Focus of the Month: June 2019

When in Doubt, Chill out!

written by Nady Persons


Just as the earth experiences its seasons in a cycle from spring to summer to fall to winter, so do we as humans experience seasons of life.

In Ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga (Ayurveda being the science of life whereas yoga is the science of spirituality), there are three distinct seasons to our lives. Each of these seasons has a correlating dosha, or make-up of elemental energies, that governs it.
Childhood: this is the first stage we enter when we appear. This stage is governed by the kapha dosha, which is made up of earth and water and plays a key role in helping us develop and grow. It can be described as heavy, slow, soft, and stable.
Adulthood: this is the second stage we enter, and it’s influenced by the pitta dosha, which is made up of mostly fire and plays a key role in our ability to form our identity and make our mark in the world. It helps us digest our experiences and bring our ideas to fruition. Hallmarks of pitta include light, hot, sharp, and oily.
Elderhood: this is the third stage we enter, and it’s influenced by the vata dosha, which is made up of air and ether. During this stage, we are often drawn to spiritual development and codifying the mark we want to make on the world. Light, cold, dry, and rough are all adjectives that describe this dosha and stage.

We are about to full-on enter pitta season, which for those of us living in New Orleans sure seems to come around the second weekend of Jazz Fest (the first weekend of May) when the air starts to swell with humidity and nights begin to feel warmer. For those of us who are also in adulthood, or our pitta time of life, this is a double whammy of pitta, or fire, energy! Because pitta is governed mostly by the element of fire, when this dosha is balanced we’re able to better use that fire to digest experiences we’re having, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically. We’re also able to perceive what the body senses (sees, hears, smells, etc.) with a heightened level of clarity, as this dosha’s fire is able to burn through illusions.

The seeds we planted in the spring are now getting ready to bear fruit, as summer is a time of prosperity and abundance. This is the time for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor! The key to summer is to work hard, but not too hard, because the element of fire will lend itself to burning you out more quickly. It’s important to balance working with playtime and vacations to allow the bodymind a chance to rest and the spirit a chance to re-illuminate. When in doubt, just chill out! This idea is especially important this time of year because when pitta is pulled out of balance, we can feel more agitated, self-critical, and fried. To balance pitta, Ayurveda calls for us to apply the opposite – so we need to chill to temper all that fire.

In Florida, even the sea turtles take the summer season to slow down and strike greater balance between tough jobs and chilling out. Almost 90% of the US’s sea turtles nest in Florida, and each female may nest multiple times a summer. Sea turtles, like us, are wildly connected to the earth’s electromagnetic field, and this is the leading theory in how they continue to return to the same beach to nest, year after year. Hatchlings imprint the unique qualities of their natal beach so that they too can return when it’s time to nest.

The nesting process happens in the middle of the night when a female sea turtle emerges from the sea seeking a quiet and dark place to create her nest. Once she finds a suitable location, she digs a hole using her flippers, lays up to 100 eggs at a time, and covers it with sand. Then she finds camouflage materials to conceal her eggs from predators. When she’s done, she returns to sea.

We have much to learn from these female sea turtles. We need to take time in the summer months to find suitable locations, whether those are in our own homes or perhaps many miles away, in order to slow down and nest. We need to balance the intensity of the summer months with retreating within in order to stay sustained and in equanimity. We need to amplify our own self-preservation and learn from all turtles in moving more slowly and intentionally with everything we do. When in doubt, chill out!


“Remember: loving yourself is a choice. Make it daily. –Brittany Packnett


This is especially important to think about in terms of overworking. Western society’s culture of burn-out goes far beyond the work place and can look like taking on too many projects, or even filling your calendar with too many activities and events. Because of the intensity of the season, we need to be deliberate in how we strike a balance and intentionally chill out. Brené Brown, author of Dare to Lead, shares that there’s a cultural crisis around busyness and sleep deprivation, and that our society conflates worthiness as a function of productivity. We know that could not be further from the truth!

This time of year coincides with the end of the school year. As someone who’s worked in education in the New Orleans community since 2002, I’ve found my calendar each year as a teacher quickly become filled with end of year celebrations, proctoring final exams, grading, and all of the little details that come with closing out the academic year. Without fail around this time of year, I would find myself getting sharped tongued and quickly frustrated with those around me. I’d become hyper judgmental and erupt with criticism over small things especially at home. Who knew dirty dishes in the sink could be such a trigger! Through applying the practices of yoga and Ayurveda diligently over the past few years, those eruptions have greatly subsided. When in doubt, I’ve learned how to chill out. Some of my personal favorite practices include drinking cooling mint tea, taking restorative yoga classes, and making space for fun – with no expectations.

We’re conditioned in to believe that excess is success – that more is better, whether that’s the hours you work, the belongings you accumulate, the likes you get on social media, or the square footage of your home. As we enter summer and pitta season, it becomes easier to drive harder at excess. I’d like for us to flip the script and drive hard at being excessive of taking care of and loving ourselves. To quote self-described Black Lesbian Mother Warrior Poet Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

In Ayurveda, there are specific tips and tricks to promoting self-preservation during pitta season, whether you’re just in the summer pitta season, or both the summer pitta season and the pitta season of life. When in doubt, chill out!

Below you’ll find a list of recommended habits, foods, and asanas to help you stay chilled out in the heat of summer.

• Cultivate more play! Be spontaneous and take a trip to the park, go to a public pool, or take a Blue Bike for a spin!
• Release judgment! As author Gabrielle Bernstein shares in Judgement Detox, “Witnessing your judgement is an act of self-love and a major step toward healing.”
• Slow down! Examine your calendar and make space for rest and rejuvenation

• Increase sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes
• Try to include more sweet fruits like apples, pears, and berries, as well as cooling foods such as coconut, mint, cucumbers, and bitter leafy greens on rotation in your diet
• Make a tasty summer spice mix with equal parts coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric powder, and a sprinkle of cardamom powder
• Try to make sure you’re done eating 2-3 hours before bedtime so that sleep can be spent detoxing instead of digesting food
• Move more deliberately during your asana practice. Slow it down!
• Release goals and expectations of your practice and of each pose itself
• Keep your eyes closed when you can throughout the practice
• Hold forward folds longer to reduce heat especially with one of the most cooling poses of all: wide legged seated forward fold (Upavistha Konasana)
• Increase stability and groundedness with hip openers like Malasana (squat pose), and Utthan Pristhasana, (lizard pose)
• Release heat with supine heart openers like Urdvha Dhanurasana (upward facing bow), and Ustrasana (camel pose)

For Teachers:

• “And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! And you need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’” –Iain Thomas
• “Remember: loving yourself if a choice. Make it daily.” –Brittany Packnett
• “People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills…There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in their own mind…So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.” –Marcus Aurelius
• “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to-do’ list” –Michelle Obama
• “I have to understand what my strengths and limitations are, and work from a true place. I try to do this as best I can while still protecting my writer self, which more than ever needs privacy.” –Sandra Cisneros

• Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World by Michelle Cassandra Johnson
• Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
• Inward by yung pueblo
• The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell
• Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
• Judgement Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life by Gabrielle Bernstein
• The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo (specifically readings from the dates 2/24, 6/23, 7/24, and 12/20)

• Liberated by DJ Loaf & Leon Bridges
• Feeling Good by Nina Simone
• Lean on Me by Bill Withers

• Saha navavatu saha nau bhunaktu, saha viryam karavavahi, tejasvi navadhitam astu, ma vidvdishavahai (in service of communal protection, an end to resentment and quarreling, and an increase of knowledge and strength)
• Govinda Hare Gopala Hare, hey prabhu dinadayala Hare (taking refuge in Govinda / Krishna) without inhibitions and to be completely immersed in love)

• Sama Vritti to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the mindbody

• Maitri/Metta in order to help release judgment or resentment of both people and asks of our time

• Move more deliberately during your asana practice. Slow it down!
• Release goals and expectations of your practice and of each pose itself
• Keep your eyes closed when you can throughout the practice
• Hold forward folds longer to reduce heat (especially wide legged seated forward fold, Upavistha Konasana
• Increase stability and groundedness with hip openers like Malasana, or squat pose, and Utthan Pristhasana, or lizard pose
Release heat with supine heart openers like Urdvha Dhanurasana, or upward facing bow, and Ustrasana, or camel pose

May 2019