Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. It is the oldest existing science of health, more than 5,000 years old. In Ayurveda it is believed that all persons are made up of the same primary elements that exist in nature – fire, water, earth, air and space. These are all present in each of us in varying quantities, and this unique make-up, called our dosha or constitution, is what accounts for our individual characteristics and differences. Ayurveda teaches us how to make choices that are ideal for our body and mind, according to our dosha.
Even if you have never seen an Ayurvedic practitioner and have no idea what your constitution is, there are simple ways that you can adapt Ayurvedic lifestyle practices into your daily routine and improve your health:
1) Get a tongue scraper.
In Ayurveda, health is closely linked with the presence or absence of toxins in the body. Using a tongue scraper first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth, is an excellent way to remove toxins and bacteria that accumulate in the mouth while you sleep. This will not only improve your breath and your overall oral health, but your digestion will also be more efficient. Tongue scraping enhances your sense of taste. Taste is actually the first step in the digestive process. So by enhancing taste you are supporting the entire digestive process, simply by scraping your tongue!
2) Start oil pulling.
Oil pulling is the practice of using sesame or coconut oil essentially as a mouthwash, and swishing it around in your mouth for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. This is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual that has tons of benefits. This practice has been gaining more popularity in recent years as more and more people have become aware of its many health advantages. Oil pulling detoxifies the body by pulling toxins from the mouth and is excellent for the teeth and gums. It also has teeth-whitening and breath-freshening effects. When done regularly, oil pulling has a rejuvenating effect and helps to enhance the senses. Ayurveda gives a lot of importance to the tongue, which is believed to be intimately connected to different body organs. Purifying the tongue with oil therapy is thus believed to be beneficial for the whole body!
3) Practice self-massage with body oil.
Abhyanga is a luxurious Ayurvedic ritual which involves self-massage with warm oil all over the body. It feels just as amazing and relaxing as it sounds! This wonderful practice has so many benefits, other than the obvious – well hydrated, baby-soft skin. When warm oil is absorbed into the skin it nourishes all parts of the body, enhances circulation and stimulates the lymphatic system. The act of self-massage itself is a nurturing ritual involving the sense of touch, an important healing tool in Ayurveda. Traditionally, either coconut oil or sesame oil are used, depending on your particular dosha, but any other plant-based oils can be used. The oil should be lightly heated for better absorption and is then gently massaged into the skin from head to toe, going in circular motions and always moving towards the heart. You can relax for about ten minutes afterwards to allow the oil to absorb into the skin prior to taking a bath or shower. When done prior to a bath or shower, abhyanga aids in the removal of toxins from the body. It is both purifying and invigorating!
4) Rise with the sun.
Ayurveda encourages us to rise early – ideally, before sunrise, or before 6am. In Ayurveda it is believed that we should live our lives in rhythm with the sun’s cycles as we are deeply connected to nature. Before 6am is also when Vata, the dosha that is made up of the elements of air and space, is dominant. Vata is responsible for movement and this is a time when our energy levels are optimal and our brain is active. This would be an ideal time for spiritual practice or exercise. Performing sun salutations or other yoga asanas are a great way to start the day.
5) Eat mindfully.
Ayurveda teaches us that it is not just what we eat that is important, but how we eat, and eating with mindfulness is so vital for a balanced body and mind. Our culture and busy lifestyles may not always allow for this. We are so used to rushing from one activity to the next that oftentimes we may find ourselves eating our meals at our desks at work, or eating dinner while watching TV or answering emails. In Ayurveda food is considered sacred and should be honored and eaten with intention. Mindful eating requires us to slow down and honor the food we are putting into our body. That food will in turn bring us nourishment and pleasure. This act of slowing down is similar to the pause in between breaths, and the same intention that we practice when doing yoga. Eating is such an essential part of our lives, we should be giving it the same time and consideration that we do to other activities.
Nudrat Bisciello is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Ayurvedic & Reiki Practitioner based in Manhattan. Nudrat specializes in Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle and several modalities of energy healing including aromatherapy and Chakra Balancing. She is also a Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Nudrat is the Founder and Creator of Soulful Body, a holistic wellness practice that is rooted in the ancient healing system of Ayurveda. Soulful Body offers holistic health consultations and energy healing, as well as a diverse selection of 100% natural and handcrafted plant-based herbal products for skincare, body care, and holistic healing, using organic, chemical-free ingredients. Instagram @soulfulbodyinc.