Living in balance with seasons – SUMMER

Long days of bright sunlight; trees, vegetables and herbs are in abundance; sun casts its dazzling glow across plains, green hills and the sea surface; from dawn to dusk fragrant scents bath our nostrils, birds sing their favorite songs, streets buzz with cheerful talks and laughs, children play outdoor; nights are enjoyed on terraces. It is summer time!

According to the Vedic calendar, summer or Grīṣhma takes place from mid to late-May through mid to late-July. It’s the time of the year when gifts of nature are celebrated after abundant harvest and in many cultures, solar deities are venerated. It’s the season of celebrations, vacations, travelling and outdoor gatherings. Naturally, we sense fullness, fulfillment, happiness and leisure.

Summer has dry, hot, sharp, penetrating, mobile, active qualities, so it is also known as the season of fire. With predominant elements of fire and air, the summer is similar to the Pitta and Vata doshas in its nature. When we are in balance, transition from spring to summer season goes with ease and joyful expectation of summer offerings. Naturally we experience the energy rush to celebrate the abundance and richness of summer. However, when out of balance, and especially if Pitta is not well cared during previous seasons, we feel lethargic, lifeless and exhausted from the summer heats.

Common Pitta conditions will be aggravated during the hot weather. One might experience: skin rashes, weak digestion, fevers, bile accumulation, sunstroke, irritability, sunburn, hot flashes, exhaustion, acne and diarrhea. Psychologically, people may be prone to fiery emotions, short-tempered, with bursts of anger and hate.

The summer season is hot, sharp, humid, light and bright, so, cooling reprieve is a must! Enjoy cooling activities to lessen the heat. As water is the best cooling medium, take pleasure in rejuvenating baths, swimming, wading and just spending time close to water. Also the moon has an amazing cooling effect on the body and mind, so enjoy night walks, moon baths and if possible try sleeping under the stars. Surround yourself with fragrant natural scents of fresh flowers and essential oils such as jasmine and rose. Wear light, natural fibers and comfortable clothing with cool colors such as white, beige, blue and green. Protect your head and avoid skin exposure to the bright sun as much possible. Enjoy relaxed conversations and avoid debates, argues and negative talks.

Keep your daily rituals to cool your body and mind. Start your day as early as possible, preferably before sunrise to do any necessary physical work. This is also a good time to cook your daily meal. No, I’m not kidding! ☺ Limit your exercise to gentle stretching in the early morning. Taking a mid-day nap is beneficial during hot summer days. Indulge in daily baths with cold water for rejuvenating the body, mind and spirit.

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Foods to favor during summer months should be cooling in nature, light, fresh, moist, and fragrant. It should be seasonal and whenever possible coming from the same environment you live in. To avoid overloading your digestive fire enjoy small meals, fresh salads for lunch and watery lightly cooked meals for dinner, yeast free breads, light grains (couscous, bulgur, quinoa, amaranth, long grain, basmati and Arborio rice, whole grain pasta), bean dishes, sprouts and microgreens. Summer is abundant in refreshing, sweet and watery fruits such as figs, grapes, mangoes, melons, peaches, pomegranates. Make them as an everyday snack in between meals, and even substitute one cooked meal with a rich plate of fresh fruits if you like. Steam or lightly cook seasonal vegetables. Do not overeat, respecting the rule of thumb that your stomach should be filled two parts with food, one part with liquid and the last part should be left empty to allow proper digestion. Avoid very spicy, fried and greasy food. Reduce sour, salty and pungent tastes. Favor cool, but never ice cold, food and drink. Make preferences with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.

Food to enjoy:

Food to limit or avoid:

  • Favor sweet foods (grains, sweet potatoes, coconut, dates, fruits), bitter (salads, spinach, dandelion, rucola, aloe vera) and astringent (asparagus, beans, pomegranate)
  • Sweet fruits: apples, apricots, avocado, cherries, coconut, dates (fresh), grapes, mangoes, melons, pineapples, plums, pomegranate, prunes, watermelon
  • Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, coriander leaves, cucumber, green beans,kale, kohlrabi, okra, radishes (cooked), snow peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, sweet peppers, swiss chard, zucchini, watercress
  • Legumes: brown and red lentils, mung beans, peas, tofu and soy products
  • Since summer has a drying effect that you might experience on your skin after sun exposure, take enough good quality easily digestible fat – cold pressed coconut, sunflower and olive oil, ghee
  • Cooling drinks (never ice cold) –  water, lassi, herbal teas: mint, fennel, rose tea, infused water, coconut water
  • Use cooling spices: anise, cardamom, cumin, coriander, basil, dill, fennel, parsley, saffron, turmeric,
  • Hot, heavy, stale, oily, and dry foods; heavy meals
  • Pungent or excessively spiced meals, sour and salty food
  • Complex food combinations
  • Bitter, salty, astringent, pungent, sour, hot and causing burning pain
  • Caffeinated beverages, carbonated drinks, sour juices (sour cherry, cranberry, grapefruit juice), alcohol, refined sugar and processed food
  • Heating spices such as black pepper,cayenne pepper,  heavy use of garlic and onion, chilli, horseradish, mustard
  • Nightshades (this is a hard one, I know!)  including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers since they may cause inflammation in the body and aggravate Pitta
  • Fermented foods
  • Heavy animal protein
  • Honey and molasses since they are heating in nature

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When in balance, your body can experience the summer season in all its glory of abundance, joy and leisure. Listen to your body as it gets tuned with this vibrant time of the year. Enjoy the sun, the moon and nature with its bright colors and fragrant scents. Fill your body cells with summer energy so it keeps you warm and nourished for colder seasons to come.

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