Summer Self Care with Ayurveda: Wisdom Teachings from my Vedic Lineage
In Sunny California, which is my home, we have become a little spoiled with expansive blue skies and a warm golden sun that sparkles and shines and adds a special radiance to our lives, year-round. And we especially look forward to summer with great anticipation.
In fact world over, we humans have developed an entire culture around summer; and its arrival is often greeted with great super sales of cooling cottons, designer beach gear, water sports, special juices and drinks to keep us cool and hydrated. Bottled water sales go up and sunglasses on our noses, where they will stay perched for several months!
Unfortunately, summer’s dry heat can also be trying on our system since the moisture in the environment reduces drastically, including from our body, causing loss of body fluids through sweating. We can also manifest conditions like sunstroke, dehydration, prickly heat rash, inflammatory skin disorders, bleeding from the nose, burning sensation of urine, muscle cramps and fatigue, etc.
Ayurveda wise, the fiery hot sun in summer activates Pitta Dosha. Increasing dryness (of the wind) begins to accumulate Vata. There is reduction in Kapha Dosha within the body and a reduction of Rasa Dhatu (fluid nutrition of all the body tissues), and the Bala (strength) of the body are also greatly diminished.
Hence, Ayurveda not only cautions external protection but also suggests inner replenishment, rejuvenation and restoration through a special protocol called Grishma Ritucharya.
Ayurveda’s Protocol for Summer – Grishma Ritucharya
In Ayurveda, the seasons and their impact on the human body have been studied carefully, and an elaborate scientific food and lifestyle protocol has been developed in response for each season under the topic of Ritucharya. This literally translates as seasonally specific recommended behavior to prevent the aggravation of doshas, ward off season specific discomfort and prevent potential disease.
The summer protocol, called Grishma Ritucharya advises specialized dietary food and lifestyle measures, such as counteracting the dry heat of summer with moist, sweet, cooling, liquid, and slightly fatty and fragrant foods; and adapting cooling lifestyle practices, such as Sheetali Pranayama, exposure to moonlight, etc.
Specially-Recommended Summer Foods
Ayurveda chooses summer foods based upon their intrinsic moisture, slightly oily, and sweet, Kapha and Rasa-enhancing qualities:
Cereals - Wheat, Oats, Rice, Sweet Corn. Lentils - Mung Lentil (Green and Yellow). Dairy - Ghee (Clarified Butter), Milk (Cow or Buffalo), Sweet Butter, Yogurt Lassi with added sugar, Piyusha (cow’s colostrum), Shreekhand (sweetened hung yogurt). Fruits - Mango, Pomegranate, Dates, Coconut (also drink coconut water to stay hydrated), Nectarine, Plums, Raisins, Honey Dew, Cantaloupe. Keep in mind that all fruits consumed in summer should be ripe and sweet. Discard if they are sour or unripe. Vegetables - Limes (versus lemons in Lemonade), Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash, Opo Squash, Green beans, White Onions (versus red), Mint, Coriander leaves, Okra, Snake gourd, Yam, Wax Gourd, Cauliflower. Non-Vegetarian - Keep at a minimum. Some fish such as Grass Carp (Rohu) is okay. Or enjoy very lightly or minimally spiced soup of chicken or goat meat (relatively clear / light soup). Special products - Amalaki juice (Indian gooseberry), Amalaki Murabba – sugar syrup-soaked gooseberries, Gulkand (Rose petal jam), Kokum juice (Mango stein). Spices - Concentrate more on cumin, fennel and coriander seeds or powder. Only use rock salt (Saindha namak), Mint, Cardamom.
Classic Summer Recipes
1. Porridge made from rice or wheat. 2. Rice Pudding made with Rice + Ghee + Milk + Almonds (1 or 2) + Saffron + Cardamom + Sugar. 3. Green gram Lentil in the form of soup. 4. Grated coconut cooked in milk + sugar. 5. Wheat flour lightly roasted in ghee, cooked in milk + sugar.
Classic Summer Drinks
1. Lassi- churn 1part yogurt + 4 parts cool water (+ 1-part fresh sweet mangoes to make Mango Lassi). 2. Buttermilk- churn 1 part yogurt + 4 parts cool water + sugar + cardamom powder. 3. Thin gruel prepared from cornflower + cool water +sugar. 4. Wheat flour + Jaggery + Coconut + Cinnamon +Nutmeg + Poppy seeds + Milk. 5. Buffalo or Cow milk + sugar + moon light + starlight (expose all night). 6. The drinking water should be boiled and cooled and can be scented with addition of naturally cooling and fragrant herbs (if available) like Coriander seeds, Sandalwood and Poppy seeds. 7. Coriander seeds + water + moonlight - kept overnight - strain next day to drink. 8. Buttermilk + sugar + rose water essence. 9. Cool water + pinches of cardamom powder + clove powder + black pepper powder+ rock candy. 10. Hand squeezed, filtered juice from the pulp of fresh Mango, neither over ripe not unripe, cooked slightly in water + sugar + Cumin powder + mint leaves as garnish.
Note: In Ayurveda, no other fruit is mixed with milk or yogurt except sweet mango.
Foods to Avoid as much as possible during summer
Papaya - very heating.
Pineapple - very heating.
Watermelon - has potential to imbalance all 3 doshas – gas increasing.
Tomatoes - eat in moderation; only when cooked in ghee.
Garlic - minimize or at least cook in ghee. Do not eat raw in summer.
Mustard oil and mustard leaves in cooking - very heating.
Additional Dietary Recommendations
Ayurveda not only advises increasing intake of naturally sweet, moist, slightly fatty, and nourishing food to balance dryness and heat in body but also that we do not overeat, since the digestive power called Agni is naturally low.
Here are more tips for you to pay heed to:
• Increase intake of sweet, sour and salty tastes and reduce pungent, astringent and bitter tastes in food. • Temperature wise- food can be allowed to cool down a bit before consuming. • Avoid heavy, oily, overly spiced meals and choose natural drinks, juicy fruits, and sweet, moist satisfying meals like rice or wheat cooked with fragrant spices like cardamom, ghee, milk and sugar instead.
• Avoid dry, hot and spicy foods. • Reduce salt and black pepper intake as they contain natural fire. • Avoid or reduce garlic and tomatoes in cooking, instead prefer cooked onions. • Avoid fermented foods including bread, Indian food dosa, as fermented foods aggravate not only Pitta but also Vata and Kapha. • Decrease red meat and alcohol consumption, or avoid totally, as they are very heating. • When making a fruit salad, to make most digestible, always combine super sweet and ripe fruits together – avoid mixing in sour or unripe fruits. • Always fruits as a separate meal – allow for 2 to 3 hours between the last meal and eating fruits. • When making a salad in summer, add a generous amount of oil so as to enhance the water element versus the air (dry) element.
• Salads are popular summer meals nowadays, but Ayurveda recommends we limit raw vegetable intake as they are very hard to digest and can increase air element. • Always cook vegetables in ghee (clarified butter) especially during summer. Ghee is a very important substance to consume in summer to counteract the harsh affect of sun and wind on the body’s doshas. • Ayurveda recommends that summer meals should only be moist, soft and nourishing, but also easily digestible as our innate digestive fire called Agni is naturally on the low side during the hot summer months.
Choosing a Conscious Lifestyle in Summer
Ayurveda suggests not only enjoying the cooled interior versus the blistering outdoors in day time, but also actively soliciting the comfort of shaded gardens and forests filled with fragrant flowers and fountains or tall trees with thick foliage to soothe the intense heat.
In no other season is a nap recommended apart from summer season. Ayurveda advises adequate rest (no over exertion or over heating of the body), and recommends daytime sleep to replenish lost Kapha.
Since we now know what a help Moon is in summer, Ayurveda suggests sleeping in the open (if possible) perhaps even bare skinned, or minimally clothed with the lightest cotton garments to absorb the cooling rays loaded with love!
As for the body, anoint it with the paste of herbs usher or Chandan (sandalwood) – mixed in cool water and wait till dry. Then take a cooling bath or shower. The skin will become soft, moistened and ready to combat the sun. Coconut oil makes for a good sun protector (always apply slightly warmed) before you step out. The face can be washed with ground red masoor daal (red lentils), pinch of sandalwood powder and saffron (use a coffee grinder to make a powder) – mix tablespoon of mixture with cooling while cow milk to make creamy paste for a cooling and nourishing face wash that will remove redness from the face.
Of course, this summer, reduce exertion, heavy exercises, direct or excessive exposure to direct sunlight. Excessive sex / intercourse should also be avoided in this season, especially after a meal.
Self care is a sacred ritual, thus, Ayurveda’s self care wisdom demonstrates a deep understanding of nature. The self care rituals laid not only deliver results but become potent ways to love ourselves and to step into a more conscious relationship with nature, the sun, the moon and the wind. Following Ayurveda’s recommendations, we begin to flow more and fight less with nature.
This summer, the time we will take to choose appropriate foods and craft a season-appropriate lifestyle by virtue of Ayurveda wisdom, will truly transform our understanding of nature and what it wants from us. With Ayurveda’s help, we do not need to only react to the escalating heat and dryness of summer with discomfort; instead, we can choose to respond to it proactively by being prepared in advance. This will be truly conscious time invested in the self for a happy and truly cool and healthy summer!
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.