Post-Practice Cooling Foods to Help You Chill
A strong, heat-building yoga practice can really fire up the pitta in you. In the hot summer months, this blaze can rage out of control unless you employ a good firefighting team—which includes cooling foods—to keep it in check.
Don’t get us wrong: we love pitta, and there are a lot of fiery yoga poses, like chair and sun salutations, that we wouldn’t want to give up entirely! (I mean, no one wants to give up chair pose, right?) Pitta is responsible for digestion—both the literal, physical digestion of our food and the more abstract digestion of our life experiences. But as with the other doshas, an imbalance can create discomfort.
Clues to a pitta imbalance include:
- Being easy to agitate or anger
- Heavy sweating
- Sensitivity in your teeth
- Tendency to overanalyze and overthink
- Rashes and other skin issues
- Being self-critical
- General inflammation
- Body odor
- Trouble with sleeping because of the heat
- Issues in the liver or small intestine
- Feelings of burnout and fatigue
If you don’t want to spend the entire summer in a cool, slow-moving yoga practice, you’ll need to focus on other ways to balance your pitta. No matter your naturally predominant dosha, you can look to cooling foods for pitta-pacifying relief after intense asana.
Pitta-Pacifying Foods to Enjoy After Your Practice
It’s not just about “cold” foods that have spent time in the fridge. Specific foods have cooling properties, and you’ll want to incorporate them into your post-practice snack:
- Homemade Chai: Though many spices are heating, cardamom, fresh ginger, and small amounts of cinnamon and black pepper can have a cooling effect for pitta, so consider mixing up some homemade chai to sip on after your practice. Dairy, particularly milk and ghee, is cooling, but if you don’t do dairy, consider almond or rice milk as an alternative. If chai isn’t for you, try this pitta-pacifying tea which uses other cooling spices like fennel and coriander.
- Rice Cakes with Almond or Sunflower Butter: White rice, almonds, and sunflower seeds are all great choices for balancing pitta. Buy organic rice cakes and spread with your favorite almond butter.
- Fruit Salad: Choose fruits like melon, papaya, sweet pineapple, dark grapes, strawberries, and pomegranates. If you’d rather sip than spoon, throw them in the blender with some milk or water and enjoy a smoothie.
- Infused Water: Infuse your water with cooling mint, cucumber, and limes (not lemons for pitta!) for extra cooling hydration.
- Oatmeal: You can make it a treat with cool mix-ins like sweet cherries, flax or pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, or coconut oil.
Other great cooling options include avocados, beans, apples, figs, artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes. Think of big kale salads sprinkled with chickpeas, sunflower seeds, zucchini, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and black olives or baked sweet potatoes stuffed with quinoa, cooked onions, and soft goat’s cheese.
Post-Practice Foods That May Aggravate the Pitta in You
With so many foods that keep pitta at bay, you’ll still have plenty of options even when you avoid the foods that further inflame pitta—foods like these:
- Lemons, sour apples, and green mangoes
- Raw onions, hot peppers, and other spicy foods
- Corn and polenta
- Sour dairy, like yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and hard cheese
- Cashews, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds/tahini, and pistachios
- Almond, sesame, and apricot oil
- White sugar
If you eat meat, buffalo, white chicken meat, and freshwater fish are cooling for pitta, while beef, tuna, pork, and dark poultry can be irritating.
If you’re noticing an extreme pitta imbalance, cooling food choices may not be enough—you may need to incorporate other cooling techniques. You can change your yoga practice to a more pitta-friendly flow and incorporate cooling pranayama like chandra bhedi. Spend some time outdoors at night under the light of the cooling moon. And, of course, continue to bring cooling foods into your meals and post-practice snacks.