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”.
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 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.
– 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.
– 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)
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!
– 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.
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.
– add neem oil to the dental floss before flossing
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
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.