Heat index in the 100's and humid through the rest of the week, with random power outages attacking various sections of Minneapolis and highways closed due to "buckling pavement". How awesome.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to deal with the heat. AC, fans and iced coffee are one way, but last night's Anusara class, which focused on cooling postures to counterbalance the broiling temperatures outside, inspired me to look into more holistic ways of cooling the body.
Summer is the season of Pitta - Pitta is made of fire and water elements, and is associated with confidence, passion and desire ("Icca"). When out of balance, however, Pitta can become irritated, angry or aggressive, or just plain too much. Pitta is definitely in full swing right now in the midwest, but you can balance that firey little dude by making some changes in your diet:
- Eat plenty of cooling fruits and vegetables: Avocado, coconut, figs, mango, melons, grapes and plums are great, as are asparagus, cooked beets, kale, mushrooms, artichokes, cucumber and summer squash. Fruits and veggies to avoid include: Bananas, anything sour (except lime in moderation), rhubarb, and tamarind.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol: I had (cold press) coffee this morning... oops...but in general, avoid coffee or anything overly caffeinated, and avoid alcohol, especially red wine and hard liquor. Beer and white wine are OK in moderation. If you really need a caffeine kick, chai is OK for pitta, as is black tea in small amounts.
- Watch the spice: In general, spicy food does not help to balance Pitta. Spices to avoid include allspice, garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, mustard and nutmeg. Fresh, cooling herbs like basil, dill and mint (fresh, not dried) are great, and cinnamon, cardamom, tumeric and coriander are OK as well. Flavors like cilantro and coconut can also help balance the heat of spicy foods.
There are tons more guidelines on Auyrvedic eating, a detailed list of which can be found here.
It is important to vary your yoga practice seasonally as well as your diet - for example, I haven't been doing hot yoga at all since the weather went bananas, but there are also certain asanas that have cooling properties. Forward bends in general are great cooling poses, whereas headstand, handstand and backbends (ustrasana, urdhva danurasana) are heating and energizing. Here are some of the poses we did in class last night:
- Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
- Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
- Janu Sirsasana
- Fire Log Pose
- TMP (It has a sanskrit name, but it's ridiculously long so we just call it TMP...): Sit with your left leg folded in Virasana and your right leg straight out in front of you as in Paschimottanasana. Inner spiral both legs and with your left hand, reach forward and grasp the right foot. Start with a straight spine and bend forward, being careful not to shorten the side-body. Hold for a couple of minutes, and repeat on the other side. If Virasana is uncomfortable or causes knee strain, place a cushion or blanket under your sitbones. If you can't reach your foot with your hand, place a strap around the ball of your foot and grasp the strap as close to your foot as possible.
- Happy Baby/Laughing Baby
Another great tip from Ayurvedic expert Cate Stillman: go outside in the morning and stand barefoot in the grass for a few minutes. The dewy grass on your feet will lower your entire body temperature, plus it's just fun! Who needs shoes anyways? :) And obviously... STAY HYDRATED!
Hope you all find ways to stay cool on this Tropical Tuesday :)