Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer Slow Simmer To Soothe Your Soul

Yoga Flava with Robin Downes, Summer 2012
Those "Back To School" advertisements are the reminder that summer is winding down and Fall is on the way.  You know I like to keep in sync with the seasons.  Summer officially ends September 22, 2012.  So let's make the best of the remaining summer days. 

According to Ayurvedic practices, we are winding down the season of fire and water: Pitta.

Considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science, Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health that is designed to help people live long, healthy, and well-balanced lives. The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the body, mind, and consciousness through proper hydration, diet, and lifestyle, as well as herbal remedies. Increased heat can bring imbalance to the Pitta Dosha. Here are a few ideas to keep you balanced during the summer months:

Daily Routine:
  • Practice sports or asana in the early morning when temperatures are cooler.
  • Wear light colored clothing, loose cotton, linen to allow air to flow between your clothes and your skin.
  • Sweet, juicy fruits like; melons, plums, and peaches.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
  • Add digestive spices to your food such as cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric.
  • Limit hot, spicy, fermented, salty, oily, fried foods.
In the Summer yoga practice should be quieting, cooling, and calming. If you noticed a strong desire to spend most of the time in your last class in Child’s pose, your intuition is guiding you in the right direction. When trying to balance the doshas, remember that “like” increases “like”. Hot Pitta will be aggravated by high temperatures and any sort of fast movement. In other words, yoga class done in a heated room or at a fast pace may be too aggravating to Pitta.

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The slower the movement, the less agitating to the body and mind. Calming music can be helpful, as well.

Remember: any movement practiced with great awareness can be calming and balancing for inflamed Pitta. Focus on keeping your attention internally in your body in every asana and every transition between the asanas. Strive for achieving relaxed effort in all your  postures, relax all the muscles that are not critical in holding the pose, especially your face, neck, and shoulders. Allow your breath to lead you from one pose to the next one, not your logical mind.
Ayurveda says that an out of balance pitta may manifest as impatience, aggressiveness, self-criticism, intensity and competitiveness. The adoption of a relaxed, non-hurried, gentle and patient attitude to yoga practice will definitely have a very positive effect. Shift your focus to observing and enjoying the process instead of striving to achieve a specific goal.

Asanas that help balance Pitta are those that place pressure on the naval and solar plexus region, in the small intestine where Pitta resides. There should be enough calming poses included to sedate irritation, anger, and intensity caused by Pitta. In general all forward bends, side stretches, twists, backbends that stretch muscles in your stomach will be beneficial.

Ayurveda, the knowledge or science of life, was based in India over 5,000 years ago. Its foundation is based on the five elements; air, earth, water, fire and ether and plays an essential part of this holistic self-healing system.  Pitta, one of the doshas in Ayurveda, is made up of  two elements: fire and water. It is responsible for digestion and transformation in the body and mind.
Pitta characteristics, on a physical level, tend to manifest in people of medium build,  with hair that is fine or early graying, and with fair or sensitive skin. Pitta people are sharp and determined in thought, speech and action. They get things done!  There is an element of  intensity in their eyes and their voice. Ambition is usually their second nature. They see things clearly, and can problem solve naturally. They make great organizers, leaders, lawyers and orators. Self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of balanced Pitta.

Signs that Pitta is out of balance:
  • Are you often critical, impatient, irritable of others (or of yourself)?
  • Do you feel like you “will” each day to get as much done as possible?
  • Do you feel obsessed by work or a project and unable to stop for a break?
  • Do you have problems with heartburn or excess stomach acid?
  • Are you easily angered or frustrated?
  • Do you often feel hungry? thirsty?
  • Is your speech often sarcastic or sharp tongued?
Yoga is a wonderful tool to use for the Pitta person (actually for every person). It can help balance what tends to be an overactive mind and body.  Here are some yoga poses that would work well if you are want to balance this specific dosha.
Yoga Poses to balance the Pitta aspect:
  • Before starting your yoga practice, take a few minutes to begin with breath-work. Start by allowing the exhale to be longer than the inhale.  This will cool the heat that is coming from your belly/agni.
  • Don’t try to make it a competition, keep it fun.
  • Work at 80% of the effort, so that you are not too intense in your practice.
  • Choose cooling postures, forward bends, twists, side openings and make the practice more of a flow.
  • Use a soft gaze that is level to the horizon;  keeps pitta eyes cool.
  • Practice in a moderately cool place and during cooler times of the day.  Hot yoga, will only heat and aggravate a pitta imbalance more.
  • Use the exhalation to release any stress, anger, critical thinking or frustration.
  • Less is more for pitta people!!!
  • Practice with this in mind: breath based flow as opposed to more alignment-based poses.
  • Avoid holding long inverted poses as that can create a lot of heat in the head.
  • Try poses that release heat from the solar plexus such as pigeon, camel, bow, fish, cobra or bridge poses.
  • For standing poses it is best to open the hips with tree pose, warrior or half moon.
  • But most of all? have fun!
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Yoga Flava with Robin Downes, Summer 2012