“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust
February. Is. Coming. The month people turn on each other. They scowl at each other at the grocery store. They cut each other off in traffic. You can see the look of rage in strangers eyes in line at the bank.
Usually nice people, but not in February. Why? They have been trapped in re-circulating, drying heat. They’ve been lying dormant in front of Netflix. There’s been ice-scraping. Resolutions have already been dropped. They are dehydrated, cold, dry, stuffy, heavy, bored, low in energy, foggy-brained, stiff, sick, toxic and probably constipated.
Simple tweaks is what we need, to enliven our bodies and minds again. Here are three to jumpstart your system for the new year.
Tweak #1 – Water – the life-giving nectar
Ushapaan Chikitsa - water therapy done first thing in the morning (usha=dawn; pan=drink)
This is so simple, and is claimed that done regularly can prevent up to 30 diseases. Simply place a glass of water next to your bed before retiring for the night, and drink it down first thing in the morning. Every. Day. You may boost this practice to include fresh lemon juice, ginger and honey in hot water OR use a copper cup to rest your water in overnight. However, never put lemon into the copper cup.
Drinking water first thing in the morning signals your digestive tract to eliminate toxins from the previous day. This practice increases energy, promotes weight loss and boosts immunity. It is magic for the good health of the stomach.
Ushnodaka Chikitsa – sipping hot water throughout the day as therapy (ushna=hot; daka=water)
THIS is my #1 Ayurvedic advice. It seems to change everything. I’ve been carrying the same thermos since 2004. It’s been all over the world with me! A bit banged up, but still doesn’t leak. Boiled water pacifies all three doshas, especially Vata and Kapha. Hot water takes about 1-1/2 hours to absorb as opposed to 6 hours with regular water.
Boiled water is charged with agni (fire/heat) and becomes sharper in quality, allowing it to penetrate deeper levels of the physiology, opening srotas (channels). Agni is the subject of the first and last sutra of the Rig Veda, and the foundation of Ayurveda. It is the principle of conversion that metabolizes nourishment from the environment. When agni is strong, the information and intelligence we take in are digested into their fundamental elements and are absorbed into the mind body physiology where they eventually become our cells and tissues. If we are healthy, any part of the digested material that is not useful is eliminated from our body. This simple technique supports this elimination and transformation.
Boil the water for 5-10 minutes and fill your thermos each morning. Use a thermos with a cup. Sip every 15-30 minutes throughout the day. That’s it. Easy. If the water cools, no need to re-heat. It already has a warm nature. This is the best lymph-moving rehydration technique I’ve experienced.
Increase in energy
Clarity of mind
Hydrates and cleanses deep tissues
Reduces food cravings
Softens hardened tissues
Heals and repairs digestive system
Flushes GALT (lymph on outside intestinal wall)
Shed toxins (ama is sticky and greasy – hot water dissolves (like washing dishes)
Assists digestion by further cooking food
According to Dosha:
Vata- drink warm but not too hot all year
Pitta- drink warm in winter and room temperature in summer
Kapha- drink hot sips throughout day
Enjoy the soothing and balancing effect of this ancient Ayurvedic purification technique!
Tweak #2 – Abhyanga - loving hands
(abhi=to rub; anga=limb)
How many times do you say “I wish I could go for a massage” or “I wish my partner would rub warm oil all over me”.... ok, pull it back. Either way, KNOW that you can give this to YOURSELF! Truly.
Abhyanga is an anointing of the body with warm oil infused with healing herbs. It’s a form of snehana, a very important treatment in Ayurveda which balances the nervous system at the same time it removes impurities from the body.
Abhyanga is an important aspect of the daily routine that provides a stabilizing influence all year long. It is also a phenomenal self-love builder. The Sanskrit word Sneha can be
translated both as oil and as love. It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. How lovely is that?
There are at least 1,000 sensory neurons per square centimeter of your skin. Studies have shown that oil massage allows the body to naturally produce oxytocin, the loving, giving, feel-good hormone. Oxytocin can balance our immune system and hormones, as well as increase our empathy and strengthen bonds. This is something we want to produce.
How to Perform Abhyanga Self-Massage (5-10 min)
Warm the oil (just above body temp 100 - 110 degrees or whatever is comfortable)
Pour ¼ cup into mug and warm using cup warmer OR
Use oil warmer pump (my favorite) OR
Place oil into a mug of hot water OR
Hold oil container under hot running water
Put a towel on the floor (make sure room is warm)
Maintain an attitude of love and respect (sneha is love)
Begin at crown of head (adhipati marma)
Head (vigorously in circular strokes. You will massage many marma points – points of concentrated vital energy)
Face & Ears (gently)- linger on those ears (lots of marmas) & put a dot of oil into each one
Neck, front and back (gently)
Trunk (gently) – follow large intestine around abdomen
Sit for a bit and relax
Wash by scrubbing with washcloth to remove oil-pulled ama (toxins)
You may put a thin layer back onto the body after bathing to carry through the day
Benefits according to the three(3) great classical Ayurvedic texts:
Imparts softness, strength and color
Decreases effects of aging
Bestows good vision
Nourishes the body
Benefits sleep patterns
Strengthens body’s tolerance
Imparts firmness to limbs
Imparts tone and vigor to tissues
Pacifies vata and pitta
Luxurious, thick. Soft, glossy hair
Soothes sense organs
Reduces facial wrinkles
Benefits stiff neck and jaw
Benefits vata ear disorders
Stimulates skin to release health-promoting chemicals
Increases alertness and stamina
Recharges and re-energizes both mind and body
More “self-nurturing” time
“By applying the oil massage regularly the onslaught of aging is slackened.” CS/Su V:89
Ayurveda teaches that there are seven dhatus, or layers of tissue in the body. For the effects of sneha to reach the deepest layer, it should be massaged into the body for 800 matras, roughly 5 minutes, although many suggest 15 minutes.
When NOT to do Abhyanga:
During menstrual cycle
During pregnancy (detox may expose fetus to ama)
Over swollen, painful areas on the body
Over infected or broken skin
When there is high ama (if you have a thick white coating on the tongue)
Mini-Massage if you Really Don’t Have Time for 5-10 minutes
A short one is better than none! The head and feet are the most important parts of the body to massage and it only requires about 2 tablespoons of oil.
1 tbs warm oil into scalp
gently massage temples
lightly rub ears (linger here)
front and back of neck gently
2nd tbs warm oil – massage both feet using flats of hands
work oil around toes
vigorously massage soles of feet with brisk back-forth motions
Ladies, if you don’t wash your hair often enough to massage scalp, simply begin at step two. You will be glad you did. This is sacred time. Your time. You are so worth it. Play soothing music and light a candle or turn on your bliss oil diffuser. Close the door. Breathe.
According to Doshas:
Vata (air & space)
4-5 times per week
use relatively gentle, slow massage to ground
use heavy, warm oils such as sesame or almond, or a Vata-balancing oil
3-4 times per week
will benefit from deeper massage, as the body is already warm
use cooling oils such as coconut or sunflower, or a Pitta-balancing oil
Kapha (water & earth)
1-2 time/wk perform stimulating, vigorous massage to lighten and awaken Kapha
employ lighter oils such as safflower, or warmer oils like mustard, or use a Kapha-balancing oil
dry massage using herbal powders or a silk glove is also beneficial here
Tweak #3 – Jihwa Prakshalana - Clean your tongue.
As Dr. Doulliard states, as the microbiome in the body becomes more understood, the more popular ancient techniques become. You may have heard of scraping your tongue, as it has gained popularity in recent years. Ayurveda has been promoting this for thousands of years.
In the mornings you may have a coating on your tongue ranging in color from clear to white, yellow or green. If so, your body may have a build-up of ama, or digestive impurities (the result of incomplete digestion), that can compromise the digestive and immune systems. This simple method of cleaning the tongue removes the ama before it’s reabsorbed by the body.
A quick, simple and extremely inexpensive practice – use a spoon or a $9 tongue scraper. Just try this. When you see the gunk removed from your tongue, you will be hooked.
“I can’t live without tongue scraping. Without a doubt, it should be a part of our daily oral hygiene regimen. I stress to my patients, friends, family and strangers alike how important it really is. A tongue scraper is the one thing I would want with me on a deserted island…forget the lipstick!” ~ Kim Shamoun, a veteran registered dental hygienist.
When your taste buds are coated in gunk, you have no chance to fully enjoy your meals, and decreased taste leads to decreased digestion (begins in the mouth), plaque and overall health (Mayo Clinic).
Tongue scrape first thing in the morning, before brushing teeth, before eating or drinking.
How to use:
Simply hold the two ends of the tongue cleaner in both hands
Extend the tongue and place the tongue cleaner on the surface as far back as is comfortable
Gently pull the tongue cleaner forward so that it removes the unwanted coating
Rinse the tongue cleaner and repeat as necessary, usually 7-14 times
If you gag, you are being too aggressive. Lighten the pressure and come forward a bit
Benefits of Using a Tongue Cleaner:
Clears toxins (ama) & bacteria from the tongue
Helps remove coating on the tongue that leads to bad breath
Enhances the sense of taste
Promotes overall oral & digestive health
Gently stimulates the internal organs
Increases your awareness of your state of health
Increases clarity of mind by reducing heaviness and ama from the head
Balances the heavy and dulling qualities of Kapha dosha
The tongue is a map. A coating may reveal the health of your internal systems. If you continuously have coating, consider taking Triphala. Coating refers to ama, which is toxic residue in the mind-body. This can result from improper eating, poor digestion or a reflection of an imbalance somewhere in the gastrointestinal system.
Since cleaning the tongue improves taste receptors, thereby the taste of food, eating becomes more satisfying. Not only do you eat less, you also eliminate the need to add more sugar, salt or excessive spice to make it more flavorful.
“Tongue scrapers should be made of gold, silver, copper, tin and brass and should be non-sharp and curved, so as not to injure the tongue.” Charaka Samhita. Stainless steel cleaners are now widely available and resist corrosion, and are also effective. Copper may be the best metal for tongue scraping because it not only seems to be toxic to the bad bacteria, it also provides important enzymes that are needed for the healthy microbes in the mouth to survive. A copper tongue scraper will also resist bacterial accumulation while not in use. Silver would be the second choice, and stainless steel the third.
If you choose only one tweak, use the below based on your Dosha:
Vatas – choose abhyanga
Pittas – choose water
Kaphas – choose tongue scraping
So, scrape, brush, floss and drink a glass of warm water each morning and you are ready to go! I told you these would be easy tips. Try this for 21 days and email me to tell me how you feel. I can’t wait to hear from you!
When your physical and emotional bodies are balanced, it allows you to expand your spiritual awakening as well. These have been easy tips which will benefit both your physical and emotional bodies. Next month, we are offering a Soul Mantra Meditation workshop for your mental and spiritual side. We’ve got you – all aspects of you.