Guest post graciously contributed by Heidi L. Audet, AAYS, RYT-500.
Given the clarity and perception that a healthy and well-adjusted pitta naturally possesses, why, oh why do persons with this prakriti sometimes end up taking on too much and subsequently find themselves hovering over the edge of the burnout cliff? As a pitta individual, this is the question I have asked myself every time I get too close to that edge.
By nature, the Pitta character in the novel of life is a true example of the elements of water and fire, the foundation of this prakriti’s physical and mental make-up. Pitta possess qualities of light and sharpness, a clarity that helps reveal truth, and lends to a sharp mind and intellect. These traits serve this character well in certain professions. You may know many scientists, lawyers or teachers who exhibit these qualities and are usually standouts in their field.
Often playing a main protagonist in many situations where a leader is required, Pitta will rise to the occasion to get things done. He or she has a desire to learn, to take in as much as possible, and can usually digest whatever information is received with a great degree of success. Which brings us to some other qualities of the Pitta: fluid- or spreading- and heat. If pitta is not careful, this fluid nature will encourage the spreading quality, and before you know it, the individual who thinks he can do everything, even with his best efforts and efficiently organized calendar, will have spread himself too thin. Ask a confident Pitta to organize a charity event or lead a nation and you will almost never hear the reply “No,” regardless of the myriad of other responsibilities already piled high on his or her proverbial desk.
Even though the medium-build Pitta thinks she has the durability of Kapha (the earth and water prakriti), the reality is, she does not. Heat rises; frustration builds as the overloaded Pitta tries to do all that he or she has promised and set out to conquer, or, rather accomplish. Telling Pittas they are taking on too much will most likely fall on deaf ears. Once their dosha is out of balance, they believe they know everything, can do it better than the next fellow, and they above all others know what is best for them. It’s only when they are in the midst of recurring acid reflux or GERD, tussling about in a verbal blow up, or suffering from an undeniably itchy, spreading, oily red rash aggravated by the heat of their imbalance that they might begin to look at changing tactics. Remember, Pittas for the most part don’t like to fail and they rarely give up until a logical solution is found.
As a member of the Pitta clan, I understand this oh too well. For most of my young life I just pushed play the moment I woke up… not stopping until my head hit the pillow. Even if I felt I was on the precipice of a melt down, I would not surrender to the notion that less is more. Like most Pittas, it was clear to me at an early age that I could do anything I set my mind to. And, like most of my prakriti siblings, I usually accomplished my goal. The problem, though, comes when there is no space for rest; hopefully you have the clarity to realize you have consumed too much information, food, or ideas, and not given yourself enough space to digest it all or let it gently simmer into assimilation. How does one pacify or cool the Pitta mind and encourage the existence of space, sweetness and softness to enter so as to avoid going over the cliff?
My practices of yoga and Ayurveda have helped me move away from being a year-round sufferer of the Pitta burnout. These sister sciences continually inspire me to move toward balance, that life is not always an all or nothing experience. When I start to get too close to the edge, I remind myself to embrace these 5,000 year old practical tools of surrender and support.
8 Key practices to Pacify the Aggravated Pitta
1. Daily meditation practice:
Encourage the Pitta to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day in meditation. Mantra Meditation, such as “So Ham” works to help keep the Pitta mind focused on acceptance of self rather than on the myriad of plans for the day. It is best for the Pitta to schedule meditation as a “daily personal appointment.” When I schedule it into my day’s routine, it will be done faithfully. If I fill the slot with something else that I deem more important, like a production meeting, it does not get done. Pittas need to remind themselves that scheduling and participating in a daily meditation practice is like adding money to the bank. Ojas increases, which builds better support for the active Pitta in times of need.
2. Pranayama- Sheetali or Shikari Breathing, followed by 6 rounds of Nadi Shodanam:
Soothe the heat of the Pitta with the cooling, sipping breath of Sheetali, inhaling through the mouth, and exhaling through the nose. Nadi Shodanam (alternate nostril breathing), the fourth practice of the four purifications, is also known as channel purification. When the mind is overheated & overactive, this breath practice can help bring coolness and passivity to the out-of-balance Pitta mind and gets the channels of the body running smooth.
3.Walks in nature near water:
Connecting the mind and body in an easy flowing walk in nature near a pond, lake, or gentle stream reminds the Pitta to cool down and slow down. Meditating near the ocean can remind the practitioner to let the heat go. One of my most favorite Pitta-reducing meditation practices is to sit at the beach near the ocean on a moonlit night. It has such a refreshing and peaceful effect on me almost immediately.
4. Daily Abhyanga- self massage:
When this girl gets really heated up and cranky, especially in the summer months, I apply cooling coconut oil to my head, gently massaging it into my forehead, nape of the neck and temples. I use coconut oil on the entire body for spring and summer, but switch to sunflower oil or grapeseed oil mixed with neem and sesame on the rest of the body for the cooler months of the year. If the forecast says we are in for a particularly hot and humid day, I will keep the coconut oil on my head during my morning meditation. The practice of abhyanga is an act of self-love nurturance. It reminds the Pitta to soften, relax and accept, three things that do not come easily to this prakriti.
5. Eating cooling, sweeter foods:
Pittas are drawn to the foods that naturally increase their imbalance. Hot, spicy, sharp, and sour foods are craved, but should be reduced; avoiding these stokers of the flame is advised during times of intense Pitta imbalances.
*Opting for sweet fruits like melons, cherries, pomegranates, mangos, plums and grapes is a good choice. Coconut milk, coconut water, and dried coconut are cooling and sweet, perfect for the Pitta.
* I use cooling herbs and spices such as fennel, saffron, coriander, cilantro, and mint to season my food and for teas when I am feeling too much heat.
*A midday treat of a little ice cream on a hot summer day is a delightful pacifier for an out-of-balance Pitta. I am an avid supporter of this practice.
*Adding ghee to my spice churnas brings additional pacification when my pitta is deranged; I also love to have asparagus, cucumbers and celery in my meals when the heat increases.
*In the fall and winter, eating steamed or baked sweet potatoes and pumpkin help to bring a little sweetness when I am feeling sharp and prickly.
*Drinking a cup of lavender and chamomile tea is a good way to relax and renew.
6. Pitta Pacifying Yoga Practices that cool, calm and regulate fire:
Twists, forward folds, cat/cow stretch and backbends like Ustrasana (camel), Setu Bandhasana (bridge) or Bhujangasana (cobra) with a softened downward gaze (remember, eyes are pittic in nature) are good poses for Pittas. Twists can help to regulate the digestive fire, forward folds bring the concept of surrender and cooling, and postures of expansion in the backbend family and side body openers like Ardha Chandrasana help release the heat. I practice reminding myself not to push past 60-80% effort and avoid becoming so serious that I do not invite sharpness into my practice.
7. Remember to laugh:
One of the things Pittas need to remember is to not take themselves so seriously. Watch funny movies or shows; occasionally choose reading materials that are more light-hearted and maybe a little zany. Laughter can help curb the heated sharpness of an edgy Pitta and make life that much more enjoyable.
8. It is okay to say no:
Just because you can think you can do everything, doesn’t mean you have to. It is okay to decline an invitation and avoid getting in over your head. Learning to say no means creating space in your life for enjoyment. Surrender brings sweetness, and learning to say no will create an opportunity to bring the sweet nectar of balance to you.
May these practices be helpful in stabilizing and maintaining a healthy and balanced Pitta prakriti.