Cool Your Senses
Did you know? Taking time to enjoy all five senses will improve your health.
By Claudia Welch
In ayurveda, the three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—represent a constellation of qualities that govern an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional constitution. Pitta, the dosha associated with fire and water, intensifies in the hot summer months, with its oily, penetrating, hot, light, and liquid characteristics. In moderate amounts, these benefit the body and mind—and make a summer day magical—but in excess they can lead to problems. For example, if you spend time outdoors during the hottest part of the day eating spicy food and having a vigorous debate with someone, heat can build in your system and cause symptoms of high pitta, such as heat rash, migraines, heartburn, or irritability.
To get more pleasure from the summer months, counter the effects of excess pitta by treating the five senses—sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell—to the following balancing tactics.
SOUND Listening to sweet, soothing sounds—like ocean waves, water flowing in a fountain, or soft, pleasing music—can calm and ground fiery pitta. So, too, can a pleasant conversation with agreeable company. Hard-driving music, construction sounds, arguments, or business negotiations, on the other hand, are likely to increase your pitta. It’s best to keep these to a minimum.
TOUCH Soft, gentle touch soothes pitta. For some people, a massage with a small amount of cooling oil—like coconut oil—can work wonders, but if that lacks appeal, allow soft, cool breezes to dampen your pitta. You can also spray a cool cloth with natural rose water and place it over your eyes. If your pitta runs high, cut back on sunbathing and hot baths.
SIGHT Colors from the cool side of the spectrum—light blue or green—tend to pacify pitta. Plant some flowers around your house, or even bring them indoors, treating your sense of smell as well.
Full-moon walks have a positive effect on pitta, too. The combination of the moon’s cool energy, a soft breeze, and pleasurable company will most assuredly lower your doshic thermostat. Phase out violent films and avoid wearing red to keep pitta in check.
TASTE Ayurvedic physicians reduce excess pitta with bitter, astringent, sweet, and cooling foods and herbs. These include greens, especially bitter varieties like kale, broccoli rabe, or collards; fruits and vegetables; milk; ghee; some beans; sweet grains like barley, oats, rice, and wheat; and anti-inflammatory herbs like amalaki.
As a general rule, cut down on sour, salty, or spicy foods in the summer. And, of course, if certain foods that theoretically pacify pitta, like milk, don’t agree with you, give them a pass.
SMELL The sense of smell relates to the earth element in ayurveda and helps ground pitta’s light quality. Apply cooling, sweet, bitter essential oils like natural rose, vetiver (khus), or ethically sourced sandalwood to your neck, palms, and solar plexus. Alternatively, use these same fragrances as incense or aromatherapy or, as mentioned above, adorn your home with fresh, fragrant flowers. Stay away from strong pungent or chemical smells to keep pitta subdued.
Refresh yourself with a pitta-dousing glass of homemade watermelon juice: Liquefy two cups or so of chopped, seedless watermelon in a blender (no need to add water), strain and voilà, a tasty—and nutritious—summer cooler. If you suffer from skin rashes in the summer, rub the fleshy part of the rind on the affected area to soothe and help heal the skin.