Ayurveda Day 66: Daily Practices pt.2 – Skin, Nasal, Ear, and Eye Care

As part of our daily routines expand, there are many small things we can do that are beneficial. Today, I would like to share how to take care of the skin, nasal passages, ears, and eyes.

Lets start with the skin:

Abhyanga

Self oil massage, or abhyanga is such an easy practice and is beneficial in a multitude of ways. By far, in all the practices I have learned since I started this course, abhyanga has given the most noticeable and quickest results.

Abhyanga is good for all doshas, but what oils we use and how we apply the oils changes accordingly. Did you know the word for oil and love in Sanskrit is the same? Snehana is such a beautiful word because it encompasses both the intention of abhyanga as well as the method. It’s not enough to simply apply the oil; the oil is giving us a sense of self love and care. Putting a mindful intention into doing abhyanga of love for one’s own self will allow us to practice ahimsa which builds ojas. But ojas are only one benefit of this practice.

Benefits

– purifies the lymphatic system
– removes amas (toxins)
– nourishes and balances the nervous system
– since oils are too large to penetrate past the epidermal/dermal layers, it allows our body to focus on lubricating the deeper layers.
– protects our largest organ, the skin, from toxins in our environment. There are over 3000 nerve receptors in our skin alone!
– balances Vata and it’s subdoshas (most of us have vata imbalances due to the agitating environments of today’s society)

– builds ojas!

If you are at all skeptical of the benefits of oil massage, try this experiment: take a drop of oil and place it on a paper. Check on the paper periodically – every 30 minutes or so. Notice what happens to the oil. As time goes on, the oil spreads slowly to consume more of the paper. Oil can be used in practically every orifice of the body to promote health.

Instructions

– Use sesame oil for vata, coconut oil/sunflower/olive oil for pitta, and safflower/mustard oil for kapha. Almond oil can be used for both vata and pitta interchangeably. Ghee is considered tridoshic. If you have multiple doshic problems (like me for example with vata dryness and pitta circulation) you can combine oils 50/50.

– Always, always, always use unprocessed, unrefined, organic, untoasted oils!!!!!!!!

– heat up the oil in a bpa free baby bottle in some already boiled water for 1-2 minutes.

– apply before bath or shower and keep on the body for at least 20 minutes. If you struggle with this timeframe, try doing other things during that 20 minutes – meditation, gathering your clothes, etc.

– If you wish to do it after shower, keep in mind you will find you won’t be able to use as much oil as it will get all over your clothes and the minerals and chemicals in your municipal water will wind up in your skin, which you will then essentially lock into your body by sealing it with the oil. Before shower is recommended.

– Start with the arms and do long strokes along the long bones. Be sure to apply some pressure and speed as to stimulate the lymphatic system. At the joints, do circular strokes.

– Work from the arms towards the chest and downwards to the feet for grounding energy. For Kapha, work upwards to bring stimulating, invigorating energy.

– For the scalp, put some drops on your fingertips and massage gently into the scalp. For dandruff, neem added to the oil will help. Be sure not to rub oil throughout your hands through your hair or you will find it gets greasy.

– For the palms of the hands and soles of feet, put some oil on and rub in between all the nooks and crannies, massaging it in deeply. Whatever oil remains on your hands can be rubbed onto the face. There is no need to add extra oil when massaging the face at this time.

– Use less oil and more stimulation for Kapha. Moderate oil and stimulation for Pitta. Vata’s could essentially be in an oil bath with no issues.

– Make sure to focus on self care and love as you do it! It should feel amazing.

Note when showering we are obsessed as a society with scrubbing off every last bacteria on us. This is completely unnecessary. It would be pointless to do all this abhyanga and then scrub it all off. Be gentle when showering and use soap only on the obvious areas (armpits, genitals, anus), and for shampoo and conditioner try baking soda and apple cider vinegar respectively.

In addition to general abhyanga, the ears and nose are treated a bit differently.

Neti & Nasya – nasal care

Benefits

– decreases congestion

– increases clarity of mind

– treats allergies

Instructions

– acquire a neti pot (pictured) at a drug store. They are inexpensive

– use warm (above room temperature but not too hot) water

– add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of organic salt to 1/2 cup of the water (roughly the capacity of most neti pots)

– blow the nose gently before starting

– tilt the head forwards moderately

– rotate the head to the side while tilted

– tilt the neti pot so that water begins to easily flow from one nostril directly out the other

– You may notice for some time after that more mucous and water drain. This is normal so just keep a tissue handy.

– After one hour, apply some oil directly into each nostril by placing a drop on your pinky and massaging inside.

– neti can be done daily if needed or 3x a week otherwise in the morning.

Important!

Neti can be confusing, weird, or difficult to master for some. If your feel any burning, this means there is not enough salt. Salt balances the pH level of the water. Your instinct will be to add less salt, but this is false and will make it worse. If you are having difficult getting it to drain out of the nostrils, try adjusting the angle and tilts in subtle ways. Make sure to keep the mouth open so you can breathe. Sticking your tongue out can help too. Yes the whole thing looks silly. My advice is try it for awhile first, then stop. Notice the difference in how you feel, and continue if you feel it’s helping you. You can always watch youtube videos as well for help with the technique.

Nasya is supplemental to neti and is basically dropping oil directly into the nostrils. It can be done in the evening if you have dryness. Take an eyedropper and place 3-5 drops of oil directly in each nostril with your head tilted back so your nostrils are parallel to the ceiling. Keep in this position for 5-10 minutes as to lubricate all the sinuses.

These practices are best done as neti in the morning and nasya in the evening; however it’s best to do it at a different time than to not do it at all.

Karna Purana – ear filling

Benefits

– supports the health of our hearing system

– good for tinnitus (ringing of the ears)

– helps in grounding

– good for infections

– keeps the ears healthy

Instructions

– can be done daily or more often if there is a symptom

– best done in the morning during abhyanga or in the evening with nasya.

– place 1-2 drops of oil in one ear with the head tilted. Then do the same for the other ear.

– Massage the lobes of the ear with a small amount of oil.

Note if you have an actual infection or other such symptom, consult a CAS as they can do more therapeutic and deeper treatments.

Netra Tarpana – eye wash or eye filling

Benefits

– helps with dryness, eye strain, excess secretion, infections, burning, redness

– reduces inflammation

– increases strength of eye muscles

– improves eyesight

– prevents degeneration

Instructions

– purchase an eye cup from any pharmacy

– purchase some pure rose water (nothing added). Often called rose hydrosol.

– Mix 50% rose water and 50% warm water in the eye cup. If you are feeling more irritated, try using only the rose water.

– hold the cup in front of your face, then tilt your head down towards the cup. Place your closed eye over the cup and form a solid seal. Tilt your head back to normal position, then open your eye, blinking 3x. Repeat with the other eye. The same rose water cup can be used for both eyes.

– can be done 1x a week for general maintenance during your morning routine, or daily if there are symptoms or if you wear contacts.

– place a dab of oil (best is ghee) in the corner where the eyelid meets the bridge of the nose to promote the health of the tissues. Do so at night as sometimes it may blur your vision momentarily.

Note if you have more chronic symptoms, consult a CAS to make a strained herbal formula for use in the eyewash for you. Rose water alone won’t cut it with more advanced symptoms.

Today we covered a lot of practices. No one is expecting you to start everything all at once. As I mentioned yesterday, start small with one practice at a time. Start with whichever one seems easiest. And if something is not working, try doing it less than I recommended, and slowly build towards it. Slowly your practice will grow. But I highly recommend sticking with abhyanga.

This was my last class for term 1 – ack! Finals soon. Wish me luck! I may blog here and there before my term 2 starts in 3 weeks.

It’s been a great journey through the past 66 classes of Ayurveda with you all. I can’t wait for next term where I will have even more to blog about. Namaste!

With gratitude,

S

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Ayurveda Day 65: Daily Practices pt. 1 – Oral Care

I would like to start blogging about daily practices that people can do in order to be healthy.

Daily routines, or our habits, or quite simply our lifestyle, set the tone for the day. They are called Dhinacharya in Sanskrit and literally mean “teachings of the day”.

Your habits make you.

So healthy habits create a healthy life, and unhealthy habits create an unhealthy life. And if you are unaware and simply do things without purpose, you are still creating habits. Most often, those habits will lean into your tendencies, and more often than not, your tendencies actually will aggravate the doshas predominant in you.

It takes effort, time, patience, and forgiveness of one’s own self to make good habits. We are our worst critics. Having compassion for ourselves as we try to forge good habits is difficult for most all of us. The habits we have are the best indicators of the state of our consciousness.

To quote my professor, Brenda Igler:

“Where your attention goes, grows”

There is a first nations story that tells of two dogs within each person, always fighting. Ask yourself which dog will win? The answer is whichever dog you feed most.

There is always this duality in life so long as the ego is in control – we make dramas out of everything, assigning credit and blame to all experiences. Although I would argue it is slightly better to feed your good habits, ultimately the goal is to have no dogs fighting within you. Healing can take place if we first feed the habits that promote good health. In good health, we make clearer choices and can transcend this duality and war within us.

All that is beautiful and abstract, but what can I do today to help myself, you may ask.

Let’s start with setting up your day for success by adding to your daily oral care routine.
Oral care is already something that is familiar, so people can easily see the necessity and benefit of doing things like tongue scraping, gum massage, and even pulling.

Did you know that in India traditionally people would use the neem plant’s branch to brush their teeth? As they chewed on it and brushed, the branch would fray, becoming brush-like, and they could clean their whole mouths. It’s not like they had dental floss, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. 5000 years ago. Yet they were still able to have good dental health. So to describe oral care from an Ayurvedic perspective, let’s take a look at three areas where you can easily make an impact: tongue, teeth, and gums.

Tongue Cleaning

Tongue scraping is done using a copper or stainless steel scraper available at any pharmacy. What it does is remove the ama (toxins) from the tongue. The level of ama present on the tongue is an indicator of how healthy one’s digestion (agni) is.

Get yourself one of these bad boys

Instructions:

– start at the back of the tongue, and gently scrape towards the tip. Do so 3-10x.

– if you feel a gag reflex, try exhaling as you do so, or  start at the tip and gradually work your way back

– this can be done once a day, in the morning, from age 5 and up.

Benefits:

– prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into the body

– massages our tongue which is the first digestive organ, and stimulates the rest of the digestive process

– if ama has rebuilt by the afternoon, it is an indication of poor digestion (faulty agni)

Teeth Cleaning

Brushing and flossing are still great ways to take care of your teeth. Most of us probably aren’t to go grab a stick of neem though and start going to town. However, most toothpastes these days are full of chemicals, preservatives, and non-natural ingredients. The mouth is the gateway to our digestive process. We should take great care to make sure it gets nothing but the best – unprocessed, organic, unmodified toothpastes. Most of these types of toothpastes will be non-foaming, which will be unfamiliar to us at first. However, I recommend making your own toothpaste, and it’s super easy!

Instructions

– take equal parts organic, unprocessed, unrefined coconut oil and baking soda

– Add the essential oil of your choice for flavour to taste (cinnamon, clove, peppermint, neem)

– Add a tiny bit of vegetable glycerine as an emulsifier/volumizer.

Ex. 6tbsp oil, 6tbsp b. soda, 25 drops essential oil.

Gum Care

Many people have gum problems. From receding gum limes, to disease, to sensitivity, taking care of one’s gums is extremely important. Most of us already floss, but there are other things one can do as well.

Floss

– add neem oil to the dental floss before flossing

Gum Massage

Gently massaging the gums with oil is tonifying to the gums and promotes gum health as well as protecting the gums.

– gently massage the gums with your finger using some organic, unprocessed, unrefined, untoasted sesame oil.

– can also use a medicated sesame oil with neem added

Oil Pulling

This is actually not a classic Ayurvedic method. It was popularized by Dr. Karach from Russia in the 1990’s. However, it is inline with Ayurvedic thinking as incorporating oils into the body in any way help to support the phospholipid layer of the cells. Think of it as using mouthwash only better.

– take 1-2tbsp of sesame oil and swish it in your mouth for 10-15 minutes.

– the oil will become foamy first, then thin

– draws toxins from the body and nourishes and protects the gum/teeth

– promotes good breath

– don’t drink any liquid immediately after

If you are having trouble doing this for 10-15 minutes daily, start small, with a few minutes and work your way up. If you are having a gag reflex or nausea, try less oil, don’t be as aggressive with your swishing, and make sure to breathe calmly through your nose. After a while it starts to feel great and your entire mouth will feel great, from the teeth to the gums to the tongue to your lips.

All these practices take time of course, but many are quick and easy and will hardly make a dent in your morning. Oil Pulling does take longer, but that’s actually a good thing. It forces us to take more time when starting our day, setting the tone for how much intention we have. It prepares us and awakens us. Compare this to simply running out the door, tired, sloppily doing your morning routine, and compensating with coffee.

My advice with any of these is start with ONE and practice it for a week or two. Then stop. Pay attention to how your body and mind feel that day. If you feel there is a benefit, continue! Then add another habit and repeat this process.

I’m not sure when I will get to other daily practices, like abhyanga (self oil massage) or neti (nasal cleansing), but I eventually will! In the meantime, make your dentist happy with these Ayurvedic practices.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 64: Colour Therapy

Chromotherapy or colour therapy is a subtle way the doshas move through us. Just as with any of our senses, we have certain sense organs that enable us to perceive colours, which are merely vibrations or wavelengths of light. We primarily do this via our eyes and our skin. Since our senses are the way we interpret the physical world, colours too have a role in our physical, emotional, and mental health. The role of colours are far more subtle, but since we are surrounded by colours every day, their effects are noticeable.

Just imagine for a moment being in a completely black room, wearing black clothes, with black furniture, at night. Contrast that to a completely white room, wearing white clothes, with white furniture, in the day. The effects in this extreme example become more obvious.

There are many ways that colours and light can be utilized in our lives to affect the doshas:

– interior decorating
– coloured lights
– tinted glasses
– clothing
– colour meditations
– coloured water infusions
– trataka (candle gazing)
– gem therapy

Interior decorating and our clothing are two diverse ways to choose colours. From painting, to decorations, artwork, linens, curtains, blankets, pillows, lighting, scarves…we often take for granted the major role colours play in our daily lives.

If you start asking yourself some questions about your environment, from an ayurvedic approach, you can start to surround yourself with that which will pacify your doshas.

Do you feel tired in the mornings? Perhaps a stimulating colour in your bathroom would be a good idea.
Do you want your living space to be a sanctuary where you can relax? Perhaps calming, soothing colours would be best.
Do you need your workout space to provide more motivation? Perhaps intense colours could be utilized.

When we start asking why rather than just bombarding our senses with whatever we like, we start to build our environment in such a way that it’s no longer vitiating us and potentially even supporting our peace of mind and health.

Here are the best colours for pacifying each dosha:
Vata – heavy or warm
Gold
Brown
Green
Yellow
Orange
Purple
Pitta – cooling
Gold
Blue
White
Brown
Violet
Kapha – warm, light, or stimulating
Red
Orange
Green
Gold
Blue
White
Purple
Violet

You’ll notice that gold is on all three lists! It is not the shiny gold we are used to, but it is considered to be tridoshic meaning good for all three doshas. It’s also the best colour for building ojas. It’s said to transform consciousness, support the function of our hormones (endocrine system), and strengthen the emotions and body. Combined with a deep blue it works to balance the mind and bring out one’s deeper potential.

Additionally, some colours are considered more sattvic, or are calming and uplifting:
White
Yellow
Green
Gold
Blue
Violet

Of course colours are not so simple. There is a gamut when it comes to picking the shade of a colour. To keep it simple, adding white to a colour will make it softer. It adds a lightness, expansiveness, and cooling property to the colour. White in excess can lead to apathy, sterility, detachment…but in balance it can be cleansing to the body. Still, again too much can be depleting. White is said to be the seed of all colours.

Adding black to colours makes the darker.Black is said to contain all the elements – air, ether, water, fire, and earth. Though Earth is the most dominant and the rest are in lesser amounts. It is heavy, cool, and contractive. It makes for things being more grounding. In moderation it can provide stability and protection. In excess it creates isolation (just remember that goth phase you went through as a teen).

I’m going to paint my apartment next week with this new found knowledge. Besides, colours are fun! Now Ayurveda has given you a road map to the effects they have and your choices can be more purposeful.

With gratitude,

S