Feel the burn? Yes, I know that this phrase has multiple meanings. When I was in college, “Feel the burn” was associated with Jane Fonda and her famous “donkey kicks” on her aerobic-fitness videotapes! I would put on my spandex, headband, and leg warmers and set up the TV so I could move with Jane as she yelled: “Can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it? Feel the burn!” Now clients and students tell me they “feel the burn” in a different way—on their skin or in their tummies or as anger rising!
Why is this message changing? Probably because we are so much more aware of what we eat, how we react, and what we can offer ourselves than we were in 1984. Back then, I had no idea that my digestion might impact my thinking or my skin. After years of yoga practice, ayurvedic school, and myriad hours of self-investigation, I can now easily recognize the symptoms of the heat in my body and how it can impact my every cell, thought, and action.
So, what to do when you feel the burn? When your pitta is overflowing and the heat is on? Here are my top chillax tips for the end-of-the-summer heat and its repercussions.
1. Join the “folks who nap club.” Yes, take a 20-minute late-afternoon nap to stop you in your tracks and recharge your battery. This is especially important for those of you who read this tip and think, “That is a waste of time. . .!”
2. Sunbathe before noon, the kapha time of day. It is lovely to soak up vitamin D from the sun for a bit, but we don’t want to heat up too much. Because often the air is still moist from the evening, the morning offers a gentler way of catching the rays than the late afternoon, when even the breeze is hot.
3. Try room temperature water with some cucumber and mint, or some watermelon, which will cool you down and add an alkaline quality to your digestive fire. When we add that quality, we see an overall cooling and calming of the intense fire that, according to ayurvedic principles, creates the burning of tissues, thoughts, and sharp actions/words.
4. Switch that lemon in your morning water to lime and add a little honey to cool you down, sweeten you up, and support the body’s natural cleansing system. (Go lymph, go!)
5. Practice bhramari pranayama (bumble bee breath) to soothe and calm your mind. The subtle effect of this “buzzing breath” creates a gentle vibration that softens the sharp quality that heat can bring to our thoughts. Even one minute of bhramari will have a positive effect.
6. Snack on fresh fruit. Yep, ice cream is fun, but it won’t cool us off! Ayurvedic principles hold that taking in cold heats up our digestive channel and does not promote cooling. Fresh fruit is generally sweet (which is naturally cooling) and is usually room temperature (or should be), so when we eat it, the body won’t heat up to digest it.
7. The same principle holds for beverages. Taking your tea (or other drinks) warm, rather than iced, will promote sweating, which will give your body a cooling sensation. (If you do not sweat, then perhaps you follow the rule of my mother, Sainted Ruthie: “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow.” Whatever word you use for the process, it should help to cool you down.)
8. Smell the flowers! Jasmine, magnolia, chamomile, rose—all have sweet and cooling scents. Try adding some floral essential oil to your favorite abhyanga or nasya oil to keep your mind cool with every breath.
9. Watch the water, sit under the moon, get lost in the forest—immersing ourselves in the vastness of nature helps us expand by creating spaciousness in our minds. Heat tends to create a myopic quality, so looking at the horizon when you’re at the beach or looking out over a canyon from the top of a mountain offers us a vantage point that cools our sense of urgency and reminds us that we are connected, both inside and out, to the vastness and glory of nature.
Ahhh, I feel calmer just from writing this.