Ayurveda originated in ancient India as the science of medicine focusing on the health, well-being and longevity of an individual. Ayurveda focuses not on the diseases, but prevention of diseases by optimizing health through principles of adapting to a healthy lifestyle and adapting to an individual’s environment. An individual’s immediate environment plays a crucial role in how an ayurvedic doctor would prescribe the best course of treatment. Three predominant Indian seasons as we know are summer, winter, and monsoon, and each of these unique seasons has an impact on your body.
Every season alters our immediate environment and even when we do not realize it, it has an impact on our health and body. Keeping it simple, during winter our bodies demand more warm, high in calorie, fat-rich diets as the body needs more energy to keep itself warm. During summer our body likes light foods to keep us cool otherwise our bodies expresses the heat through boils, breakouts, acidity, and heartburns.
According to Ayurveda, summer (Grishma Ritu) represents Agni and vayu which means our environment would be hot, dusty, dry, lifeless -- representing fire and air. Hot lifeless air, dust, and intense heat make our body lose water, lose electrolytes, and lose energy. Hence it becomes important to make some lifestyle changes to aid our body in staying healthy and active during summer. Here are some ayurvedic tips to help you stay cool this summer, and healthily beat the heat.
Keep yourself hydrated
The most important thing to remember during sunny summer days is to keep your body hydrated. Water is life for a reason, and during summer it becomes pivotal as our body is continuously losing water, even when you are not sweating profusely, the body still is losing water. Also, we tend to lose electrolytes during hot sunny days, so drinking plenty of healthy cooling juices with natural electrolytes, sugars and vitamins becomes very important.
Avoid hot (pitta) foods.
Our body is already dealing with hot air, hot arid weather, and has switched on the internal mechanism to naturally keep it in a cool state. So try to help the body stay in a breezy state by avoiding eating heavy oily, spicy foods that can trigger more heat in the body resulting in conditions like migraines, acid reflux, heartburns, boils, acne breakouts, and body odor. Instead, consume fruits, berries, fresh vegetables, honey, yogurt, jaggery, lentils to avoid the body working too hard to digest complex food, and is easy for the body to replenish it with necessary nutrients.
Avoid heat-generating drinks.
Avoid drinking liquids that by nature are hot (pitta by nature). Coffee and tea are prime examples of this. Heavy caffeine intake can, in any season, produce acidity and heartburns as it is pitta by nature, and during summer, if consumed excessively, can be harmful to the body. Also avoid soups and broths with heavy vinegar, garlic, oils, spices as they can generate heat in the body. Instead, drink plenty of natural coolants recommended by Ayurveda as black raisins-fennel-infused water, cucumber water, coriander-infused water, pomegranate juice, grape juice, mint apple juice, lemonade. These light cooling drinks will provide your body with the essential hydration it needs during summer.
Perform yoga and pranayama.
Practice yoga, meditation, and pranayama, and, if possible, start your day with yoga. Practicing yoga in the morning will help calm the body and the mind and pranayama will help kick start the vigor. Heat often is concentrated around the digestive system during the summer months so focus on asanas that help stretch and relieve the abdomen, core, and spine. Surya namaskar can be an excellent yoga practice to start with if you are a beginner.
Try ayurvedic herbs for keeping hair and skin healthy.
Along with taking care of the internal body and metabolism by eating and drinking light, watery, cooling fruits and vegetables, it is important to nourish skin and hair. Smooth your skin with natural cooling clays (to keep skin dirt and oil-free as our skin secrets more oil during summer), sandalwood, cucumber and mint paste, papaya, honey, yogurt, aloe gel to keep skin cool and clean. Hydrate skin with rose water, jasmine water, cucumber water, and paste. Use coconut oil for hair massage. Cleanse your hair with mild natural shampoos.
Workout in the morning or the evening
Work out in the morning or evening to avoid the intense heat and overheating your body. Working out under hot conditions can stress the body, overheating it and leading to excessive sweating. This can lead to heat exhaustion, loss of water, loss of electrolytes, and can make you feel intensely tired and sore. Sometimes, overheating can also lead to issues like cramps, headaches, nausea, and acid reflux. For this reason, try to schedule your workouts during early mornings or evenings to avoid overheating your body and inducing heat stress/exhaustion.
Weather plays a major role in how our body functions, and it is important to act in accordance with the principles of nature to avoid stressing our bodies. By forcing pitta natured foods, drinks, and activities on our bodies during summer, heat is going to express itself in adverse health conditions. Ayurveda suggests simple principles to follow during summer including avoiding excessive consumption of heavy food, heavy meat, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and indulge in light foods, natural juices, infused herbal water, fruits, veggies, light exercises, meditation, yoga to help the body manage the heat stress and stay cool and efficient during the summers.