Ayurveda is the 5,000+ year old science of life. It is a sister science to Yoga and informs us of our deep connection to the natural world. Where Yoga was developed to care for the spiritual body, Ayurveda cares for the physical body. This may seem odd to us in the west, as Yoga has become mainly a physical practice, however, traditionally yoga was much less about the postures and much more about the deep level of self-awareness, self-study and inner peace that arise from contemplative practice.
Grounded in the belief that all things are composed of the five elements, Ayurveda helps us navigate our lives with more balance, alignment and ease. Air, fire, water, earth and space make up all things in the known universe. These five elements create the three Doshas or bodily humors. Pitta - fire and water, Vata - air and space, and Kapha - earth and water.
If you think about a glass of water you can see this in action. The glass, which was once sand, contains both earth and fire. The water and the air fill it up and yet there is space. Within our own bodies and minds we find this same composition of these elements in varying amounts. One person may have more fire and another more air. You can imagine what this would look like. The same can be said for the seasons and even the times of day.
As we move into the hottest days of summer, the fire element is at its’ peak. Pitta Dosha controls digestion, metabolism and energy production. The primary function of Pitta is transformation. When pitta is out of balance it can create inflammation, anger or irritability, it can increase judgment or a critical nature, and feed impatience and intolerance. For example, if you are a runner and drink 3 glasses of red wine with a dinner of spicy Thai food, you may notice the next day you are hyper critical, judgmental, irritable and / or in pain. If so, this is pitta Dosha out of balance. Dosha is a Sanskrit word that literally translates to dysfunction or disease.
In Ayurvedic theory, like increases like. If you think in those terms, that will help you understand what foods and activities will increase the fire within or help to soothe it.
The following are Five Simple Ways to Calm Pitta Dosha:
Avoid foods and activities that fan the fire. Alcohol, caffeine, warming/ spicy foods, red meat, nicotine, competitive activities, and anything that is energetically or physically warming.
Eat more cooling foods such as fennel, coriander, mint, cucumber, fresh fruit, salads and beans. If you like to drink, switch to an occasional glass of white wine or beer. If you’re a coffee drinker, consider replacing with tea.
Enjoy cooling activities such as swimming, yin or restorative yoga, meditation, biking. If exercising outside, do it during the cooler parts of the day.
Perform daily self-massage or Abhyanga. Use cooling oils such as coconut or sunflower to massage your whole body every morning moving from the extremities towards your heart. With long strokes on the limbs and circular motions on the joints, this self-massage promotes lymphatic flow, skin health, muscle tone and cools pitta dosha.
Invite sweetness in through the senses - smells, scenes, music, food, company. Enjoy surrender rather than control. Cultivate mindfulness and presence in your breath, in your daily activities and in your moment to moment existence.
From our own physical/ psycho-emotional constitutions to the seasons, Ayurvedic knowledge weaves a beautiful web of understanding that allows us to live a more full and vital life.
If you’d like more information on Ayurveda you can find it here: http://jeanettesealy.com/ayurveda.