As we move into June in Southern Arizona, temperatures remain high. Here in our rural town of Arivaca, even with blazing heat in the day, the nights and early mornings are cool. It’s a time to wake early, rest indoors or in the shade during mid-day, and enjoy the cool evening moonlight. I was “supposed to be” in Vermont right now, where is it significantly less hot and summer has barely begun to peek through. “Supposed to be”; it’s funny how we think we know things. How we think plans are meant to happen simply because we decided to plan them. I am exactly where I am meant to be in this moment.
As the desert heats up, the earth and our bodies desire hydration. “As above, so below.” What occurs in the macrocosm directly affects each of us, the microcosm. As summer heat increases, the energy of the fire element and pitta doṣa increases outdoors and within each of us. Here in southern Arizona, at least until summer rains arrive, it is also very dry. Vāta doṣa is composed of ether and air elements, and expresses itself as dry and rough. Understanding the principle of opposites to bring balance, we consider the element of water with its’ cool, moist, and soft qualities.
As I walk in the desert, leaving gallons of water on the trails that immigrants and refuges walk daily, regardless of weather or pandemic, I carry my own water to keep me hydrated as I sweat. I am reminded of the power of the water element; giving life to plants, animals, and all living beings. I am reminded that clean drinking water is not to be taken for granted, rather it is to be honored and celebrated. Water is responsible for cohesion. Water allows for ease of movement in the body and in relationships. It is associated with love, compassion, and forgiveness.
While some of us require more or less daily hydration based on our constitution, lifestyle, phase of life, and climate, we all need water to live. However, water only hydrates us if we are actually able to absorb it. Ice cold water not only dampens the digestive fire, it is also difficult for the body to absorb and assimilate. Drinking warm water first thing in morning (after cleaning your mouth) will help to hydrate the body, wake-up the digestive fire, and encourage elimination. During the day, even in the summer, it is best to drink warm-ish or room temperature water, which is easily absorbed by the body. It is especially challenging for the body to ingest ice-cold beverages.
Drinking large amounts of water in a short time (chugging) will encourage urination, but that water is not be absorbed by the body. The body cannot process so much water at once. Drinking smaller amounts of water consistently throughout the day will keep you better hydrated. A well-hydrated being has energy and stamina. They are better protected from illness and injury, and are pleasant to be around.
In addition to the ways in which we drink water or other fluids, we also consider the fluid itself. Drinking excessive amounts of plain water will dehydrate the body by flushing out necessary minerals and electrolytes. Electrolyte replacement beverages sold in stores are not only expensive, they are full of dyes, additives, and chemicals. Mixing water at home with salt, minimally processed sugar or maple syrup, and lime is an easy and effective way to encourage absorption deeper into the tissues. We can also add herbs and cooling spices to our water to help keep us cool in body-mind-spirit. (recipes below)
There are many substances we take into the body that cause dehydration. So in addition to drinking water in a manner that hydrates the system, there are also practices to avoid in order to promote and sustain hydration. Alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating. Dry, rough foods such as popcorn, crackers, chips, and dried fruit pull moisture from the body in order to be digested. Many raw vegetables, especially bitter and astringent veggies, will also pull out moisture from the body. If you have issues with hydration, including dry skin, dry eyes, and constipation, it is advised to ingest substances that will add water to the system, rather than drawing it away.
Moist, cooked foods that contain oil will help to lubricate and hydrate the body. Cucumbers are hydrophilic as well as cooling, and are an excellent summer vegetable to eat raw. Instead of having a large raw salad as your entire meal, have a small salad at the end of your meal, and be sure to put oil on it. Most fresh fruit is moist and watery, indicating it is a better choice than dried fruit if we are trying to stay hydrated. Remembering that like increases like, and opposites balance, if one wants to lubricate and hydrate the system, one must ingest things with those same qualities. As you consider diet and lifestyle practices, I encourage you to think less about what you eat/do once in while, and focus more on what you eat/do every day. The once in a while activities will have minimal effects on body-mind-sprit, while actions taken daily are cumulative and significant.
Hydrating Electrolyte Water Blend:
1 quart water
1/4-1/2 fresh lime
1/8 -1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 – 1/2 tsp. minimally processed sugar or maple syrup
Adjust the quantities to suit your unique needs.
Cooling Herb Infused Water:
1 quart water
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. fennel
1/4 tsp. rose petals
This can be made without rose for those who are adverse to flowery beverages, however it adds a lovely calming and cooling quality. Combine the herbs with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn of the heat and allow to sit over night with the cooling energy of the moon. In the morning, strain out the herbs and enjoy through the day.