Staying Cool While Playing in the Sun

Submitted by: Vishnu (Antonio Aragona)

This is the time of year where many individuals are excited about being outside and playing under the sun. From increased travel, vacations, retreats, to just the local outdoor activities. It’s a great time of year because the sun is shining longer and brighter. So why not?

This is where it gets tricky. We want to soak in as much as possible because the experience with nature is opposite of winter where we are more often “stuck inside”, and the nights are longer. The winter tends to provoke a sense of sadness and depression. The summer tends to be stimulating for all. Ayurveda says that the different “constitutions/doshas/bodily humors” and/or “types” will vary within their own experience. Dry heat tends to be enjoyed by Kapha (Spring types) more. Moist heat tends to be enjoyed by Vata (Fall/Winter types) more. Pitta (Summer types) can go either way. They either love the heat because they enjoy the overstimulation of it, or they dislike it and find misery in the heat. Each of these prodromal/precursory indicators suggests something about a potential imbalance that may be present. It depends.

The heat can be drying, depletive. While it can be enjoyed right now, what happens today during this time of year is always setting the stage for what is to come as the upcoming season’s approach. The body is a historical system. It records and stores much of what happens inwardly and outwardly. If an individual relishes in the heat excessively, especially depending on their constitution, they are setting themselves up for a health crisis later in the year. Examples like this are exactly what make Ayurveda a holistic system of medicine that is the most versed in prevention.

A little bit goes a long way, especially with the sun. A lot of sun, can cause great harm to health. One physiological phenomenon that occurs this time of year is that the digestive system shifts to being centrifugal. What that means and how that looks is that the blood flow that naturally is focused on the abdomen and digestive organs become more dispersed this time of year as heat is expansive/dispersive in qualities, and the body attempts to cool itself down. The desire to eat may decrease for some as a result of this. The feeling to eat heavy and hot meals becomes almost an avoided task. This is why nature produces fruits and vegetables that cook in the sun during the day, fresh for picking, cooling and easier to eat. Minimal kitchen exposure required.  It is too hot to spend a few hours over a stove. It is easier to grill outside if any cooking should happen.

In the winter this is opposite. The digestive system shifts back to being centripetal, which means that the heat is more centralized in the abdominal cavity in order to support digestion and overall health, and warmth. it’s like returning from summer vacation and as fall approaches, the windows become shut, the heat in the home turns on, and the inhabitants are kept warm at the core. The digestive fire is like the furnace of a home. When it’s cold outside, heat is turned up. When it’s warm outside, the heat is turned down.

This is all food for thought of course, according to Ayurveda. So, what is to be done today (this season) about achieving balance so that tomorrow (fall/winter) doesn’t bear a burden as much?

1) AVOID THE PEAK SUN TIME, as this has a drying and depleting action. This is one of the reason why after spending a day at the beach most people are exhausted.

2) STAY PROPERLY HYDRATED: Drying of the skin, between chlorinated water/salt water and sun exposure not only tremendously increases risk for cancer, but many other skin conditions/health conditions. Stay hydrated by moisturizing the skin, which natural moisturizers such as olive oil and coconut oil. (not that over the counter synthetic stuff.) Stay hydrated by boosting electrolytes.

3) ICE, as tempting as it might seem this time of year more than any time of year, avoid intake of ice. ICE may seem to have a cooling aspect to it but this is FALSE. What actually happens it that rather than draw the heat out and cool, it pushes the heat deeper keeping it trapped in the core. Warm/room temp beverages are best as this invites the heat out of the body and supports the bodies natural thermoregulation. Ice is actually astringent and therefore drying. If you really tune in, you can feel how it drys out the back and roof of the mouth. If you know your anatomy, picture what organs reside behine the mouth and imagine how ice affects these organs..DIRECTLY. Not so good, right? Check HERE for more on ICE/COLD

4) KEEP YOUR HEAD COVERED when out in the sun. The heat of the sun loves to heat up the head, causing the organs of the head to overheat and therefore, causing the whole body to overheat. Talk about being “hot headed.”

5) REST AS NEEDED. For some, as mentioned before, heat can have a depletive quality. Rest and especially proper night time sleep (between the hours of 10 and 6-ish) are ideal for restoring harmony and cooling the body. I know it’s exciting to be out later at night but whether it is summer or winter or any other time of year, late night staying up causing a domino effect of health issues, which indirectly adds to the aging process. If need be, take a short power nap in the afternoon, say 15-25 minutes (max). This acts as a coolant and reset. There’s a reason why many cultures like in France, Italy, and Mexico that they take a siesta during lunch time.

6) ALCOHOL actually increases heat in the body, even if it comes in a cool form. Just thought you should know.

7) AVOID DYNAMICALLY INTENSE ACTIVITIES/EXERCISES during the peak sun time. This actually causes more harm than good over the long run of things. Activities such as intense workouts, intense yoga practices, intense cardio practices (like running and cross-fit), and so on. I know, I’m sorry to break your heart if this is what you love to do but in the long run, this is about preventative care. Sweating profusely is highly damaging and depletive. It takes much longer than you think to restore the health and integrity of the body after so much of these activities are conducted.  Additionally, this goes for any time of year, exercising at night (unless a very passive practice before bed) is contraindicated. There is no better quality of sleep than the sleep acquired from a full nights rest. Period! That feeling of goodness after you have worked out hard is actually a basic indication of adreno-fatigue. That’s not a good sign. Working out in the earlier part of the day actually sets you up for proper rest at night, which again supports optimal health on so many levels.

8) SLOW DOWN THROUGH BELLY BREATHING. It is understood that the faster something goes the more heat it can create. The slower, the cooler something can be. Similarly, faster paced breathes engage the sympathetic nervous system which has a heightening and stimulating effect. Slowing down actually invites the parasympathetic nervous system response in the body which then can have a cooling effect. Deep belly breathing has a cooling, soothing effect. It also balances the abdominal organs governing digestion. Deep belly breathing pulls the mind down into a more grounded state, causing it to be calmer and centralized. Click HERE for the technique.

9) SLOW DOWN in general! This will cool things down and allow the presence of life to be more revealing in the moment. Futuristic thoughts can provoke anxiety. Thoughts fixated on the past can be an anchor provoking depression. Slowing down to now is where everything is at.

Vishnu is one of Philadelphia’s leading experts in Ayurveda, with over 20 years of experience in holistic training. He has a Masters Degree in Ayurveda and is currently enrolled in an Ayurveda Doctoral degree program. Vishnu has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and is a licensed massage therapist, practicing various other modalities. He has been teaching classical yoga rooted in Ayurveda for almost 15 years and practicing 22 years. His Ayurveda, Yoga and Massage center, Still Point Ayurveda is the leading Ayurvedic Center in Philadelphia. He also sees patients in North New Jersey. Visit www.stillpointayurveda.com  to find out more and to schedule appointments.

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