The days are heating up, the sun shining down, and the heavy blanket of a plentiful, kapha spring has burned off. Summer – the season of pitta – is here with its hot, sharp, intense qualities. The sun warms everything we can see, making it golden and glorious. We can feel the shift in our bodies and minds too; a warmth emanating from the inside out, often accompanied by a passion, focus, and determination to make these glorious, juicy days count.
Summer is the season of the year when we finally get to see, and enjoy, the fruits of our mindfulness and vigilance. The seeds of vitality sown in fall, protected through the winter, and coddled through spring are ready to burst forth, to bear fruit; whether we’re adventuring hard, watching our projects come to fruition or focused on making every single moment of this magical season as memorable as possible, this is the time of year we’ve been saving our energy for. This is why we must try to continue to keep our balance (which isn’t easy when the heat keeps turning up!)
While it’s easy to ride the rollercoaster of enthusiasm through this season, staying fixated on our goals and provocations, it’s important that we adopt a softness and playfulness to keep our balance and pay close attention to the foods we choose, ways we move, and attitude with which we approach this season of the bounty will make all the difference. If we want to summer to the best of our ability, this is the season to pay attention to pitta.
Pitta is comprised of the earth’s elements water and fire, the dosha that rules the summer season outside of the body, and digestion, metabolism, and energy production inside the body. If we want to know what pitta looks like, we can take a peek out the window on a typical summer day and see the intense sun beating down, and waves of heat rising from the earth; pitta is hot, light, intense, and penetrating. Just as we can feel the heat permeating our clothes, breaking our sweat, and melting us from the inside out on the worst days, pitta is a tremendous threat to athletes and active folx. Athletes are often pitta in constitution, with goals and full plates our lives are often already full of the kind of hot, focused, driven intensity that pitta brings. This means that the summer can be a particularly intense time in our year. All of the movement, goal-orienting and achieving threatens to over-heat our systems, so this is an important time of year to carefully watch our balance.
Pitta dosha is…
Those dominant in pitta dosha are typically strong and steady, and athletic. They love a goal, and the to-do lists required to obtain it, and enjoy control, management and “doing” in general. They love to watch and feel the transformation happening in their bodies and minds, and they are often comfortable with change and fast-paced endeavors (especially where there’s an accomplishment to check off the list or an adventure to have.) They tend to have exceptional digestion, which leads them to believe they can eat anything, but they’re also highly prone to over-doing it when it comes to to-do lists, achievements and active pursuits, all of which threaten to extinguish the digestive, metabolic, and vital fire.
When in balance, Pittas have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, and a strong appetite. When out of balance, Pittas may suffer from skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion. And because pitta governs the summer season, we can use this analogy and apply it to “how to summer.” A summer in balance is one where focus is bolstered with playfulness and flexibility, where the heat is offset by coolness and refreshment, and the fire of excitement and adventure is held in check by downtime for connection, grounding and observation.
Out of balance, excess pitta looks like:
As athletes and high-achievers, we typically have plenty of pitta in our constitutions which is to say that the summer season is the one that threatens to throw us most off balance. The warm weather, invitation to play and move in it, and the time of year that welcomes all of our physical and sporting goals to come to fruition is one where we tend to put too much on our plates, focus too much on “doing,” and end up over-cooking ourselves.
How do we know if we’re running it too hot? If we find it difficult to “cool it down,” if we find ourselves unable to take rest, or find ourselves particularly angry, upset or “firey,” especially for small reasons. Our bodies give us queues as well; incomplete digestion, loose stools and upset or bloated bellies let us know that we aren’t giving enough fuel to our fire, or we’re simply burning too much. And, if we allow these conditions to persist, we start to sacrifice not only how well we digest our nourishment and how easily we recover from our activities, but we also fail to absorb all that there is to enjoy from our meals and our adventures. When we burn it too hot, we fail to absorb all that’s worthwhile from our lives. And so, it’s important for us to embrace the juiciness of this season with foods, movement choices, a mindful approach to our activities, and a playful attitude about our intentions.
As with anything, the best way to balance pitta is with opposites. Since pitta dosha is hot, light, penetrating, pungent, sharp and acidic anything (and everything!) that is cool, grounding, soft, and playful will help us to balance out the excess pitta in our days and balance pitta in our bodies. Think nutrient-dense seasonal meals, soothing sweet flavors, uplifting and joyful activities, slower meditative movements, and embracing the playful, engaging and dynamic nature of this season.
Because pitta is focused and intense, spontaneity can also help to off-gas pitta Because pitta is pungent and sharp anything that is easy-going with the flow – in body and mind – also helps pitta to balance. Listening to chill, uplifting beats, spending quiet time in nature, and taking deliberate breaks from screens and digital inputs to breathe, especially in the cool mornings and evenings of this season, will help diffuse the heat of pitta.
For athletes and highly active people, these practices are all the more important. You’ll be eager to use all of the back-stocked superpowers your cultivated and stored in the winter and spring to burst onto the scene strong, fast and with intention, but don’t forget to rest just as hard as you play!
Doing it right: get after your activities and goals with intention, focus and drive. When the session, race, or objective is done be sure to put your feet up, cool down, and be sure to rest completely before you hit it hard again. Dunks in the creek, cool treats, taking deep breaths in nature, icing down muscles, enjoying ice cream, and writing down constructive thoughts about your performance, competition and next goals are helpful tools to keep your mind cool, and calm will balance your pitta!
Inviting imbalance: getting cooked with sunburn, overtraining, drinking ice-cold beverages or coffee many times each day, continuing to eat heavy foods, overeating raw vegetables or skipping meals, and under-fueling.
By supporting our bodies with a diet that focuses on light, nutritive, grounding foods we can help our natural biological processes of tapping into our energy reserves meant for the summer season, all while keeping excess pitta at bay.
General foods that help to balance pitta:
Seasonal swap examples:
Movement during the summer isn’t a hard sell for athletes and high-achievers – we’ve been waiting MONTHS to be able to express our strength and prowess like this! But, it’s important that we continue to rest just as hard as we work during this season. The biggest key to making sure our accomplishments don’t debilitate us when fall arrives is cooling off after we turn it up, and making sure that we keep our minds cool, calm and collected when we’re focused. Be sure to embrace the spontaneous trip to the creek to dip, a swim in the pool, or an afternoon in the shade. Aim to have your biggest workouts done by the time the sun is at it’s highest, and take advantage of your high digestion by eating your biggest meal for lunch. Summer is the time to get back into the routine of a proper cool-down for body and mind – luxuriate in this space and you’ll thrive!
As the weather heats up we get the signal – both internally and externally – to start bearing the fruits of our labor! We’ve been training, strengthening and stock-piling all winter and spring and this is our moment! Use your abundant energy to get out there, adventure and enjoy this glorious time of year, but don’t forget to rest as hard as you play, and balance all of the heat of the season (and of your focus on enjoying it) with chill time for the body, mind and spirit.