Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pitta Overdrive

This summer has been a doozie and I, for one, have been struggling to beat the heat. It's Pitta season, folks, and us overachievers are most likely feeling it the worst. Ayurveda (meaning "science of life") is an ancient Indian system of natural healing whose aim is to treat the whole person. According to Ayurvedic principles, we're born with a specific proportion of the five elements and can maintain health and balance in our life if we live in tune with our constitution. The elements are combined to create the three doshas: Vata (air and space), Pitta (water and fire), and Kapha (water and earth). Lost? Think about the airport. Vata types hope to arrive early but get there late because they lost their passport. Kapha types are relaxed and happy, despite the fact that their plane has been delayed. Pitta (oh, Pitta) people arrive early (having printed their boarding pass from home) and are fighting with the airlines to wave the $20 baggage fee.

My friend and fellow teacher, Jeanmarie Paolillo, is my go-to Ayurvedic guru. Whenever I feel my pitta in overdrive, I email her in desperation. "During the Pitta season, all the qualities of Pitta are amped up. Tension, anger and irritability are all signs that the Dosha is elevated in your system," says Jeanmarie. When balanced, Pitta types are perceptive, independent, and friendly. They're natural leaders in every way, but turn up the heat and you'll have an overly competitive, angry, control-freak on your hands (back away slowly).

Thankfully there are ways to cool off and the yoga mat is a great place to start. "Taking the active practice down a notch and bringing in more cooling poses will aid greatly in balancing out Pitta," suggests Jeanmarie. Skip the chaturangas and long standing sequences in favor of seated forward bends. Inversions are important, even if it's just Viparita Karani (legs up the wall), as they can help minimize fluid retention and drain lymphatic fluid from the lower extremities. Jeanmarie's recommendations go beyond the physical: "Leg go of any competitive thoughts, both with the people around you and (more importantly and often more challenging) with yourself!" Amen.

Pitta can also be balanced through our food choices. Stick to a cool menu of fruits (think melon, apples and grapes), veggies (raw is best) and grains. Stay away from spicy, acidic or fried food, and avoid meat and (brace yourself) coffee. Dammit (that's the Pitta talking). Eat in a peaceful environment and engage in calming activities, like walking or swimming. Wearing cool colors like blues, greens and whites can help to turn down the heat. Jeanmarie suggests daily meditation and encourages us Pittas to get in touch with our emotions through introspective activities such as journaling.

Parting words to all Pittas: slow down, eat well and be nice. Fall is right around the corner!


  1. It's like you actually FEEL my pain. Great advice!

  2. Thanks Chrissy!

    Let me add another pitta-pacifying recommendation to moisturize your skin and hair with virgin coconut oil as it is inexpensive, and naturally scented. It is so good for us and our environment!

    As I once worked in the beauty biz for decades I can decipher product labels. It's scary to see what's really in the "natural" lotions and potions. Consider also U.S. federal law allows companies to leave many chemicals off labels, including nanomaterials, contaminants, and components of fragrance.

    Yes to ayurveda!

  3. Amen to the journal as a route to chilling out. And now I'll go put my legs up the wall!

  4. Love this Chrissy! Such good advice-- especially when the things that are worst for us always seem most appealing (I swear to God if I just do one more Chattarunga, it will all work out..)

  5. It's so true that we're often drawn to the things we don't need. Pittas are usually pretty perceptive of this truth but plow through anyway! Chaturangas are out. Restorative is in!