2013 Wellness Challenge Week 28: Cool Down
Being in the thick of summer, sometimes practicing wellness just means getting out of the sun. As beneficial as Vitamin D may be to our mood, excessive heat can be frustrating and ruin high-energy, peak productivity hours.
In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, heat is especially disturbing to anyone with Pitta energy (me). Pitta’s are typically driven, high energy people with ambition, focus, dreams, vision (as in a vision for the future, not seeing strange things), and a little anger – or a lot. Their excessive heat shows itself in easily burnt skin, reddish skin tone, acne, quick metabolism and slim but strong body shape. Adding more heat to already hot personalities typically fans the flames and never ends up well, which is why it’s so important for many of us to cool down!
Cooling Practices for The Heat of Summer
Now is not the time to be enjoying extra spicy picante hot sauce tacos. As delicious as they may be, your sweat glands are doing enough work already and it’s not cold season so your sinuses are probably clear enough as it is. Although I’m no food blogger, today’s post focuses a lot on food choices. It may come as a surprise (or not) that food plays a massive role in maintaining wellness, balance, focus, and happiness.
Believe it or not, we can support our body temperature with foods that possess cooling properties. Think seasonal favorites such as watermelons, melons, cucumbers and limes. Cooling foods tend to balance out the body’s pH, creating a more alkaline environment that is ideal for beating back disease and cancer. Leafy greens and light summer salads are great options as well.
If you’re cooking, look for cooling spices such as saffron, cardamom and coriander and consider adding in rose petals or essential oil to cool down the mind. Remember though that cooking adds more heat – you know how much hotter the kitchen gets when the oven goes on. Try your hand at raw or lightly cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner options to save energy – of both the electric and metaphysical variety.
Typically, if you eat what is seasonally available, which is hard to understand sometimes if you’re not shopping at farmers’ markets on a regular basis, you’ll be supporting your system and bringing your body into balance. Summer foods are naturally cooling to help you beat the heat. On the contrary, winter foods are typically warming to keep you snug and cozy when it gets cold. Funny how nature works. We should pay more attention.
Cool Down with Frosty Treats
Although I’ve been indulging in my fair share of ice cream lately (milk is actually considered a cooling food and the ice cream made with coconut milk is a double whammy of cooling deliciousness), a healthier way to release heat is to indulge in a frosty fruit smoothie or ice pop (made from leftover frosty smoothie)! My boyfriend and I have been IN LOVE with Julie Morris’ new(ish) book Superfood Smoothies. If the Air Force Fighter Pilot loves it, you know they’re good.
Adding greens to your frosty fruit concoctions is surprisingly simple and tasty. Try spinach and kale. If you’re a chocolate lover, you must indulge in cacao powder and cacao beans. (Raw, and organic if you can for the highest healthy dose of beneficial, beauty-enhancing antioxidants.) We stocked up on them from Swanson Vitamins and now have a beautiful, healthy looking pantry full of delicious goodness.
Iced teas and water are also a fantastic opportunity to cool down during the hot summer months. But no added sugar or Southern recipes here. Opt for herbal teas instead that you can brew and then cool down in the fridge or on top of ice. Hibiscus, mint, and cucumber are all great cooling and refreshing flavors that can also brighten a glass of plain water.
Speaking of water, it is so important to stay hydrated when it’s hot. Your cells and organs need the water to function at optimal levels, so if you need to keep your energy up, you need to up your water consumption. If water is blah to you plain, add in some fresh berries, squeeze in some lime or try chilled coconut water. No artificial sweeteners!
What to Avoid When You’re Looking to Release Heat
If you’re looking to maintain and sustain high energy over the hot summer months steer clear of fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. These can all be quite aggravating to high heat types.
If you’re practicing yoga, Bikram and high heat rooms are best avoided. Instead, opt for more restorative, yin practices. If you exercise, choose to workout in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
There is also an Ayurvedic ritual called Ishnaan, known fondly by many as cold showers. A form of hydrotherapy, you hop in a cold shower for 3-5 minutes, rubbing yourself vigorously to stimulate blood and lymph flow. It’s highly invigorating but does induce some anxiety before stepping in. Trying it during the summer months is much more pleasant than forcing a cold shower in the dead of winter.
The Cooling Power of the Breath
For meditation, Sitali breathing is a great, natural way to cool down. I demonstrated Sitali breathing meditation in one of my first videos ever recorded on this site!
Bringing your body and mind into balance by aligning your actions with the natural cycles of the seasons will help you gain easier access to your soul. You’ll feel better, have more energy and be in tune and aware of what’s going on inside and around you. This heighted state of focus, awareness and consciousness is exactly what Pitta types need during the high heat of summer to stay productive and happy.
Do you know someone who really hates the heat? Email them these fun, healthy and natural tips for staying cool. They’ll love the new ideas and be forever grateful. You can even extend a personal invitation to join our community by signing up for the Wellness Wednesday newsletter. The more the merrier!
Image credit: romeroleo