by Danielle Hanna
As the sun begins to arch high in the sky and the days feel like they could go on and on, the summer season is upon us. Traditionally, Ayurveda uses the Equinox and Solstice to mark our transitions and seasonal shifts, taking a few days before and after to gracefully move from one season into the next. Referred to as the Ritukala, this time can be used to sync the mind and body with the whispers of Nature and the calls of our natural rhythms.
As we come to the Summer Solstice, take some time to look at your diet and lifestyle habits and patterns. Are they in accordance with your True Nature? Do you feel grounded, stable and clear? Do you have energy and space to live your life with purpose, meaning and integrity, while feeling able to support yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually? These questions may seem really big; however, Ayurveda guides us towards attuning in these ways for a healthy and happy life.
With the season of the Sun before us, it can be useful to consider implementing some routine and ritual that can be helpful and supportive. If we take a closer look at the summer season, certain qualities come to mind. Ayurveda uses these qualities (or Gunas) to help inform and balance the mind and body. Ayurveda also teaches us that like increases like and opposites balance. So, understanding the qualities of our own selves AND the seasonal qualities of nature can be very helpful. In the summer, qualities like hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and oily may be more present, making one feel tired, irritable, energized, light and/or expanded, depending on our own natural disposition. To help balance these gunas, Ayurveda has some recommendations:
Waking early, before sunrise (traditionally from 3-6am), during the Brahma Muharta, can be a very lovely way to start the day. It is a quiet and calm time, often cooler outside and can very easily foster a sense of deep connection, gratitude and grace. These qualities in and of themselves are foundational in cultivating a sense of ease, clarity and balance. When done first thing, we have the opportunity to not only feel and witness these qualities in our own mind and body but also set that intention for the day ahead. During these early morning hours, consider sitting in an intentional space of connection, whether it be inside or outside. While here, take some time to breathe and connect into your inner landscape. Allow the breath to wash over you like a gentle wave, releasing the heat while maintaining the glow of the inner Light.
In addition to cleaning and clearing the inner body, Ayurveda has some simple guidelines to keep the physical body healthy and vital. In general, and if you are a healthy person, it is a good idea to gently scrape the tongue and brush the teeth using astringent and bitter herbs such as neem, tripahala or a paste that is natural and has no sugars added. Try oil pulling with sesame oil and wash your eyes gently with cool water. Consider self massage, or abyhanga as it is termed in Sanskrit, the language of Yoga and Ayurveda. Preparing oils that will help keep the physical body supple, clean, conditioned and hydrated, this practice is an amazing way to deepen your connection to yourself while caring for the physical body. Seasonally speaking, coconut oil may be very nice. You may also want to add some essential oils like rose, sandalwood and/or lavender. Apply oil to the whole body, working with the natural directions of the bones and organs and then allow the oil to sit, anywhere from 5-20 minutes. After, take a warm shower, not too hot or cold.
Lifestyle and Food
Lifestyle habits are an important part of every day health. During the summer months, the inner body fire (or agni ) quiets down in order to accommodate the increased heat outside. So practices, including exercise, should be more moderate and done early in the day, taking care to not heat up beyond natural capacity during the mid-day hours. Exercise like swimming or walking in nature can be great. Asana can be very useful in regulating heat and any stagnation caused from daily life. Avoid practicing asana that pushes you beyond a comfortable breath pattern, focus on smooth, easy flow in Surya and Chandra Namaskar and allow additional postures to cultivate a calm, cooling and easy presence. A softened gaze can also help things cool down, as our eyes are our most active sense organ. And, always allow for time in Savasana.
Food is medicine. The choices we make with our food not only create the bones, tissues and blood in our body, but also lay the foundation for a healthy, supported nervous system. Generally speaking, food choices should be freshly prepared, locally sourced and organically grown. The prana in food is what nourishes, so keeping with these concepts can be very useful in bringing true nourishment and sustenance. Eat vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and fruits that are grown in the same season and take care to bring mindfullness to what you are doing by sitting down to eat. When sitting, take a moment to connect inward, offer a blessing of gratitude and then eat with awareness. Take time to chew your food thoroughly and allow yourself to taste what you are eating. One of my teachers says we should always feed someone or something (like a plant) first before feeding ourselves! Enjoy small sips of water to support the digestive process and stop eating before you feel full. Allow for some space for the food and water to digest and do the work it is meant to do.
When preparing food in the summer months, it is commonly considered best to avoid spicy, oily foods, excessive caffeine, alcohol and iced items. Incorporate eating fresh foods including spices and herbs like cumin, coriander, fennel, cilantro and basil.
The mind is a powerful tool. We can use it to help us accomplish great deeds and amazing creative endeavors. However, it can also take us on a ride we may not want to be on! During the summer, take care to spend time calming and cooling the mind and body so that the activities of your truest self can be realized. Consider walking on the forest floor or grass, during dawn or dusk, barefoot. Bathe under the beautiful full moon and allow the illuminations and incantations to absorb into the fibers of the skin, reaching down into the body. It is very possible to feel the cooling nature of the moon deep into the very center of the heart, allowing the sweetness to serenade and support you.
The summer can be filled with so many gifts. In order to best enjoy the season, take time and care to take care of yourself and others, allowing the beauty of Summer to bloom, while feeling the support, synergy and balance of the mind, body and spirit.
While it is always a good idea to get the guidance of an Ayurvedic Practitioner or Doctor in determining practices, herbs and lifestyle habits that are best aligned for you, these offerings are meant to help gently support you in prevention and wellness.
Many blessings to you,