Ayurveda is understood by the five elements that are found in our universe – Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The elements are understood by the energies found in our environments known as the gunas; hot & cold, wet & dry, heavy & light, and mobile & stable.
Ether is cold, dry, light & stable
Air is cool, dry, light & mobile
Fire is hot, wet, light & mobile
Water is cool, wet, heavy & mobile
Earth is cold, wet, heavy & stable
In Ayurveda, the body is made up of three basic energies known as the doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha which govern our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual makeups. The Vata dosha consists of ether & air with the qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile. The Pitta dosha is made up of fire & water with the qualities of hot, wet, light and mobile. The Kapha dosha is a combination of water & earth with the qualities of cold, wet, heavy and stable. Each of us has a unique combination of the doshas, which make up our constitution, one being prominent, one secondary and the third less present.
Ayurveda believes that there are seasons each year, which is defined by the three doshas; Vata-fall and early winter, Kapha- winter & early spring and Pitta- late spring and summer.
It is further understood that each dosha goes through three stages each year with the changes of the seasons, temperature and weather. These three stages will first accumulate, then aggravate and finally alleviate the doshas.
The pitta dosha is associated with fire and water and has the qualities of being hot, wet, light and mobile. This dosha accumulates during the warmth of the late spring, is at its height during the heat of the summer and then alleviates during the cooler fall months. You treat the Pitta dosha with the opposite qualities of cool, dry, heavy and stable.
Fire is predominant with the Pitta dosha and relates to transformation, metabolism and digestion. These qualities govern physical digestion and assimilation of the foods, spices, herbs and beverages that we consume. They also control the transformation and assimilation of the senses - hearing, sight, touch and smell, providing the capacity to perceive reality and the ability to understand.
Pitta has a tendency to being hot, sharp and penetration. Physically they tend to feel warm, can have oily skin, penetrating eyes, sharp features, moderate weight and good musculature. When out of balance they can have diarrhea, infections, and skin rashes with liver and blood weaknesses.
The Pitta personality tends to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic and clear and concise communicators. They like to solve problems. When under stress they dig in their heels, can become intense and speak sharply. Emotionally, they can have heated emotions of anger, resentment and jealousy.
When out of balance this dosha becomes competitive, fast acting, quarrelsome, dominating, impatient, resentful and intolerant. This doshas seat is in the eyes, lower abdominal area and in the blood. Many pitta related imbalances occur through inflammation, infection and irritation in these systems.
Since the doshas are treated with opposite actions, it is especially important during the summer months that pitta remain cool, calm and peaceful and use the qualities of coolness, heaviness and dryness to help stay in balance. Good food choices for this season are the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Use cooling spices like fennel, coriander, cumin, tarragon and mint. Eat sweet summer fruits including apricots, peaches, sweet berries and melons, along with milk, cottage cheese, rice, beans and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, summer squashes, kale and lettuces.
Asana practice should be done early in the morning and include poses that promote coolness, ease and lightness while releasing heat in the small intestine, central abdomen, and liver. All inversions, standing and seated twists and forward bends are specifically recommended. Pranayama should be cooling. Exhaling through the mouth occasionally releases heat. Supine Ujjayi, Shitali, Left Nostril Breathing and Bhramari are best.
Daily Abhyanga (massage) using coconut and/or sunflower oil before showering will be cooling, nourishing and grounding. If you use essential oils, choose rose, sandalwood or lavender.
Wear clothing of light texture. Preferred colors are white, blue and green. Stay away from red and yellow, which promote heat. Enjoy regular, relaxing, peaceful walks in nature to calm the inherent intensity experienced by Pitta.
Jeff Perlman (email@example.com) is certified as a Clinical Ayurvedic and Pancha Karma Specialist with advanced accreditation in Pulse Diagnosis, Marma therapy and Herbology. He holds professional membership with the National and California Ayurvedic Medical associations, and has additional certification as a California Massage therapist, Iyengar Yoga instructor and Cordon Bleu Chef.