What does it mean to digest? It’s easy to define this concept as simply the process of turning the food you eat into nutrients. But we are holistic beings, so it follows that digestion happens on a holistic level. All of our experiences, whether they are on our plates or in our lives, must be transformed to a state in which we can use them.
Pitta dosha is responsible for digestion, both in the body and the mind. Just as this dosha transforms rice into nourishment for your body, it transforms experiences into samskara, or impressions. When experiences are digested properly, meaning you have allowed an emotional response to move through you, you clear old samskara or create new, more positive ones that guide you along your path. But if you become stuck on something in the past or breeze past an experience without fully digesting it, you create new samskara that makes it difficult to move forward in life.
When pitta is balanced, it allows you to digest your food and experiences with ease. But when it is imbalanced, the fire burns too hot, causing food to be eliminated before it can be utilized by the body and emotions to be brushed aside to focus on the next thing. Imbalanced pitta takes away the opportunity to enjoy true health in body and mind. Keep pitta calm and it will allow you to enjoy the satisfaction of a fully digested life.
Calming pitta through lifestyle
Maintaining a good relationship with pitta is as much about eating a pitta-balancing diet as it is about building a lifestyle that will keep pitta from burning too hot. Building a proper lifestyle (called vihar in Sanskrit) is one of the most important things you can do to keep the doshas balanced. Pitta’s hot and sharp qualities are balanced by practices that cool emotions and promote a sense of ease.
Here are some lifestyle tips to balance pitta:
The pranayama practices of shitali and sitkari have been used for ages to balance pitta. You can do this before meditation when pitta is high: Sit with an upright spine and roll the sides of your tongue up and breathe in slowly moving the air across the surface of the tongue (shitali). If you cannot roll your tongue, then place the tip of your tongue on the inside of your bottom teeth and pull the air across the surface of your tongue (sitkari). Bring your right hand into Vishnu mudra (index and middle finger touching the pad of the thumb) and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale smoothly and slowly twice as long as the inhale out the left nostril. Repeat three, six, or nine times. Eventually a retention is added to this practice but this is best learned under the guidance of an experienced teacher of pranayama.