Time for a Cup of Buttermilk and a Little Austerity

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Ayurvedic Strategies for Late Summer Health

by Hema Patankar

In the western regions of the US, it’s summer and more summer.  Dry and drying up more as the sun lingers on in the northern hemisphere.  In the western regions of India, it’s monsoon.  Perpetual dampness.

Yet according to Ayurveda, in both places we are experiencing the same season, Varsha Ritu. Yes, the name means rainy season.  But in Ayurveda, the seasons are defined by our proximity to the sun, because this is what our Agni, our digestive fire, responds to.  This relationship between the sun and our digestive fire a foundation of the delicate art of keeping our health in balance.

In the middle of the calendar year, those four months we generally call summer, the sun is hovering close overhead in the northern hemisphere. And there’s a hot sun blazing right behind the monsoon cloud cover in the Indian subcontinent.

What does our digestive fire, Agni, do in response? It cools down to help the body balance out the external heat. So wherever you are, your digestion is weaker and doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by huge meals and tall glasses of ice water.

In Ayurvedic terms, what’s happening in Varsha Ritu, or what we can think of as the second half of summer in the US, is too much Vata dosha. The characteristic dryness of Vata is especially strong. This dryness is not so much about dry skin as it is about dryness in the unseen world of our digestive tract. Think of it this way: the seat of Vata in your body is your colon. Translation: gas, bloating and constipation for the reckless eater in this season.

We all know that dryness is balanced by hydration and lubrication. But drinking even more water than usual is not the answer.  Too much water will dampen your delicate digestive fire.  Pay close attention and you’ll begin to recognize how much is enough.  And add a little bit of ghee to your food. It helps to stoke your precious digestive Agni and keep your digestive system moving smoothly.

Here are some general guidelines to help you navigate Varsha Ritu:

  • Eat a bit less and chew a lot more. Yogis chew each mouthful 32 times. Try it. It’s a very calming, contemplative way to eat, which means it help balance that frazzled state that too much Vata dosha can cause. Plus, that well chewed food is so much easier to digest.
  • Eat nothing straight from the fridge – not salad, or yoghurt or ice water or cold leftovers.
  • Avoid eating anything dry – dry crackers, dry bread, dry cereal. Like increases like, so dry increases dry.
  • Your go-to foods are light and moist. If you know how to make kitchadi or mung dal soup, this is a great time to feature these light, nutritious foods in your diet.
  • Drink a cup of buttermilk instead of eating yoghurt. Not the kind you get in cartons at the grocery store. In fact, you can make it in just a few minutes, like this:
  1. Blend together one part whole milk yoghurt (you need that little bit of fat to balance dryness) and one part water (room temperature, right.)
  2. After about 3 minutes it will form froth on top. That’s when it’s ready for the finishing touches.
  3. Add a pinch of Himalayan rock salt and a pinch of roasted cumin powder, and stir.
  4. You now have a nourishing drink that’s very kind in the digestive process.
  5. And if you have it at the end of a light meal, it leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction. It will feel like a blessing.

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