveda calls a “pitta aggravation”. Pitta is the energy of fire. It is hot, sharp and intense. Those are the qualities you’ll be running into a lot until September.
While you might be familiar with symptoms of excess heat such as profuse sweating, skin inflammation or a throbbing migraine, you may not have realized that intense heat can also affect your mental disposition, causing you to feel a little snappy, and many variations of it.
Have you been feeling (more than usual)
• So passionate about something/someone that it’s bordering on obsession?
Then you’ve got a situation. Specifically, a situation of excess pitta/fire in the mind.
Of course it’s not just the hot weather that causes someone to feel that way. Those of us with a good amount of fire in our essential constitution will be more susceptible to developing a pitta imbalance, but even more so during the summer time, aka pitta season.
What can you do then to mitigate the potentially negative effects of the summer heat on your internal state of being? Well, you can eat lots of watermelon (and other juicy, cooling fruits), spray yourself with rose water throughout the day and dip your feet in cold water now and then. Those are good recommendations to be sure, plus they are enjoyable to follow. So, by all means, do. Yet they may not address mental heat so much as physical heat. And today I want to focus on excess heat, as expressed in our mental/emotional state. In my experience, this kind of heat imbalance arises overtime, because we live our life a little too intensely.
Think about it, as you do what you do, at work, in relationships, to keep in shape, do you often find yourself:
• Obsessing ?
Do you have a tendency to muscle your way trough life? Stubbornly persisting in getting your way? Aim for perfection? Be overly disciplined?
If so I invite you to pause, now, and take a few long cooling breaths.
Inhale through your nose on a count of 3, purse your lips and gently exhale through your mouth on a count of 6, conscious of releasing pent up internal heat/stress/tension. Repeat 3 times.
Better? Ok, more on how to keep the peace below.
• Exercise. Exercise is a wonderful way to release pent up anger and process “hot” emotions. Just don’t overdo it, otherwise it will be counter-productive. Also avoid competitive sports, a quintessential pitta aggravating practice.
• Yoga postures. In practicing yoga postures your intention should be to lighten up and enjoy the process, step-by-step. As you move through the various shapes, keep coming back to how they feel, forget about aligning yourself “perfectly”. Get out of your head and let your body tell you if it feels good or not. Styles that are physically demanding or practiced in a hot room are to be avoided, at least while the weather is hot. The precision of alignment-based yoga while deeply satisfying to the detail-oriented pitta mind, can also create a rigid attitude. Use with caution. A yin, restorative and heart-centered approach will challenge an over-heated mind in a good way, encouraging slowing down and surrender.
• Breathing techniques. I recommend a daily 5-10mn practice of alternate nostril breathing. It is an excellent technique to bring clarity to one’s perception when veiled by anger, upset or passion. You can also “let off some steam” with long mouth exhalations.
• Be sure to take time to relax daily (in addition to your sleep). A 10-15 minute siesta in the middle of the day should do wonders to keep your body temperature comfortable. (see my piece on napping as a practice, in the Huffington Post here)
• Meditate. Meditation will help you develop healthy detachment and the ability to let things and people be as they are, allowing for what you desire to come to you with ease, instead of going after it forcefully.
• Nature. Walk in the shaded woods, bathe in a lake, walk barefoot in the morning dew. Nature is the best anti-inflammatory prescription ever!
• Last but not least keep a sense of humor about everything, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself !
If you’d like to transition from pushing and striving to easing and flowing, next week’s event might be of interest to you. I’ll be joined by Aromatherapist Valerie Bennis and Feldenkrais Method teacher Sharon Oliensis. We’ll discuss how to move with greater ease, release muscle tension at will, and how to handle anxiety naturally. It’s happening Thursday July 24th from 7-9PM. Get your ticket here ($15 in advance, $20 at the door.)
Hope to see you there.
In the meantime, keep cool and carry on 🙂
(p.s. Ready to fine-tune your yoga practice, move beyond postures, delve deeper into meditation or learn how to relax, then you may be ready for private instruction. Email me at email@example.com for details, availabilities and rates.)