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How my summer garden is supporting my health

The end of summer is here and I am beaming with pride because of all that I have achieved in the first summer of my garden. It has felt like a bit of a whirlwind.

Since we moved into this house, we have installed a vegetable garden, a greenhouse and a pond. I have planted many fruit trees, bulbs and so many perennials and annuals that I can't even count. We ate a few plums, apples, blueberries as well as lots of strawberries. I have been harvesting tomatoes, green beans, summer squash and herbs daily. I have been learning about compositing (yes, we also got a compost bin!), fertilising, watering (oh yes, we also installed a drip irrigation system in the veggie garden!), succession planting and how best to utilise the greenhouse and the space in my garden. I have also been dabbling in garden design as I am learning how to artfully place my plants, keeping in mind their mature height, colours, textures and seasonal interest.

I am also very busy with my Ayurvedic health coach studies, running a home, being a wife, mother, daughter and friend. My life is full of all the things that give me joy. I am living my dharma, which is Vedic speak for living in alignment with your purpose. This is one of the four aims of life, according to the Vedas and I can tell you that it is really important in supporting health and longevity.

If your head is spinning because of the business of my life, it should be. I would like you to imagine what would be happening inside my body because of all this movement and multi tasking. I can imagine that if you live a western lifestyle, that you can also relate to being so busy.

All this movement has resulted in an increase in the fire in my body and mind. Add to this that we have just been through summer, and you can see that the external environment has also contributed to the increase in heat. What happens when we have an increase in fire?

  • Our internal environment heats up. This manifests as hot flashes and burning sensations in the body. Things like burning eyes or bladder. Migraine headaches can be due to too much fire in the body.

  • Our mind becomes sharper. In the beginning, it makes us more productive, but over time it makes us snappy, irritable and prone to anger.

  • We dry out. Too much heat in the desert causes the whole environment to dry out. Our bodies become like a desert. This manifests as constipation, dry skin, dry eyes, and cracking joints.

  • Our mind starts to dry out and we become scattered in our thinking, which can lead to anxiety. Over time, this leads to a whole host of mental health challenges including dementia and alzheimers.

  • Inflammation abounds. Any "itis" is inflammation. Think of things like tonsillitis, cystitis and arthritis.

So what to do about all this fire? Well, if we look at nature, we see that all the solutions are there. At the end of summer, which is the height of the heat build up, nature gives us a reprieve by bringing in autumn. The cool winds of autumn work to cool the fire, and the rains that accompany this time bring moisture to a dried out earth and body. You see, our bodies are just a mirror of the natural world. We can can also look to see what nature is doing at a particular season to learn about how to bring ourselves into balance.

One of the key dietary principles of Ayurveda is that we should eat what is seasonal, local and as fresh as possible. Eating food straight from our own back yard is the most beneficial way that we can eat. And if we eat what is growing right now, we can be sure that the qualities of those foods are exactly what we need to come back into balance.

Here are some of the things that I have been growing over the summer, which I am using to bring my body into balance:

  • Fresh green herbs like basil, mint and parsley are known as Pitta balancing herbs. The colour green is always good to cool down the fire and mint in particular is extremely balancing for an over active fire. Coriander, another classic Pitta balancing herb does not grow very well in the summer, but it starts coming into its own in Autumn, which is when we have a build up of heat that we need to shift, so coriander presents itself, ready for us to consume.

  • Summer squash and cucumber. Both of these vegetables are full of water to hydrate and balance us in a time where we are very likely to become dehydrated.

  • Pumpkins and melons grow throughout summer, absorbing the heat of the sun, but are only ready for harvest at the end of summer. Pumpkins are grounding, to bring us down to earth after all the activities we have been involved in and melons are extremely hydrating and electrolyte balancing.

If you are feeling the buildup of heat in your body, I recommend a few things that you can do to bring yourself into balance:

  • Spend time in nature. Being in nature is balancing for all the doshas, but the colour green is particularly balancing for pitta. Nature also reminds us that there is no hurry and that everything is achieved in the right way and time.

  • Eat food that is seasonal and local, as fresh as possible. Green and yellow vegetables and sweet fruits are particularly balancing for pitta.

  • Stop and smell the roses. Roses are one of the most balancing plants for pitta. Grow them in a pot or in your garden, bring the flowers indoors, place rose water on cotton pads and lay them on your eyes to ease the heat.

  • Coconut oil. Rub coconut oil on the soles of your feet before bed. This will help to bring the heat out of the feet and allow the mind to have a deep and restorative rest.

  • Rest. Take space and time to integrate and digest. Meditate. If you struggle to sleep you may like to try my yoga nidra which is designed to rebalance the nervous system.

Autumn is now here and I am looking forward to cooler days, more soups and stews and starting to integrate all that I have achieved this past year. I am also getting ready for my biannual detox to clear out the heat in my body. I am naturally a pitta body and mind constitution. I will always be a busy body. The key is doing it in a way that is balancing and life enhancing, not depleting and leading to burn out.

Living in tune with the wisdom of nature is the key.

What do you do to bring yourself into balance when you have too much heat in your body?

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