I often joke that without pitta-type people, nothing would ever get done! They have the energy and drive to transform, educate, and organize, making them excellent lawyers and public speakers.
However, even the introverts among us are reliant upon the healthy functioning of pitta dosha. It oversees all the transformations within the body and mind — from the digestion of food to the assimilation of mental impressions.
Pitta consists of the elements fire and water. It has the qualities (gunas): light, sharp, hot, liquid, spreading, and oily.
Fire is the element of transformation, integration and comprehension. Fire has a seat in the eyes, allowing us not only to see but to grasp situations and compile knowledge. Fire also has a seat in the stomach, breaking down food into fuel and coordinating with the other major organs, such as the liver, the heart, and the brain.
Signs of healthy pitta:
- A well-proportioned, medium-sized frame
- Intelligent and discerning
- A good memory and ability to concentrate
- Articulate, focus-driven, studious
- Ambitious, disciplined, productive
- Good at organizing and problem solving
- Charismatic and a good leader
- A strong digestion
- Energetic, strong-willed
Indications of pitta imbalance:
- Hot flashes, overheating
- Intolerance to very hot weather, direct sunshine, intense physical labour
- Profuse sweating
- Breakouts, acne, inflamed skin rashes or eczema, cold sores
- Oily skin and hair
- Premature balding
- Poor eyesight, red or inflamed eyes
- Acute inflammation of the joints
- Heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers
- A short temper, impatient, quick to anger
- Perfectionism, highly critical, judgemental
- Jealousy, spitefulness, competitive
- Loose stool
- High blood pressure
- Workaholism, overachieving, burn out
What causes pitta to go out of balance?
Pitta is thrown out of balance when we favour intensity and lack moderation. Leading a high-pressure lifestyle or having a demanding career can stoke the flame of pitta. The more we push ourselves in our daily activities, the more we risk ‘over-doing it’ and experiencing the symptoms of aggravated pitta.
Imbalance can also occur during puberty and at the juncture of middle-age into our senior years. It is also often seen in women during menopause. During these periods, the flame of pitta burns too hot, raising internal temperatures and resulting in hot flashes and mood swings.
The home of pitta dosha is the stomach, therefore many of the symptoms of aggravated pitta can be regulated by changing your diet. Pitta benefits from foods that decrease internal heat, prevent inflammation, ground the body, and balance agni (digestive fire).
However, it is not only what we eat but how we eat that will contribute to the pacification of pitta. Pitta types have a tendency to rush through meals, or multi-task while eating. This places extra pressure on the digestive system, and we also risk over-eating when we don’t take the time to listen to the body tell us when it has had its fill.
It is beneficial to make mealtimes regular each day. Set aside time to sit quietly and focus on your meal. Chew your food thoroughly and take deep breaths to encourage yourself to slow down and give your body a chance to process and digest the food. Not only will you find that this improves your digestion, but both your body and mind will feel more nourished and energized.
- Foods that are naturally sweet, bitter, or astringent
- Foods that are cool both in temperature and energetically
- Incorporate cooling and calming herbs, such as coriander, mint, cardamom, fennel, turmeric and cilantro
- Lots of cool, fresh water and other hydrating drinks such as coconut water and aloe water
- Whole, freshly cooked or raw foods
- Foods that are dry and high in carbohydrates
- Sweet juicy fruits, like watermelon, peaches, and plums
- Dark leaves such as kale and collard greens
- Foods that are pungent, sour, or salty
- Spices that are heating both in temperature and energetically, such as cayenne pepper and chilli
- Stimulants such as caffeine, processed sugars, alcohol, nicotine
- Excessive use of oils – ghee, high-quality olive oil, and coconut oil should be used in moderation.
- Processed or “fast” foods
- Deep fried foods
- Fermented foods
- Eating fruit or drinking fruit juice within half an hour of any meal
Neem is a very popular medicinal plant for dealing with nearly all symptoms of aggravated pitta and kapha. It’s bitter and cooling qualities make it ideal for detoxifying the liver and blood, and for soothing skin aggravations such as rashes, eczema, and acne.
Neem is also purifying for the immune system, as it helps to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood.
Amalaki is one of the three fruits that make up the Triphala herbal blend. Taken in isolation, amalaki is a powerful rejuvenative for pitta. It nourishes the tissues and is a potent detoxifier, removing naturally occurring toxins in the blood.
Amalaki stimulates the metabolism without aggravating the digestive fire and causing excess heat. It therefore supports a healthy stomach lining and cleanses the colon. Amalaki is also a highly concentrated source of antioxidants, supporting all of the vital organs and systems within the physical body.
Ayurveda uses many herbal remedies to support the healthy functioning of the doshas. However, it is very important that you take great care when incorporating a new herb into your diet. Therefore, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner beforehand, especially if you are dealing with any symptomology.
Pitta people have wonderful attention and focus; however, it is usually directed outwards. By turning the gaze inwards, you can practice increasing awareness, letting go of stress and relinquishing the desire to control.
Meditation can also help transform negative emotions such as anger, criticism, or frustration, and offer greater clarity and insight into your emotional patterns. Regular practice leads to greater compassion, tolerance, and patience, which in turn will nurture your relationship with yourself and with others.
4. Moderate Exercise
Pitta-type bodies tend to have a strong physique and can develop muscle easily. They benefit from challenging forms of exercise, but should be careful not to slip into patterns of self-criticism or frustration. It can be helpful to avoid competitive sports or anything that is overly heating or stimulating for the body or the mind. Exercises such as vinyasa yoga (in a cool room — not hot yoga!), swimming, or biking are supportive of pitta’s need for challenge, without pushing the body too hard and excessively raising your internal temperature.
5. Dry Brushing
As one of the qualities of pitta is oiliness, abhyanga (oil massage) can sometimes be aggravating to the skin. Dry brushing is an excellent way to stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory systems, as well as exfoliating and promoting skin health and radiance.
If you feel your body would benefit from some moisture, coconut oil is excellent for pitta as it is cooling and soothing for the skin. Rose water can also be applied to the face as a cool refreshing spritz throughout the day.
6. Chandra Bhedana – Moon Piercing Breath
In yoga, the right nostril is energetically symbolized by the sun, as it is associated with the internal heating of the body. The left nostril is energetically symbolized by the moon, as it is associated with the internal cooling of the body.
Chandra bhedana is the practice of sitting comfortably in a quiet place, blocking off the right nostril with the right ring finger, and taking deep breaths in and out through the left nostril for 2-5 minutes. This breathing practice is incredibly soothing for pitta dosha as it cools both mind and body (physically and energetically), soothes the nervous system and combats stress. This short practice can be incorporated into your daily meditation or used any time you find yourself particularly hot, angry, flustered, or stressed.
7. Soothing Morning and Evening Routines
Pitta is very “get-up-and-go.” Once you are awake, you’re awake and there’s no stopping until you collapse into bed at the end of the day. When balancing pitta, it’s very helpful to ease yourself into the day and to take plenty of time to wind down and switch off in the evening.
I recommend taking at least an hour (more if you can) after waking up and before sleeping when you can switch off all technology, take a relaxing salt bath, do some gentle stretching and breathing, meditate, listen to calming music, light a candle, read, etc. Setting aside time for self-care boosts productivity and reduces stress throughout the rest of the day, and it also helps improve the quality of your sleep.
8. Walking in Nature
Spending time in nature can be very effective in soothing pitta. Allow the walk to be leisurely, really taking in your surroundings and breathing deeply, perhaps even spending some time barefoot to ground and connect with the earth element.
Try walking a little every day in the morning or evening, avoiding the hottest part of the day. Try to resist the pitta sense of urgency that may make you want to turn the walk into a workout or an opportunity to think about work. Think of this as a moving meditation. A time to be in quiet contemplation to connect back to yourself and your environment.