Seasonal Wellness Guide: Summer

It’s HOT outside! I’m more of an autumn and winter girl myself, if I’m honest, so my attitude towards summer is tepid at best…although, it is nice when the sun goes down and you find yourself parked in front of a crackling bonfire.

Just like the rest of the seasons, summer has its own distinct personality, coming in with light, heat, intensity, action, and a whole lotta fire. I find that it’s quite divided – you either love it, or you hate it. Lucky for you, no matter where you stand on the opinion spectrum, I have a guide on how to navigate this season with ease while supporting your body.

Seasonal routines are incredibly important for our health, and many of us have fallen away from these routines because we are no longer connected to what is going on outside of our homes or workspaces. We can feel a lot better and more balanced if we watch Mother Nature and mimic her seasonal routines. It takes a very, very long time for our physical bodies to evolve. We may be living in a technological era advancing at breakneck speed…but our bodies are not evolving as quickly as this. No, we are still physically much closer to our ancestors of the last 1-2,000 years. In order to take care of our bodies in the way that they’re still used to, we need to be connected to the outside world and aware of our routines.

Information adapted and expanded upon from Banyan Botanicals, a great source for Ayurvedic products. I am not affiliated with them in any way – I just really enjoy their products and the information they have.

The primary focus through the summer months will be to balance the heat & dryness with plenty of coolness, hydration, and mellow activity. Summer is known as a very active season, and we’re looking for balance, so you don’t want to do anything too intense – light activity and lounging around are encouraged!

Summer (Pitta) Imbalance Signs & Symptoms:

Mind

  • Frequent episodes of irritability, frustration, and anger or experiencing increased judgment, criticism, and jealousy.
  • A tendency towards perfectionism or a general feeling of dissatisfaction or malcontent.
  • If left unchecked, the increased fire (pitta) energy will often lead to severe anger, rage, hostility, intense jealousy, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and even depression.

Digestion

  • Intense hunger, excessive thirst, or a sense that you can’t get enough nourishment.
  • Significant nausea, vomiting, hiccups, acid reflux, heartburn, loose stools, diarrhea, low blood sugar, and sensitivity to spicy or fried foods.
  • A yellowish coating on the tongue with a bitter taste.
  • Long-standing accumulation of fire energy in the digestive system can cause severe acid indigestion or heartburn, fatty diarrhea, blood in the stool, inflammation of the stomach or esophagus, appendicitis, or peptic ulcers.

Circulatory System, Nails, Scalp, and Hair

  • Excessive fire energy can cause the skin to appear red or yellowish in color, or it may be hot to the touch.
  • Hives, rashes, acne, psoriasis, or dermatitis.
  • Excessive heat in the blood can cause fever, hot flashes, burning or itching sensations, bleeding tendencies, hematomas, and hemorrhoids.
  • The skin may burn or bruise more easily and increase sun sensitivity.
  • The tongue may appear red or inflamed and there may be bleeding gums, canker sores, or mouth ulcers.
  • Excessive sweating, acidic perspiration, and strong, fleshy-smelling body odor are other common manifestations of imbalance.
  • Signs of more severe disturbances in these areas include visible capillary networks, severe bleeding disorders, hemorrhage, jaundice, hepatitis, abscess, gangrene, melanoma, lupus, gout, mononucleosis, blood clots, strokes, and myeloid leukemia.

Elsewhere in the Body

  • Burning, red, or bloodshot eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and a yellowish tinge in the whites of the eyes are all signs of excess pitta, as are tendonitis, bursitis, muscle fatigue, intermittent high blood pressure, mild headaches, and hair loss.
  • Aggravated pitta can also cause dizziness, insomnia, herpes flare-ups, shingles, yellow urine, heat, and tenderness in the breasts, nipples, or testicles, prostatitis, premenstrual irritability, and heavy or painful menstrual bleeding.
  • Long-standing pitta disturbance can lead to poor vision or blindness, chronic hypertension, fibromyalgia, gout, inflammatory arthritis, bladder and kidney infections, hyperthyroidism, adrenal exhaustion, migraines, fainting, meningitis, encephalitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and multiple sclerosis.
  • In men, high pitta can cause inflammation of the epididymis, inflammation of the penis, and burning pain during ejaculation. In women, excess pitta can inflame the endometrium and other reproductive tissues.

So, if you are experiencing any of these imbalances as we come fully into Summer, let’s talk about how to balance and navigate this intense season with some form of grace.

Summer Season Diet

During the summer, our bodies naturally ask us for lighter foods and small meals that are easy to digest because our digestive fire —a strong source of internal heat—tones itself down a bit in order to help keep us cool. Being fully present with our meals when we sit down at the table (meaning no phones or television) while really savoring the flavors and textures of our food will help minimize the risk of overeating, which can be common during this season.

Summer is the best time to favor the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and to relish cool liquids and slightly oily foods. This is also the best time of year to enjoy fresh fruits and salads as well as sweet dairy products such as milk, butter, ghee, cottage cheese, fresh homemade yogurt, and ice cream (true story – I never crave ice cream unless we’re in the thick of summer.)

Fruits to Favor:

  • Apples, avocados, berries, cherries, coconut, cranberries, grapes, lemons, limes, mangoes, pears, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, and prunes

Vegetables to Favor:

  • Artichokes, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, cucumbers, green beans, kale, lettuce, okra, potatoes, watercress, and zucchini.

Grains to Favor:

  • Barley, basmati rice, and wheat.

Legumes to Favor:

  • Adzuki beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, mung beans, soy beans & soy products, and split peas.

Oils to Favor:

  • Coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil.

Spices and Garnishes to Favor:

  • Basil, cardamom, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, lime, mint, and parsley.

Animal Products to Favor (if they’re in your diet):

  • Fish (freshwater), poultry (white), and shrimp.

Sweeteners to Favor:

  • Maple syrup and unrefined cane sugar.

Summer Season Lifestyle Choices

The sun is coming up quite early nowadays, making it much easier to rise with the dawn. My best advice is to embrace it – the early morning is the best time for exercise in the summer because it’s significantly cooler. It’s a natural and beneficial rhythm – here are some more tips to vibe with summer:

  • Before bathing, consider massaging your skin with a light coating of pitta-soothing oil like coconut or sunflower to calm the nervous system and cool the body.
  • The best essential oils to use in the summer are light, cool, and floral – think jasmine, rose, sandalwood and the like, as they have a calm, cooling, refreshing effect on the mind.
  • Dress in light, breathable clothing made of cotton or silk and play with some color therapy – whites, greys, blues, purples, and greens will help you counter the intense heat of the yellows and reds that summer naturally brings.
  • Obviously, this is the best time to spend outdoors due to the stable, warm weather, but when you do go out make sure that you protect your skin by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Take frequent breaks on hikes or while doing outdoor tasks, and don’t push yourself – we don’t want to be super intense right now.
  • On especially hot days, there is often a lull in energy come the afternoon, so if you’re feeling tired – take a nap! It’s actually beneficial if you keep it under 30 minutes.
  • In the evenings before bed, wash and dry your feet and massage them with a light essential oil to ground your energy and draw the heat down.
  • It’s best to try and be in bed by 10 or 11 PM to avoid an overly stimulated mind. Keep your bedroom dark and cool with some air flow – have your windows open or a fan on.
  • Also, keep in mind that sexual activity on its own creates heat, so if you’re feeling overheated, consider moderating this aspect.

Summer Season Exercise

Summer can motivate you to improve your physical fitness routine, and it is generally a great season to be active, provided you exercise at appropriate times and at an appropriate intensity.

Exercise is very heating and, at this time of year, is best avoided during the heat of the day, especially from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Instead, try exercising early in the morning, when the atmosphere is crisp and cool.

It’s also important not to push too hard. Ideally, exercise at about 50–70 percent of your capacity, breathing through your nose the entire time, if you can.

Follow your workout with a drop of cooling oil to the forehead, throat, and belly button to help the body cool down

Summer Season Yoga

So, I probably don’t need to drive it home any more than I already have. IT’S HOT OUT. DO THE OPPOSITE OF HOT.

You don’t have to stop going to your favorite hot yoga class – just make it less intense, regardless of what your teacher is cuing (I’m a 500-HR certified yoga teacher – we’re just guides for you. It’s YOUR practice, so do what feels best for you! I promise that a yoga teacher who really gets it will never be offended if you spend more than a couple minutes in child’s pose or if you modify all of the poses to be easier)

Check in with yourself frequently during your practice to make sure you aren’t pushing too hard. Don’t be afraid to sit back and take a few sips of water throughout the practice. Remember – 50 to 70% of your usual effort should go into your workouts and yoga practice in the summer. Focus on creating a sense of groundedness and flow rather than staying static in your poses.

The central heat core of our bodies is located in our solar plexus, in the belly right above the belly button. In the summer, favor poses that move energy through this center to dispel any built-up heat, like:

  • Cat & cow
  • Cobra
  • Plank
  • Boat
  • Abdominal twists (Half Lord of the Fishes, Marichi’s Pose, Revolved Side Angle, Revolved Head to Knee, Revolved Triangle, Bharadvaja’s Twist, Noose Pose)
  • Side-openers (Side Plank, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Gate Pose)

While in your flow, add in some cooling poses as you go, such as Child’s Pose, Forward Folds, and Moon Salutations, which are really fun to learn especially if you’ve only ever known Sun Salutations.

And…that’s all I’ve got, really. Some are summer people, and others definitely aren’t. If you love this season, then go out there and love it (but please protect your skin!) If you’re more like me and already dreaming about the crisp, cool air of autumn while the leaves change color…then grab your hat, your sunscreen, your cool drink, and park yourself under the shadiest tree with me. We’ll survive until spooky season. Maybe.

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