As we are increasingly experiencing higher than normal temperatures, let’s look at how to stay cool and calm!
Our incredible bodies naturally maintain an average temperature of between 97.8°F and 99.0°F. The brain’s hypothalamus and Autonomic Nervous System regulate it using our skin, sweat glands and blood vessels throughout the body.
In extremely hot and humid weather you may experience ‘heat stress’.
Have you also noticed that when you are feeling stressed you feel uncomfortable and hot too? We’re familiar with sayings like ‘hot-tempered’, ‘hot-headed’ and ‘hot under the collar.’ From an ayurvedic point of view Pitta predominant types need to take special care in following a Pitta reducing diet and lifestyle throughout the Summer.
Pitta is the Ayurvedic dosha made up of fire and water with qualities such as hot, penetrating, oily, sharp, liquid and sour. Our agni (digestive fire) is easily displaced by external heat, drawing internal fire to the surface with results such as heat rash/ prickly heat, other skin problems, bloodshot eyes, diarrhea and other digestive complaints. Aggravated Pitta can also manifest in excess anger and losing one’s cool- so worth keeping a lid on this dosha in the summer months. Have a look at this link from Yoga Bromley's website for a good introduction to Ayurveda and the 3 main body/mind types ( doshas )
The following tips will help you stay cool and calm:
1 – Sitali Breath
Sit up so that your spine is upright and straight with shoulders relaxed.
Settle with some deep breaths to begin.
Then bring your focus to your tongue and see if you can poke it out and curl it. If not, just bring the tongue out between the parted lips.
Inhale through the tongue like you are sipping in the air with a straw.
Close your mouth and draw your tongue in and hold the breath for a moment.
Exhale out through the nostrils.
Do this for 5 minutes to help you to calm down from stress and cool off your body whether it’s general over-heating or following exercise.
2 – Belly Breath
Again, sit with an upright spine and relaxed shoulders.
Focus on a spot just below your navel.
Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air.
Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.
Allow the exhalations to be as long and slow as you can.
Experiment sometimes exhaling through the mouth to difuse any inner tensions, like a long sigh.
With every long, slow exhalation, you may feel more relaxed.
Try this any time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
An easy way to chill any time!
3 – Your Pulse Points and Aromatherapy Oils let you Stay Cool and Calm
The body has several pulse points where you can feel your pulse because your blood vessels are close to the skin’s surface.
These include the inside of your wrist, elbow, knee, ankle (on the ankle bone) and back of the neck. Also at the temple area on your face in front of your ears.
At these points you can splash water. For example, go to the bathroom and run your wrists under the cold tap, or splash water across the back of your neck.
You can also dab aromatherapy oils at these pulse points.
There are specific oils with cooling properties such as peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, rose and sandalwood. Spraying rose water on your face is another way to keep your face cool and fresh.
4 – How Evaporation Helps you to Stay Cool
Spray or douse your body with water. As it evaporates off your skin you start to cool down. This is how the body’s natural cooling system works.
You can also place ice-cubes in a tea-towel and stroke them across your pulse points (see 3). As the blood vessels are close to the skin surface this helps cool you down more swiftly.
Or soak a wet scarf or bandana to wrap around your wrists or forehead. At night, in extreme heat, you can soak a sheet with water and lay beneath it to cool down.
5 – Foot bath
This is very effective! Fill a washing-up bowl with cool or cold water. Add a few drops of lavender oil or something similar that you like. Sit with your feet in the water for as long as you wish.
It’s a great one to do if you work from home and sit at a computer! Although I recommend taking time out to do this, it’s also great as a means to stay cool while you continue your work.
6 – Keep hydrated
From the moment you wake up, during hot weather it’s even more essential than ever to keep hydrated.
Start by drinking water and add some lemon juice or cucumber to create a drink that will replenish you.
Coconut water and fresh vegetable juices are also good for this. They contain vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that are useful for replenishing the body as we lose more through sweating in the heat.
Stay cool and calm with a tisane, maybe even a cool tisane that you have let cool in the fridge for a little– usually known as a herbal tea. Try refreshing mint or relaxing chamomile.
When you bring your mindful presence to the process of drinking, it gives you the opportunity to experience moments of calm throughout your day. Pacing yourself is important in extreme heat. And your mindful awareness allows you to savour every sip.
Quick note for your garden wildlife:
Remember to keep your bird bath topped up daily. And a dish of water at ground-level for hedgehogs.
7 – Seek Out Nature
There are shady woodlands, cool-running rivers and the ocean. If you can, let nature help you to stay cool and calm. Seek out some shade either in your garden, local park or area not far from where you live.
There’s nothing quite like nature to uplift your mood while at the same time calming stress!
8 - Adapt your daily routine:
Get up early to enjoy the cool mornings, and enjoy walking barefoot on dewy grass if you can. Similarly, enjoy moonlit walks in the cooler evenings. Avoid sun exposure between noon and 3pm, especially if you are a Pitta (fire ) type with freckles, moles and paler skin (it ages your skin, increases cancer risk and is highly aggravating to Pitta!)
9 - Practice a daily massage with cooling coconut oil to nourish and clear heat from the skin. (normally solid in the UK but liquid in the Summer heat, suggesting this is the best time to use this oil in the UK climate, rather than in Winter when it’s set solid) No need to heat the oil, and wash off with a cool shower afterwards, avoiding hot baths and showers, saunas and steam rooms.
10 - Wear cooling calming colors such as white, green and blue. These reflect heat as opposed to orange, red and yellow. Make sure you cover up, especially if you have Pitta predominant fair skin with freckles and moles.
11 - Minimise alcohol & caffeine as these are both heating and aggravate Pitta. A little white wine or spritzer is OK but avoid heavy spirits and red wine. Increase fluids, especially water but avoid iced drinks which aggravate the digestion. Try mixing fresh lime juice with water and a little agave syrup for a delicious and quick still lemonade (eg: 1tsp agave or natural sugar + 1 tsp lime juice and a pinch of salt in a pint of room temperature water to sip throughout the day).
12 - At bed-time rub the soles of your feet with cooling coconut oil to bring all the heat down to your feet. You can also put coconut oil in your hair for a lovely conditioning treat (have you ever wondered why Indians have such lovely hair!) Do wear an old pair of socks or hat though. Add a few drops of lavender or sandalwood to your pillow. Get to bed before 11pm, as Pitta peaks between 10pm and 2am.
13 - Make sure to do some emotion management if needed– watch for Pitta emotions such as criticism, irritation and anger. If these arise, a good trick is to hold cool water in the mouth for as long as is needed! Dr Lad , one of the most respected ayurvedic teachers, also recommends ghee nasya as very effective in managing anger and hostility. Dip your little finger in a jar of ghee and lubricate the inside of the nostrils with a small amount. Then gently inhale the ghee upwards which sends a calming message to the brain. He writes “You will become quite tranquil; anger and hostility will dissolve like a cloud in the sky.”
14 – Be Mindful and Stay Cool and Calm
When you pay attention to how your body is feeling you can then respond swiftly to your needs. So with mindful awareness, take care and pace yourself, especially when summer temperatures rise.
Stay cool and calm and remember your moments of stillness create a ‘place of serenity’ within you!