Balance Pitta with Yoga Asana
As the year unfolds before us, our knowledge of ayurveda allows us to begin living more in tune with our environment, and we might recognize that each season has a dosha, or set of qualities, associated with it. When the days feel longer, brighter, and hotter, the season of Pitta is in full swing — summer (July - September). As the first heat wave of summer rolls in, most of us can feel the effects of increased Pitta around and within… hot!
Comprised of the elements fire and water, Pitta on the rise can often make us feel fiery, or so angry that we feel the need to blow off steam. Think fire + water… steam! Instead of soaking up the summer with vacations, family barbecues, and afternoons by the pool, those with primarily Pitta dosha may be feeling just plain irritable and heated up. Since Pitta is responsible for metabolism and transformation in the body, including digestion, signs of Pitta swinging out of balance include heartburn; excessive body heat and sweating; controlling, workaholic tendencies; interrupted sleep; or loose bowel movements. Additionally, Pitta types may be sensitive to emotional stress, which can cause skin breakouts, rashes, or even acne. Picture someone flushed with anger.
However, many admirable qualities are cultivated when the fiery Pitta dosha is in balance, including strong intellect, strong digestion, radiant glowing skin, perfectionism, and the feeling of inner peace and happiness. All good!
Whether we are predominantly Pitta or not, we can pay attention to what is happening around us and take steps necessary to balance the fire element and keep our cool during the heat of the summer.
Asana for Pitta-Balancing
Summer is a good time to remember the ayurvedic principle of “like increases like.” “Go cool,” and the Pitta tendency toward excess heat, perfectionism, and the desire to control during the heat of the summer can be tamed. One way to find balance is to favor yoga asanas and yoga styles that encourage a cool metabolism. Consider avoiding those styles that could cause excessive heat or sweating. That’s right, during Pitta season our bodies and minds will find peace by favoring cooling, relaxing postures and styles of yoga. Practicing a variety of styles and favoring Yin or Restorative Yoga, we can surrender the perfectionist, controlling Pitta tendency that may come with sticking solely to one’s habitual style or favorite series of poses. Yes, if you are a dominant Pitta type, hot yoga might not be the best idea during the height of Pitta season. Listen to your body, and it will tell you how you feel after each practice.
What we practice is just as important as how we do it. Knowing that Pitta leans towards forcefulness, intensity and competitiveness, we can benefit greatly from cultivating a relaxed attitude during asana practice and letting go of that urge to compare ourselves with others. Practicing at 80% capability, we allow room to not take ourselves so seriously, or be competitive or critical… Ah, that’s a relief! Additionally, dawn and dusk are great, cool times of the day to practice asanas.
Excess heat can be freed from our bodies with asanas that open and relax. Hip-openers are the releasers of emotional tension. This release can help us relax and let go before we have a chance to snap. Also, working on the emotional body, prone (belly-down) Heart-Openers invigorate digestion, balance the digestive fire, and expand the heart area, emotionally and physically. Twists and forward folds compress and massage the organs of the abdomen, helping balance the function of the liver and stomach. Gentle inverted poses, when the feet are above the heart, allow circulation to regulate and cool our bodies.
Be patient, try something new, and be your highest and best teacher as you listen to your body and practice, or modify, your yoga asanas!
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Sphinx)
Cooling twists and forward folds:
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes)
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Restorative style inversion:
Vipareeta Karani (Legs up the Wall)
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