One of my favorite words in Ayurveda is rasa. It is generally translated as juice, taste, essence. Rasa is also plasma, the watery component of our blood. When rasa is sufficient in the body and mind, we feel calm, nourished and content.
To maintain health in summer, we need to build rasa by incorporating its cool, smooth, moist qualities through food and lifestyle choices.
Use Opposites to Balance Each Other
In Ayurveda, we use the principle of “like increases like, opposites balance each other” to guide our actions. That means we treat an excess of a particular quality by introducing more of its opposite.
Let me give a few simple examples. When there’s excess heat, we favor foods that are cooling. When there’s excess dryness, we favor foods that are moist.
When it’s both hot and dry, what do you think Ayurveda recommends? You’ve got it: moist, cooling, rasa-building foods and beverages. This is the time of year when it’s actually okay to indulge in occasional sweet treats like ice cream. Hooray! (In moderation of course, and during the day rather than at night so it’s less likely to produce mucus.)
The best tastes to favor in summer are sweet, bitter and astringent because they are cooling. Conversely, it’s beneficial to minimize foods that are salty, sour and pungent (spicy) because they are heating. Those of you who tend toward heartburn, loose stools, rashes, irritability and criticism will especially benefit from following the suggestions outlined below.
Care For Your Digestive Fire
You may have noticed that your appetite decreases when it’s hot outside. The digestive fire disperses during the summertime to keep us cool.
As a result, favor smaller, lighter meals when the days are long. Think fresh fruit salads or smoothies for breakfast, rice with veggies and protein or hearty salads for lunch and light soups for dinner. Veggies and fruits make up a large proportion of the summer diet.
A Sampling of Foods to Favor
- Vegetables and fruits: asparagus, celery, cucumbers, leafy greens, lettuce, potatoes, snap peas, summer squash, avocados, berries, coconut, figs, limes, melons, nectarines, peaches, sweet grapes
- Beverages: lots of water, diluted fruit juices, coconut water, aloe vera juice, mint tea, hibiscus tea, licorice tea (avoid if you have high blood pressure)
- Herbs and spices: basil, cardamom, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, mint
If nothing else, take advantage of the incredible array of fruits and vegetables currently available at your local farmer’s market! They’ll point you in the right direction.
Decrease The Intensity In Your Daily Life
People often complain about how fast summer goes, but they don’t actually take the time to slow down and enjoy the more languorous pace. Here are some ways that you can adapt your daily activities to compensate for the summer heat and conserve your rasa.
- Become a morning person: Hot days can zap your energy and leave you feeling like a puddle by mid afternoon. Start your day an hour or two before you normally would and try to finish your most complex/important tasks by lunch. You’ll get the added benefit of extra time to relax in the evenings.
- Turn down the heat and intensity of your physical activity: If you normally do hot yoga, mix in some yin or restorative yoga. Try switching to swimming or bicycling instead of running. Avoid exercising in the midday heat.
- Spend time in nature: Walk barefoot in the grass, pack a picnic dinner, take a leisurely walk in the evening, watch the sunset, spread out a blanket in your backyard/local park and stargaze.
- Incorporate cooling scents into your bathing routine: Some of my favorites are lavender, jasmine, peppermint, rose, sandalwood and vetiver.
In case you need extra motivation to make these seasonal changes, here’s what you should know: by generating plenty of high quality rasa during the summer, you can reduce your chances of getting sick when the weather turns cold and dry in early fall. The mucous membranes in your gut and respiratory system will be well-nourished and better able to protect against circulating bacteria and viruses.
For more Ayurvedic summer tips and recipes, check out my Summer Rhythms Pinterest board.
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