Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to health by focusing on the mind-body-spirit connection to create wellness as a whole. This ancient healing modality offers many ways to create balance in every aspect of life through the practices of self-care, lifestyle, meditation, sensory therapies, herbal medicine, food, movement, stillness and experience. In this blog post we are going to review the seven best practices to incorporate into your daily routine to eliminate toxins and create an optimal environment for healing.
Dry brushing is a technique used to take off dead skin cells, unclog pores, increase oxygenation, & help circulate the lymphatic system to release built-up toxins.
A natural, non-synthetic brush is ideal. Always brush towards your heart as that is where the lymph system drains. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your joints and abdomen. Gently brush your skin with enough pressure to scrape off the dead skin cells – do not press harder than you think necessary. We recommend doing this practice in the shower (pre-rinse), or with a towel beneath you to catch any debris. We recommend dry brushing a few times a week before abhyanga. If you tend towards oily skin, you may incorporate this practice more often; if you have drier skin, do it less often. Let your body communicate with you to know when this practice will compliment you!
As you move through this practice, keep in mind the intention of releasing the old and embracing the new. Thank your body for the protection it has given you and honor the new skin under the surface as you welcome its first breaths!
Abhyanga is the practice of self-oil massage. Its purpose is to cultivate self-love, create a layer of protection (physical, mental/emotional, spiritual), to nourish the skin, and to extract toxins. The skin is our largest organ, by massaging it with oil we are feeding it nutrients to keep it healthy.
Choose an oil* (always food grade) and warm it up on the stove or with a candle. Once warmed, you may begin with a scalp massage (optional) and move down to your ears and face (also optional). Gently and lovingly work your way towards your heart. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular motions on your joints. Begin bottom to top to rise your stagnant energy or top to bottom for grounding. This can be practiced daily and at any time. Practiced in the morning, it helps with grounding and works as a protective layer throughout your day; practiced in the evening it allows you to let go of the stresses of the day and truly connect with yourself before transitioning into deep rest.
Throughout this practice, keep in mind the intention of loving and nurturing your body. Look in the mirror and recognize the beauty and power you hold; enjoy this time with your naked body and the magic it provides for you. Your vessel is unconditionally Sacred.
*When choosing an oil, it is best to use sesame oil for dry skin or in the colder months & coconut oil for already moist skin or in the warmer months. It is the perfect natural moisturizer!
Ever notice that layer of coating on your tongue? In Ayurveda, this is known as “ama” –toxins that arise and release through your tongue. The coating can appear due to improper digestion or unhealthy consumption. It can also be an indicator of something occurring deeper in the body. Tongue scrape daily to clean your tongue of these toxins.
Start by choosing a scraper – copper is optimal. Begin at the back of the tongue and gently (rather than scraping) pull the ama forward. Rinse the scraper and repeat until you are satisfied and can see your beautiful pink tongue again! Tongue scraping will enhance your sense of taste, stimulate your digestive organs and freshen your breath. This can be practiced daily and is best to do first thing in the morning!
To take this a level deeper, be sure to look at the ama in the mirror and notice its qualities: what color is it, what is its thickness and how much of your tongue is coated? Notice if you have more ama after eating certain foods – it may indicate which foods you have trouble digesting.
The clarity felt from lifting this congestion from your tongue is certainly refreshing. On a subtle level, removing the ama from your tongue helps with the ability to express yourself clearly and confidently. After tongue scraping, choose an affirmation for the day and repeat it three times aloud!
Your mouth is connected to your entire digestive system – having a clean and healthy mouth reflects having a clean and healthy body. To ensure a clean mouth, go beyond brushing your teeth and practice oil pulling*. This practice draws out toxins that your body wishes to release.
Put a comfortable amount of liquefied oil in your mouth and swish for 5-20 minutes as part of your morning routine (preferably before eating). Five minutes may feel like a lot of time in the beginning, but your jaw muscles will strengthen over time! When you feel it has been enough time, spit the oil in the trash to avoid drain clogging. Rinse your mouth of excess oil with warm water before brushing your teeth. Oil pulling draws out toxins and whitens teeth naturally, but the benefits of oil pulling go beyond dental bonuses! It increases energy, reduces headaches, helps balance hormones, along with enhancing taste receptors. Enjoy the much-appreciated benefits this simple practice brings! This practice can be done a few times a week or daily.
*Always use organic oils – sesame, coconut, and sunflower are a few suggestions.
Cleansing the sinuses allows for better airflow through the body, resulting in a clearer and more alert mind. In Ayurveda, we use a neti pot. This entails pouring water through one nostril and having it come out the other. It can sound daunting and at first may be uncomfortable – but the results are worth it!
Fill your neti pot with sterile, warm water (if you do not have sterile water, boiling the water first will sterilize it) and add ¼ - ½ of a teaspoon of salt (the more salt you use the less it burns – play around to find the ratio that works best for you). Face forward and place the spout into one of your nostrils. Be sure to breathe through your mouth and keep it open throughout the process. As you begin to tip the neti pot into your nostril, tilt your forehead down and turn it sideways slightly until water starts to pour out the open nostril. You may have to adjust your posture until you find the right flow. Once the neti pot is empty, very gently blow your nose into the sink, then wipe with a tissue. Repeat on the other side. Using a neti pot helps relieve symptoms caused by allergies and helps maintain a healthy nasal/sinus lining. It also reduces airborne toxins and pollen from accumulating. Neti cleansing is recommended to do a couple of times a week or more if needed!
Apply a drop of sesame oil after your rinse to help soothe and relieve any irritation or dryness that may occur.
Clean and clear eyes symbolize a clean and clear perception of life. In Ayurveda, eye washing is practiced with a mixture of rose hydrosol and filtered water. Eye washing cleanses our eyes of any debris and soothes irritation, thus clearing our perception and relieving irritability in both our bodies and minds.
Fill your eye wash cup halfway with rose hydrosol and the rest with warm, distilled water. Tilt your head downwards into the cup. Firmly place the cup around your eye and create a seal around the socket. Rise back up, keep your eye open, look around and blink a few times. Tilt your head downwards again and release the seal. Repeat the process for the other eye with new waters. This is a great practice to improve eye health. The rose water cleanses the eyes of any mucus, airborne toxins and pollen, along with relieving itchiness and redness. As it takes a certain amount of vulnerability to place things in our eyes, you may notice fear or discomfort arise. Once you practice this a few times the fear may subside as you become more comfortable. This is a good practice to do once a week or more if needed.
It is especially important to incorporate this practice if your eyes are frequently exposed to external elements – such as dust and dirt, makeup, contacts, or other objects.
Awaken the digestive fire within before breaking your nightly fast by drinking warm water with lemon (or lime) upon rising. Hydration and absorption are two main components to a healthy body. Start your day feeling cleansed and rejuvenated by stimulating the fire to burn up yesterday’s residue and clear space for today’s intake.
You may notice you reach for coffee as your first act in the morning. Rather than serving your soul false energy with coffee as you rise, practice assisting your body’s natural functions for rejuvenation with this new ritual. It may be a hard habit to break, but shifting your attention and intention to a healing beverage may help this new ritual stick. The benefits of this act are endless! Drinking warm lemon water upon rising not only hydrates the body but helps fully digest anything left over in your stomach – resulting in proper absorption of nutrients along with a healthy morning elimination (which flushes out toxins). It reduces inflammation, improves skin, supports the lymphatic system, and boosts your immune system. The potassium and magnesium in lemons supports brain and nerve health which increases alertness, mood & the ability to focus.
Take a few minutes each morning to sit with your warm cup of lemon water and appreciate the benefits it has on your physical health. This may be easy to brush off or deem unimportant because it is so simple – but do not mistake its simplicity for lack of benefits!