By Dr Berengere Berieau
In the ancestral texts of Ayurveda, one chapter is dedicated to the changes that occur during the seasons throughout the year. It is called Ritucharya (the knowledge of the seasons). Changes happening in the atmosphere and the environment will have a direct effect on the body (gross and subtle) and the mind. Both have to adjust while passing from one season to the next, which is called Ritusandhi-the junction of two seasons, where the body is more vulnerable and likely to experience imbalances, discomfort or symptoms.
In the Ritucharya chapter, each season is described thoroughly and how to adapt food and habits according to the specificity of the season.
During the summer or Grishma season, which in Tamil Nadu occurs mostly between April and June, the body struggles to keep its inner temperature to a cool 35-36°C when outside temperatures can rise well above.
Now that the peak heat of the summer is over, thanks to the summer rain that cooled down the atmosphere a little bit, we notice that days are warm, almost hot but nights can be slightly chilly. Those who are sensitive to the variations in the atmosphere will notice that during the night they need to cover themselves with thicker bed sheets or even blankets.
Referring to the Ritucharya chapter, we can find many similarities with the Sharat season which in the rest of India occurs after the monsoon period (October/November). Here in Tamil Nadu, the monsoon comes much later in the year. The summer rains cool down the atmosphere, bring some humidity in the air that is felt more at night. Pitta dosha, which is dominated by the fire and water elements, will be in a state of aggravation, impaired, where the water element will start taking over the fire element. When it remains balanced, it will give a sense of freshness or comfort in the body, and all of a sudden we can stand the heat much better. If it’s aggravated, too much water element in the Pitta dosha, then Pitta will show signs of acidity, sourness or strong/foul smell in the body and some kind of bitterness or impatience, frustration, anger in the mind.
Not to worry, it’s only Pitta inside the body and mind that needs a little booster to come back to its balance.
With the food, Pitta comes back to its equilibrium with the bitter, astringent and sweet tastes. It is a good time to chew some neem leaves, drink coconut water, eat any green leafy vegetables of the season, and take light dishes made with mung dal. For those who are non-vegetarian, it is better to eat white meat. In terms of sweet items, it’s not adding more sugar to the food and desserts but take some carbohydrates, cereals that are a source of energy, fuel for the body such as amaranth, barley, cooked oats, granola, rice. Other sweeteners like honey, date syrup, sugar cane juice are good for this time of the year. And ghee used in the cooking keeps Pitta and Vata well balanced.
For energy, we can use Ayurvedic herbs such as guduchi, shatavari, bala, amalaki (amla), saffron, aloe vera and licorice, and for the mind: bhringaraj, sandalwood, rose, lotus seeds, hibiscus.
Grounded, physical activities will help Pitta to remain in its seat in the small intestine or in the 3rd chakra: gardening, cultivating, weeding, cooking, walking outdoor in nature, Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, observing the breathing movements in the abdomen, Yoga Nidra, Body Awareness, Qi-Gong, Tai Chi…
Any body massage or hand/feet/ear massage with coconut oil is also welcome and wearing pearls.
Some Ayurvedic treatments to keep Pitta healthy are Virechana (downward purification), Raktamoksha (blood letting), Nasya (Anu Tailam oil poured in each nostrils)