I’ll admit I’m not generally a summer enthusiast. My pale skin makes me a far-too-easy target for the sun, and my Pitta-dominant constitution gets easily overheated. I’ll happily take good sweater-weather over sweating any day.
However, this precise moment in the calendar year – let’s call it “summer’s eve,” just days before the Summer Solstice – is sublime to me. Clear morning air that feels soft on the skin, ample bird song, flowers blooming everywhere. What’s not to love?
One fabulous thing about this time of year is that it remains light outside so late in the day. This makes it easy to take advantage of my favorite digestive aid: the post-supper stroll.
But first a side note: Ayurveda teaches that immediately after eating, it’s best to rest for about 10 minutes. This can include sitting at the table, taking some slow easy breaths, finishing off a cup of digestive mint tea, or even laying down (ideally, on the left side to support the flow of food from the stomach into the small intestines).
If we jump up and get busy right after eating (or if we eat while walking or standing), we divert our blood flow from the digestive organs to the large motor muscles, leading to compromised assimilation, gas, or even cramps. Likewise, we divert blood to the brain if the mind is busy working, watching TV, or in emotional upset while eating. Stress of any kind constricts the vessels in and around the digestive organs, and during digestion we want them to dilate. So it’s best to take it easy after eating.
That being said, after your 10-minute rest, a gentle walk further supports the downward flow of digestion. A slow stroll at an easy pace, preferably through nature, does wonders to dispel bloating or distention and encourage healthy peristalsis. In summer, the post-supper walk becomes easily doable – and easily addictive.
If healthy digestion isn’t enough to sell you on the idea, walking at dusk in this season can be medicine for the senses. In Ayurveda, each of the 5 senses corresponds to one of the 5 great elements. By attending to each sense faculty and ensuring that pleasant natural input moves through it, the pathway for each element is awakened within us and nourished.
The sense faculties associated with each element are as follows:
The elements are the building blocks or ingredients of the 3 doshas: Vata is made of Space and Air, Pitta is mostly Fire, and Kapha is Earth and Water. In this way, we can use each sense faculty as a specialized support for each of the elements within us.
As someone with a Pitta-Vata constitution, I can never get enough Earth! The heat of Pitta and the airy-ness of Vata are both comforted by the grounding, cooling qualities (or gunas) of Earth. So my sense of smell is a particularly therapeutic resource for me – and I daresay for most of us as the summer heat starts to increase pitta.
So during my evening walks this week, I’ve been seeking out and attending to delicious scents. There are so many fragrant blossoms right now, as well as other tempting aromas. On my block alone, I pass magnolias in bloom, mimosa trees with their pink feathery scent, gardenia bushes in abundant flower, and frequently of late, the sharp green smell of cut grass.
Give it a try tonight – enjoy the after-supper summer stroll for its benefit to your digestion, and to your 5 senses.