Ayurveda guides us to live in harmony with the cycles of nature. When we do this, our overall health and well-being stays in balance. The Summer brings heat and not just in temperatures, there is an intensity in the air and always lots going on. Summer shifts our energy outward to all the things happening around us. It's important to remain cool, embrace lifestyle practices that keep you relaxed and grounded, and enjoy a lighter diet.
Ayurveda teaches that likes increase likes and opposites create balance. When you keep this in mind and tune into your body's needs it will significantly change how you feel. In the summer’s intensity of warmth and energy, you want to do your best to remain cool and grounded.
As you start to notice how your body feels and responds to what you eat and the activities you participate in, you will slowly begin to crave and gravitate towards what nourishes you, rather than what depletes you.
When we talk about maintaining balance in the summer with Ayurveda, “cool” doesn't mean to have the AC blasting and have lots of iced drinks, it means to apply the opposite quality to the warm summer. Eat foods like melons, cucumber, zucchini, and mung beans. Use spices that have cooling properties, like basil, cilantro, fennel, and mint. Drink room temperature water with fresh mint and lime. Establish a grounding, slow, and relaxing yoga practice, even if it's just for five minutes.
My goal with this guide is to share with you an overview of Ayurvedic principles that are easy to adapt to your life, so you can feel your best this Summer. This guide will cover:
If you are new to Ayurveda or want a refresher check out my blog "Introduction to Ayurveda".
I hope you enjoy learning some of the wonderful tools Ayurveda has to offer!
Living in the Summer Season According to Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, summer is ruled by the fiery pitta dosha, which is one of the three body-mind constitutions (vata and kapha are the other two). Pitta is composed of the elements fire and water, governing metabolism, regulating temperature, and generating willpower, intelligence, and discernment.
Everyone has all three doshas in them at different degrees. Even if your constitution does not have pitta as primary or secondary, it can still go out of balance when there is excess heat or other factors. When these imbalances are left untreated an increase in pitta or fire can cause inflammation, acid reflux, rashes, excessive hunger, ulcers, and emotionally aggressiveness, anger, irritability, and hatred.
Vata and kapha doshas are actually soothed in the summer months because they enjoy warmer temperatures, but they should still avoid overheating. Vata can be provoked in the summer because there is more activity, travel, and movement during this time of year.
Since vata governs the five senses there can be a tendency to get overstimulated. By staying grounded and taking opportunities to calm the five senses, vata can maintain balance in the summer.
It’s important to keep pitta cool, especially in the summer. Slow down, eat mindfully, rest, chill out, go for a swim, and enjoy foods that are light and fresh, and favor a vegetarian diet.
Summer invites us to be more social and activities are usually around enjoying the sun and outdoors. Do your best to avoid over-exposure to the sun. Use good quality, reef-safe sunscreens (my favorite sunscreen is by Surface). Wear a hat, stay hydrated, and take breaks in the shade. Plus, take a dip or swim in refreshing water to cool you down.
If you are in a cooler climate like San Francisco where it might be foggy and damp most of the summer, you’re probably ok to eat warming foods in moderation, enjoy the sun when it decides to visit, and I would encourage some time escaping from the SF weather.
Knowing the qualities or gunas that represent in summer can really help in maintaining balance:
Primary Summer Dosha: Pitta
Summer Months: End of June, July, August, beginning of September
Summer Elements: Fire, water
Summer Gunas (qualities): Hot, light, sharp, liquid
Gunas to balance Summer qualities: Cool, moist, slow, soft
Do your best to slow down this summer and counter any over stimulating activities with something more soothing.
Ayurvedic Diet Guidelines for Summer
As the season transitions from spring to summer, then into the full summer months pay attention to how your body feels and the temperature outside. If you feel hot or the weather is hot, avoid or limit heating foods like garlic, fried foods, chili, salted cheese, alcohol, red meats, and sour citrus fruits.
Try to include more cooling foods into your diet like cilantro and coriander, cucumbers, lettuces, leafy greens, zucchini, celery, snow peas, fresh ripe fruits, and light fresh cheeses like cottage, yogurt, and even your occasional ice cream.
In the summer nature takes care of us by turning down the digestive fire in our system so that we don’t internally overheat. And the longer sun exposure in summer helps to heat the fruit and vegetables we eat, so that our bodies don’t need to work as hard to digest. Maintaining a diet that is cooling and light will help to keep your gut happy in the summer.
Favor foods that are sweet, bitter, and astringent, which help to pacify pitta, and avoid foods that are sour, spicy, and salty (foods that aggravate pitta).
General rule for Summer: Don’t skip meals. Rather eat light and cooling foods.
Stay hydrated and cool! This doesn’t mean add a ton of ice to your drinks and have frozen smoothies, it means add foods, spices, and herbs to your water to help keep you cool. When you drink or eat something cold your body has to work harder to regulate its internal temperature, this can disrupt digestion. So this summer, enjoy watermelon juice, cucumber water, coconut water, mint water…etc…
Eat what is in season and lightly sauté or steam your veggies. If you’re going to eat raw salads, enjoy them at lunch when your digestion is strongest. Helpful raw food tip: add black pepper to your raw food and sip warm drinks to help kick up your digestion.
Leafy greens (moderation)
Meat & Fish
While it is more ideal to favor a vegetarian diet in the summer, eating a little seafood or white meat can be quite tasty. (Eggs are considered meat in Ayurveda.)
Poultry (white meat)
The following grains can be a great addition to a summer lunch salad, or if you’re feeling like you need to add a little heaviness to your meal.
In Ayurveda, fruit is typically eaten on its own separate from other meals. Some fruits can be cooked into food and then it’s considered ok. In the Summer you want to enjoy fruits that are sweeter and very ripe, instead of more sour or underripe fruits.
Enjoy adding and cooking with these oils in the summertime. It’s best to avoid fried foods, but you can enjoy a little extra oil drizzled on top of a meal.
Ayurveda considers dairy to be a sweet flavor, which is important to favor in the summer. Sweet doesn’t mean sugar, it’s about the taste. Enjoy younger fresher cheeses and avoid harder aged cheeses. You can even have your occasional ice cream!
Ice Cream (moderation)
Nuts & Seeds
While these are a great source of protein, when eaten in larger quantities they can become heavy and clog your digestion. Use them as a light snack or to sprinkle them on a meal to add an extra crunch and protein boost.
Always a great source of protein and way to make a hearty meal.
Try to use natural sweeteners when possible and use in moderation.
Spices & Healing Herbs
Enjoy these nice cooling summer herbs and spices to help reduce your heat in the summer. Side note: An herb is the fresh leaf, while a spice is the dried leaf, seed, or root.
Get creative this summer and infuse your water with beneficial herbs, species, vegetables, and fruits to keep you cool and hydrated during the hotter months. If you live in an especially hot climate it’s extra important to stay hydrated, so spice up your water and enjoy!
Remember: You want to keep cool, which doesn't mean add a ton of ice, but rather use cooling herbs and fruits in your water.
There are endless combinations - get creative! Here are some suggestions:
Fresh mint or basil, lime, and cucumber
Watermelon and fresh mint or basil
A combination of your favorite berries
Cucumber and melon
Pineapple and your favorite berry
Avoid or minimize wine, hard alcohol, and coffee; all of these aggravate pitta. If you do drink, counter the effects with 2 glasses of mint or cucumber water to every 1 glass of alcohol or cup of coffee.
Summer Meal Suggestions
Breakfast: Eat light. Cottage cheese or yogurt with oats. Toast with ghee/butter/oil and a young fresh cheese or avocado.
Lunch: Main meal of the day. Salads well dressed with oil and black pepper as a part of a meal. Grains and legumes steamed or sautéed veggies (especially leafy greens) with cooling summer spices (see above). Add animal protein if needed (look above).
Snacks: Fresh seasonal fruit that is ripe and not sour, sunflower seeds, cucumbers
Dinner: Eat light and avoid too much raw foods. Steamed or sautéed veggies with a small amount of grain and protein of your choice.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Summer
Prioritize slowing down and focusing on what brings you joy, while not letting the exciting Summer activities sweep you off your feet. Take your time to do what you need to get done, when you move slowly and mindfully you will be more productive and present. In the Summertime reduce overstimulation, maintain a routine even when traveling, take long exhales, and wear cooling colors (blues, greens, purples). Enjoy night walks under the Moon beams, which calms your subtle body and mind. And if you want to feel refreshed drink rose tea or use rose hydrosol spray to cool the body and calm the mind.
It can be easy for vata to get aggravated in the Summer because there can be a tendency to move around and travel more. And since vata is in charge of taking in information through the five senses, there can be a tendency for our sense organs to get overused, especially during travel. Use your flights and longer car rides (if you aren’t driving) to rest and take a break. Avoid your screen, take a nap.
Summer is an ideal time to slow down your exercise routine and avoid working out at the hottest times of day. A cooling, slow, and restorative yoga practice with forward folds and twists can help calm and soothe vata and pitta, while also aiding the digestive system. This doesn’t mean you can’t work on strengthening your body, just be mindful of the time of day your practice and not overdoing it (a pitta tendency). If you’re feeling overheated try a cooling pranayama (breath control practice) and incorporate a nice grounding morning or evening meditation.
Build a routine to keep you grounded, calm, present, and cool during the Summer months. It’s an easier time to get up early because the days are longer, so use this to your advantage. Summer is a popular time of year to travel and move around a lot, which can aggravate vata (the dosha of movement). By establishing a routine, even on vacation it can really help pacify both vata and pitta.
Wake up with the sun. Take some deep breaths and set your intention for the day. Go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, clean your tongue.
Start your day with a cup of room temperature water or if you’re feeling hot, you can let fennel or coriander seeds sit in room temperature water overnight and enjoy a cooling drink (1 tspn seeds to 8oz of water).
Exercise to 50-70% of your capacity in the early morning to avoid overheating, and do a cooling grounded yoga meditation, and pranayama (breath control) practice (see below).
Take a warm shower and get dressed in cooling colors and light fabrics.
Have a light breakfast of fresh fruits, smoothies, or oats.
Avoid activity mid-day, carve out time to rest, and go slow.
Stay hydrated with cooling drinks (not iced, but flavored with spices, herbs, veggies, and fruits that are cooling - see above).
Your largest meal should be at lunch before 2pm. It’s when your digestion is highest. Make sure to relax during your meal and eat slowly.
Don’t push yourself through the day, focus on what’s most important. There is often an energy slump mid-day because of the heat. Let yourself take a short nap (15-20 minutes) and see how that rejuvenates you.
Eat a light dinner before 7pm. Again relax, enjoy, and eat slowly. It’s a common meal to have out with friends or family, do your best to avoid heating foods and stay relaxed.
Take a cooling evening stroll, especially when the Moon is bright. Or even Moon-bathe (lay or sit under the bright moon, this is incredibly cooling and soothing).
Try to turn off electronics by 8 or 9pm and go to sleep by 10 or 11pm to not overstimulate your mind.
Minimize sexual activity in the Summer months to conserve your energy.
The early morning is the best time for exercise since it’s usually cooler and also there’s a peaceful and still energy present. Cut back on the intensity of your workout so that you don’t overexert yourself. Cool down afterwards with a spritz of rose water and drink cucumber or mint water.
Tai Chi & QiGong
Summer Yoga Practices
It’s supportive to establish a daily yoga practice that includes postures (asana), breath control practices (pranayama), and meditation that helps to slow you down and keep you present. Start or end your day with postures that help counter any discomfort, incorporate a pranayama that is cooling or calming, and end with a nice savasana (corpse pose) with your legs up the way where you can meditate and quiet the mind.
Asana (posture): Create a daily practice that is cooling, slow, and grounding. Avoid heated yoga classes or practicing in the midday sun. Incorporate the water element into your practice with fluid, yet slow movement, take deep breaths, and relax into each pose. Moving at a slower pace can still build strength. And remember to enjoy a nice long savasana with an extended exhale to really calm the nervous system.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adhomukhosvanasa)
Half Monkey God Pose
Head-of-the-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
Heart-Melting Pose (Anahatasana)
Longer Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar)
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Side bends Child’s Pose
Wide-legged standing and seated poses
Pranayama: The breath is our master tool and breath control practices (pranayama) is an amazing way to help cool you in the summertime. Whether you practice extended exhales where you inhale for a 3 count and exhale for a 6 count, or use the cooling pranayama of Shitkari or Sitkali, you will get to experience the power the breath can have on your body temperature. Practice any of these for a few minutes in the morning or anytime you feel an excess of heat.
Three Part Yogic Breathing
Chandra Bhedana (Lunar Left Nostril Breathing)
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Shitkari/Sitkali (Cooling Breath)
Meditation: This doesn’t not need to be done sitting with your legs crossed, silently trying to not think for hours. You can keep it simple, short, and take any seated or reclined posture that allows your body to be most comfortable. You can even walk or dance. As long as your intention is to stay present, connect to your body, mind, and soul, and do your best to cultivate a peaceful state.
The Buddhist practice of metta or lovingkindness is a great tool to use to counter the pitta aggravation/anger/irritation that can build with Summer heat. Take whatever position is comfortable for you and enjoy some ground extended exhale breaths to center you. Cultivate compassion and love for yourself first, then those you love, and finally all beings.
May I be happy, healthy and at peace. May those I love be happy, healthy and at peace. May all beings be happy, healthy and at peace.
If you are having a conflict or difficulties with someone in your life at the very end you can add this person to your metta prayer: “May [insert name] be happy, healthy and at peace”. Continue to add this person to your prayer until your feelings dissipate.
Maintaining Balanced in Summer
It is always a fine dance between really enjoying yourself and letting loose in the summer, with maintaining a state of peace and calm. By living intune with the flow of nature and following some of these key Ayurvedic principles, you can really transform how you feel. Remember: likes increase likes and opposites balance. Listen to your body and enjoy summer.
Want support this Summer?
I offer a variety of Ayurvedic services. From an introductory session, to seasonal balance support, to ongoing Wellness Coaching.
My "Introduction to Ayurveda" blog
Dr. John Douillard's Life Spa Articles & Videos
Banyan Botanicals Articles
Yoga Journal Articles on Ayurveda
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad
Ayurveda - Science of Self Healing by Vasant Lad
The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadae Morningstar & Urmila Desai