AYURVEDIC PRACTICES | PT. 1
Now that you know a little more about Ayurveda and the three primary life forces, which comprise our individual and unique constitutions (no one of us is like the other), I want to share the ways that you can incorporate some of the practical modalities of this ancient medicine as part of your everyday.
Below is part one: a list of applications, which I have adopted through much research and self-experimentation — finding what works for me. I encourage you to consider some of these practices yourself, as I have found them to be highly beneficial to my general health and well-being.
1. Oil Pulling
You've probably heard a thing or two about oil pulling, as it's becoming more popular in the wellness sphere. Oil pulling is a detoxifying practice that removes ama (bacteria and toxins) from the body. This removal of toxins can help with the maintenance of good oral hygiene by eliminating plaque buildup, cleaning the teeth, and nourishing the gums. Bonus: because this cleansing method helps to remove bacteria and plaque, it can also leave teeth whiter. Though this is a highly recommended daily practice, I like to oil pull using coconut oil 2-3 times per week (see #2 for what I do every other day).
2. Tongue Scraping
Tongue scraping has quickly become one of my favourite morning practices. Similar to oil pulling, tongue scraping is used to remove bacteria and toxins from the body. What I love about tongue scraping is that it can be done quickly and you can gauge the results more immediately. For tongue scraping: use a copper or stainless steel scraper (like this or this) and starting at the back of your tongue, pull forward, scraping to the very end of your tongue. Follow with brushing the teeth and a glass of water. You may find that what's left on your scraper is a white(ish) buildup or residue — this is the ama. The more buildup or residue, the more toxicity in your body. It's important to remove these toxins, but what's even more wonderful, is that this method allows us to gauge the amount of toxicity in our bodies. When I consume more sugar, for example, I always tend to have more buildup on my tongue. Clean your scraper with fresh water.
3. Dry Brushing
Having been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in my teens, movement of the lymph has always been important to me. If lymph becomes stagnant or the lymphatic system has trouble removing toxins from the body, this can further compromise the immune system. Dry brushing is wonderful, because it increases blood flow and circulation, as well as stimulates lymphatic drainage, which gives a boost to the removal of toxins from the body. I dry brush every evening before showering (with a brush like this one!): using small circular movements, I brush inwards towards the heart centre, focusing more attention to the joint areas (armpits, elbows, knees) and anything else that I feel may need more love on any given day. For example, if my digestion is off, I'll spend more time dry brushing and massaging my lower abdomen.
Every day after dry brushing and before bathing, I will implement some kind of self-massage. This act of nourishment can feel so good, and it's also a wonderful way to get in tune with your body, how it feels (quite literally, from feeling your own skin). Using coconut oil, shea, or coconut butter, I'll start at my feet and move upward through the body. Similar to dry brushing, I'll use circular motions to increase blood flow, stimulate lymphatic movement, and to promote relaxation and calm. Using an oil that you love and that agrees with your skin type (and body constitution or dosha) is recommended, because you'll also absorb this oil as a nourishing skin moisturizer.
5. Hot/Cold Hydrotherapy
For a few minutes at the end of a warm shower, I like to practice hydrotherapy. This is when I alternate between warm and cold water for a series of cycles, which helps to stimulate circulation. I particularly love this practice in the winter time (I know, I'm nuts), as it is strengthening for the immune system. To start, ease your way into it! Try changing the water from warm to cold, keeping it cold for just 15 seconds, then switching back to warm for 30 seconds, and so on and so forth, for a few cycles. Slowly work your way up, lengthening the time spent in the cool water, and perhaps increasing the number of cycles. I'm slowly trying to work up to 1 minute intervals for a few cycles.
For any of these ancient practices, please keep in mind that everyone's experience is going to vary, on any given day. These are a few of my favourites, but what works for me won't necessarily work for you. And, what works for you one day, might not the next. It's important, as always, to listen to your body.
If you have any questions, concerns, or curiosities about the above practices, I would love to hear from you. Leave your notes in the comments section below, and stay tuned for part two.