I always look forward to summer with great anticipation. Unfortunately, conditions like heat exhaustion, sunstroke, dehydration, rashes, nosebleeds, and burning sensation in urine can manifest in the summer.
By good fortune, I was born into a traditional Ayurvedic family in India, which taught me how to counteract the blazing summers in India with practices that I still follow today and now teach to others.
With Ayurveda’s help, I do not need to react with discomfort to the escalating heat and dryness of summer.
Instead, I respond to it proactively by being prepared with diet and lifestyle modifications to meet the raging summer heat head on.
What Happens To Our Bodily Energies During The Summer?
According to Ayurveda, we are each born with a particular prakriti, or physiological constitution, which consists in varying proportions of the three doshas: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. When one or more of these doshas go out of balance, our health and wellbeing begin to diminish, and disease can follow. The traditions of Ayurveda work to bring our bodies back into balance.
If you are unfamiliar with the technical concept of doshas in Ayurveda, look at it this way: in the summer, the sun's rays become more potent with each day and pull moisture from everything.
Invariably, the earth’s soil, vegetation, animals, and our bodies, too, come under the spell of the sun. We gradually become heated up (a Pitta increase), dried out, depleted, and easily exhausted (a Vata increase), ultimately losing precious moisture and strength (a Kapha decrease).
What Can We Do To Offset Health Challenges?
Ayurveda advises following a summer regimen (called Grishma ritucharya in Sanskrit), which includes recommendations for external protection, inner replenishment, rejuvenation, and restoration through specific dietary and lifestyle choices.
An Ayurvedic Summer Diet
During the summer, Ayurveda suggests increasing your intake of moist, sweet, cooling, and slightly fatty and fragrant foods, such as rice cooked with ghee, milk, sugar, and fragrant spices like cardamom. All food should be allowed to cool down before consuming.
Below are specific summer food suggestions, recommended for their intrinsic moist, slightly oily, and sweet, Kapha-enhancing qualities, as well as their ability to reduce Pitta and Vata:
Grains: Stick with wheat, oats, rice, and fresh sweet corn.
Lentils: Green and yellow mung are the easiest to digest of all the lentils; perfect for this time when our digestive fires have naturally cooled down.
Dairy: Ghee, cow milk, sweet butter, and yogurt lassi with sugar are helpful for increasing Kapha during summer. Ghee is especially important as it is essential in helping to counteract the harsh effects of summer sun and wind on the body.
Fruits: Enjoy sweet summer fruits, such as mangoes, pomegranates, dates, coconuts, nectarines, plums, raisins, limes, honeydew, and cantaloupe. Do not eat fruits if they are sour or unripe.
Vegetables: Cooling and mild summer vegetables like cucumbers, beets, carrots, summer squash, opo squash, green beans, white onions, mint, okra, snake gourd, yam, wax gourd, cauliflower should be consumed.
Meat: Some fish, such as rohu (grass carp), is okay. Or enjoy minimally-spiced soup of chicken or goat meat.
Cooling spices: Be sure to include these cooling spices: cumin, fennel, coriander (seeds, leaves, or powder), mint, cardamom, and turmeric. Use rock salt (Sendha namak) only.
Foods To Minimize During Summer
Ayurveda says to avoid dry, heavy, greasy, overly-spiced meals, like barbecue chips or typical Indian restaurant fare, such as Butter Chicken.
Ayurveda also recommends staying away from the following food and drink because of their tendency to increase Vata and Pitta:
Natural drinks, such as fruit juices and coconut water, are best for summer. Avoid aerated drinks and wine.
For over-heated bodies, especially those showing signs of heartburn and heat exhaustion, Ayurveda recommends a coriander moon water recipe, as follows:
Coriander Moon Water Recipe
Soak 2 tablespoons of semi-crushed coriander seed in one gallon of water.
Expose all night to the moon. Leave it outside or put it near a window.
Drink this water throughout the next day.
The cooling effects of the coriander and the moon will be imparted to the water.
An Ayurvedic Summer Lifestyle
Massage With Cooling Oils
Ayurveda recommends massaging the body daily with sesame or coconut oil to lubricate and replenish dry skin. You can also lightly cook petals of a lotus, rose, marigold, or water lily in coconut oil for the additional cooling benefit.
Take A Small Nap If Possible
In no other season is a nap recommended, but daytime sleep helps to replenish lost moisture and bodily strength in the summer. Ayurveda suggests napping in a semi-reclined position or lying down on the left side. Wait at least an hour after eating and nap no more than 30 minutes.
Sleep Under The Night Sky
Take advantage of the cooling effect of the moon during the summer. Ayurveda suggests sleeping in the open (if possible), perhaps even bare-skinned, or minimally clothed with light cotton garments to absorb the moon’s cooling rays.
While exercising is great, in the summer, you need to back off a bit, as any kind of motion generates heat and air, which can exacerbate Pitta and Vata. Avoid heavy-duty exertion or activities, such as biking under an open mid-day sun. Yoga asana practice that incorporates cooling, relaxing poses and pranayama (breathing exercises) such as Sheetali and Bhramari, which cool the body and mind, are best.
Sex should also be moderated this season. Perhaps every other week, and especially not immediately after a meal. The goal is to conserve natural body fluids and avoid over-heating.
Make It A Self-Love Ritual
Ayurveda’s self-care wisdom becomes a potent way to love ourselves and to step into a more conscious relationship with nature. By following Ayurveda’s recommendations, we begin to flow more and fight less with the changing seasons, the heat, and the fiery summer sun.
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.