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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Ayurvedic Self-Care Tips to Stay Cool This Summer

Jul 01, 2020 09:00AM ● By Jaya Ramamurthy
Both Ayurveda and yoga originated in ancient India, and both are timeless in their wisdom. Together, they form a system for well-being that is still practical and relevant in today’s stress-filled world.

The word “Ayurveda” translates to “knowledge of life”—its core principles are based on observing and understanding the universe around us. Ayurvedic practices are rooted in circadian rhythms and link us to our environment in profound ways. In a technology-driven world, human beings often feel disconnected from nature and her rhythms. Ayurveda presents simple ways to remember and re-establish this relationship.

According to this ancient science, human beings are an integral part of this universe and as such are governed by its natural laws, much like other living creatures. Just as trees know when to shed and when to bloom and birds know when to migrate, humans have intrinsic biological clocks that work all day and night and all through the year. Ayurveda teaches that so long as these cycles are understood, nourishing daily practices can be put in place to support a lifetime of wellbeing.

Ayurveda teaches that each season brings certain qualities that are dominant. For example, spring is usually cool, wet and heavy, and an increase of these qualities in the body can manifest in symptoms like congestion and heaviness. So, according to Ayurvedic principles, if daily lifestyle and food practices are adjusted to minimize these qualities, the body stays in balance. On the other hand, if cold foods and beverages, which are cold and moist, or dairy foods, which are heavy and cold, are consumed in large amounts in the springtime, the typical spring congestive ailments follow. Mucus-laden, upper-respiratory issues anyone?

So, what are seasonally appropriate foods? Fortunately, the season typically produces the foods that are needed for balance. Eating local and seasonal foods automatically prepares one’s digestive tract for optimal digestion and wellness.

Foods That Cool for the Summer

In the Ayurvedic view, summer is considered a pitta, or heat-increasing, season. Hence all diet, lifestyle and self-care routines are focused upon cooling the body gently and avoiding what can increase internal heat.

According to Ayurveda, digestive power is at its lowest in the summer and highest in winter. Each day, the appetite follows the sun; it is highest in the middle of the day. Modern science is beginning to embrace the idea that eating seasonal foods according to this biological clock is a smart idea. It is ideal because fresh summer produce—fruits, vegetables, herbs and greens—are very light, easy to digest and can mostly be eaten raw or lightly cooked. They are also naturally hydrating and cooling.

Summer fruits such as melons, berries, grapes, peaches and mangoes make for a light and refreshing breakfast. Ayurveda emphasizes proper food combining, and when it comes to fruits, it is recommended that they be eaten by themselves in order to digest them well. Ideally, ripe fruits make a wonderful seasonal breakfast.

Summer evenings can be a chance to enjoy small meals full of fresh flavors direct from the garden. As for herbs, fennel, licorice and mint are sweet and cooling. Avoid spicy, fried and sour foods, especially at lunch. Alcohol consumption must be minimized as much as possible since it creates heat. Instead, it is a good time to explore the world of Ayurvedic seasonal teas.

Summer Lifestyle and Self-Care

Here are some Ayurveda-based suggestions for summer:

  • Rise earlier than your usual routine to allow time for a calming meditation practice first thing in the morning.
  • Follow this up with outdoor exercise during the cooler part of the day. A moonlit walk is a particularly enjoyable practice in the summer.
  • Keep summer skincare cooling and refreshing: Cucumber water and rose tea are cooling and calming toners.
  • Coconut oil soothes sun-touched skin. Also, for hair that’s been stripped from chlorine or saltwater, you can precondition with warm coconut oil before getting into the water.
  • Aloe is summer’s wonder remedy. Keep aloe-soaked cotton pads in the fridge for a cooling and instantly refreshing touch after a day in the sun. Aloe-based moisturizers are gentle and nourishing for the skin.
  • Use a natural deodorant rather than an anti-perspirant. Salt-based deodorants are effective and easy on the skin as well as the environment.
  • While honey is heat-generating and generally should be avoided in the summer, it makes a great salve topically for irritated but unbroken skin. Honey mixed with aloe can also be used safely on the face or even lips.

Cooling Lunar Breathing

Chandra, which means “moon” in Sanskrit, is the inspiration for chandra bhedana, or lunar breathing, which brings in the cooling aspect of moon energy. In this practice, inhale into the left nostril, bringing in the cooling energy, and exhale from the right nostril: 

  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine and with your non-dominant hand on your knee, palm facing up, with the tips of your thumb and index finger touching.
  • Bring the dominant right hand into vishnu mudra—folding the index and middle fingers into the palm of your hand.
  • If using your right hand, use your right thumb to close off your right nostril.
  • Inhale slowly and mindfully through the left nostril.
  • Now close the left nostril with your ring finger while simultaneously releasing your thumb from the right nostril.
  • Exhale completely and with mindfulness through the right nostril.
  • Use your thumb to close off the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Close the left nostril with your ring finger, releasing your thumb from your right nostril and exhaling completely through your right nostril.
  • Continue to breathe like this for one to two minutes, inhaling only through the left nostril and exhaling only through the right. Ensure that inhalation and exhalation are of the same duration.
  • Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished, bringing your right hand to your right knee, palm facing up, while gently bringing the tips of your thumb and index finger together to touch.
  • It’s ideal to practice lunar breathing on an empty stomach.

Summer Cooler – Rose Mint Limeade

Lemons create warmth and increase acidity while limes are cooling and perfect for the summer. Rose also is a cooling flavor for summer. This beverage cools and rejuvenates without alcohol or caffeine.

Cold beverages are a seasonal treat, but it’s best to consume them by themselves, especially after being out in the sun. Avoid cold drinks with meals to avoid diluting the stomach’s digestive enzymes.

To make Rose Mint Limeade, start by making a simple rose syrup. Stir in 1/4 cup of edible, dried rose petals with 1/4 cup each of sugar and water. Bring to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved.

Turn off heat and cool. Filter off the petals and store syrup in a glass jar.

Then, crush a few sprigs of mint along with the juice of two ripe limes. Add cold water and some of the rose simple syrup to taste. Enjoy in the shade. 

Hibiscus can be substituted in the above recipe for another delicious twist.

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Jaya Ramamurthy, whose Indian roots inspired her to share the restorative wellness offered by Ayurveda’s health care methods, is a state-certified clinical Ayurveda specialist in private practice. Reach her at [email protected] or
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