If we were to all head to the biggest buffet on the Las Vegas strip, it’s unlikely we’d load our plates with the same delicacies. We all have different tastes and preferences. The same holds true for our health. Generally we are drawn to activities that create balance in our personal ecosystem. Here are my regular, never-fail, go-to rituals - part of my Sadhana. Having these as a consistent part of my routine, my dinacharya, helps maintain immunity, health, and a sense of overall stability.
Without fail, I scrape my tongue every morning - and sometimes again in the evening. Admittedly, when I first learned of this practice years ago I found it bemusing. When assessing one’s health Ayurvedically, we always look at the tongue. It gives away clues as to what’s going on within the body - and where. Aside from that, taking care of your tongue helps take care of the rest of you.
Tongue scraping stimulates digestion, clears bacteria, reduces bad breath, and decreases risk of gum disease and systemic blood infections. Reasons enough for me to give it a shot. The competitive Pitta side of me wants the pinkest, clearest, rosiest tongue possible. All the scraping in the world won’t afford you that luxury; for that, a proper lifestyle is in order.
The tongue is like the skin: it reflects what is happening inside our body, the level of “toxins” - or Ama - and is a direct manifestation of our diet. Looking at your tongue day after day you will begin to notice changes in the quality and quantity of its coating. Overindulging in holiday goodies is certain to show up not just around your middle but in your mouth. Who knew?
Vata Imbalance: Dry tongue with cracks; greyish, brown coating
Pitta Imbalance: Greenish-yellow coating
Kapha Imbalance: Thick white/grey coating
I do self Abhyanga religiously. When I first learned how to make Ayurveda treatments and formulas, I was most interested in Abhyahga oils. After several gallons and many months,I realized producing these oils was equal parts science, art, and intuition. Now having an Ayurvedic apothecary at my disposal, I am able to create custom blends to suit any need. In a perfect world, we would all have our own, personalized Abhyanga oil - or oils, depending on our day, our mood, or the season. In my early days, I did this for my clients.
But make no mistake, the ritual of Abhyanga on its own is therapy in and of itself. “Abhyanga” is loosely translated as loving hands. Whether performed by someone else or self administered, Abhyanga, when done regularly and with intention, is the pinnacle of self love.
Use of Oils, Heat, & Spices
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but it took on new meaning when I discovered Ayurveda. A self-proclaimed “health-nut”, I realized after studying Ayurveda, I had some concepts not quite right - for me, at least.
There is never a one-size fits all approach, and when any fad lifestyle gets promoted in the media, we all tend to jump on the bandwagon. There was “no fat, no carb”, “no gluten”, “high protein, high fat”, “keto”, “paleo”... all deemed “healthy” - but nothing is good for everyone.
Ayurveda taught me to understand me. Once I understood that, I was able to cook and live according to my body. Knowing I am primarily Vata (with a fair amount of Pitta and practically no Kapha), I use a lot of olive and avocado oil and a liberal amount of ghee.
I also make sure to always have fresh ginger on hand and use digestive spices with every meal. Ask any one of my kids and they will tell you I eat a plate of cooked vegetables for lunch nearly every day, no longer my go-to salad or a handful of nuts on the go. I also always make time to sit and enjoy my food; no eating on the run. This has been one of the best practices I picked up early in my Ayurveda years and I love it.
Read more about cooking for Vata.
Although not necessarily an Ayurvedic ritual, it is a ritual in my book. One day a week (usually Sundays), I take out a few hours for a full-on, all sensory, bath experience. I am talking candles - vision; a cup of hot tea - or maybe wine (let’s be honest #2020) - taste; Abhyanga Oil - smell and touch; and soft music (or even better - no sound) - hearing.
After a long soak during which a hair and face mask - usually with a dab of Wonder Balm ensues, I cozy up in bed and listen to a Yoga Nidra podcast. Nidra means “night” or “sleep” in Sanskrit. I never make it to the end of the podcast and always have the most restful night’s sleep. I savor these Sundays and set up my space like a sacred self care altar. Have you tried Yoga Nidra?
Although this is widely encompassing, I take it very seriously. I used to be of the mindset that you should “be strong” or “just do it”. I now realize that is not appropriate or healthy. It is not a matter of if you can do it or not, but if you should do it or not.
Just because you can doesn't always mean you should. The stamina and immunity of a Vata person is very different from that of a Kapha person. Neither right nor wrong, better nor worse - just different. It is not about proving one’s self, but rather respecting one’s boundaries.
Once I became a student of Ayurveda, I began to adopt a Vata lifestyle, meaning my exercise routine changed quite drastically. I was no longer a daily runner or cross-fitter... Yoga, Pilates, and walking have become my sources of activity.
When I am tired, I skip it and don’t feel guilty. I understood myself on a different platform, not just biologic but energetic. Although as humans we are all the same, at the core - we are all different, and it makes sense.
I embody that notion, live it, and honor it. I am more aware, more in touch, more forgiving, just as able and productive, and no less of anything (save for years) than I was before. These rituals are as much a part of my lifestyle as brushing my teeth; I don’t even think about them anymore. There are many others, of course, all good and beneficial, like drinking tea or hot lemon water, Nasya, etc. I challenge you to try several different rituals from the buffet table and see if you can find a few favorites.
Next month we will talk about Sadhana which is the mindful practice of anything (eating, breathing, meditating, self care) with specific intent (health, balance, detachment, serenity, peace). This is a great opportunity to get a jump-start!