November 16, 2020

The Luxury of Ayurvedic Ritual

It’s coming into a cooler season, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed everything has started to shift. Everything feels a bit drier, fatigue is setting in by 4:30 pm with the sun, and my desire for soups and stews is bubbling ferocious as ever.

Although the cooler months generally have plenty of positive things to look forward to, they can also bring an ominousness, and a sense of uncertainty. 

Throw in a pandemic wrenching your travel plans, holiday traditions, or family get togethers, and you may find yourself twitching and wincing at each falling, golden leaf.

Yet, perhaps as the season turns, we can take advantage of that shift to turn our already hibernated selves to a series of more mindful, deliberate practices — to a new set of rituals.

What is a ritual? It is the attitude of reverence that we have about a particular routine task, permitting for it to feel luxurious, and special.(Click here to read a recent article on the power of routines and habits.)

Some of my favorite rituals are supported by Ayurveda, one of the oldest traditional systems of medicine. Not only has Ayurveda been around since 2nd century BC — it’s still practiced today!

Here are a few of the best and simplest Ayurvedic rituals:

1. Drink Water –  Yep. Even in 2BC water was hip! In this Ayurvedic practice, sip warm water during the winter months to allow for a gentle morning flush of the kidneys, stimulating peristalsis (the muscle contractions and release that occur in your intestines, and digestive tract). Also, as I covered in a recent article on how to drink your H2O(yes, really!), you should sip it slowly and deliberately, rather than “chugging” it. Drinking this way is more effective for hydration and allows you to be more mindful. 

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2. Scrape your Tongue – A tongue scraper is the perfect stocking stuffer for you, your spouse, or anyone you love during the holidays — I mean who doesn’t love a holiday reminder that they have dead bacteria on their tongue? But seriously, 7-14 strokes scraping from the back to the tip of your tongue, not only gives those dead bacteria and enzymes that collect on it’s surface an eviction notice, but helps to stimulate digestion and internal organs (thanks to tongue reflexology). Most exciting, it helps keep your breath fresh and makes your tongue look nicer! 

3. Oil Pulling-  This is one of my favorite morning practices because it forces me into mindful silence. Take a tablespoon of cold pressed coconut oil into your mouth, and swish it around for 15-20 minutes, expelling the oil in the trash, or paper towel, NOT the sink. This practice not only helps to loosen things up, drawing out unwanted food particles, but also activates the salivary glands, assisting with digestion, and helps the microbiome of your mouth to stay in tip-top shape. This balancing effect is thanks to the lauric acid’s anti-microbial properties, and helps prevent decay and bad breath! 

4. Bathing – This is another one of my favorite cool weather rituals. Not only is it luxurious on a psychosomatic level, but also on a nervous system level. It allows our body to enter the all-important rest and digest state. 

5. Abhyanga (body oiling) – A gentle self-massage using oil is not just luxurious and self-soothing, but it helps to hydrate your skin, protecting it with nutrients and minerals that keep it supple. It can also help reduce anxiety, encourage lymphatic drainage, and increase blood circulation. It also, in my opinion, helps you to sleep more soundly, feeling like a hydrated, cozy cocoon. Sesame oil is particularly warming, great for those who have a more vata, or cooler body constitution.

I hope these 5 simple rituals can help shepherd in the new season with a bit more luxury, ease, and balance. Whether you’re brand new to these rituals, or have been practicing them for years, I’d love to hear how a fresh, mindful look at them, brings more reverence, and more pleasure to your existence!

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