by Morgan Webert
My Ayurveda teacher this week asked us how we take care of our five senses, after all, these are the channels through which we interact with the world, so it only makes sense (no pun intended) that we ensure they function optimally.
But, when I came to answer the question it sounded something like, “Ummmm, I don’t do anything for me ears, or eyes.” And, while I do have self care routines set in place for my mouth, nose and skin, I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of these routines as a representation of caring for not only my personal health but also my interaction with the world around me.
Below you’ll find a few Ayurvedic tips for keeping your sense organs vibrant and in tune, as well as some of the common ways we tend to neglect or abuse our senses. Try these out at home and let me know how you go, or please share with us some of your favorite five senses self care practices!
Ears & Hearing
We may neglect or abuse our ears by exposing ourselves to loud noises and music, negative self talk or verbal abuse, as well as repeated exposure to cold air and water (surfers, swimmers and ski/snowboarders be warned).
Karna Purna: Ear Oiling A simple practice for the ears is to put about half an eye-dropper’s worth of warm (not too hot) coconut or sesame oil in the ear. Put an old towel over a pillow, lay on your side, drop the oil in one ear and hang out for five minutes. While you’re laying there massage your ear. Both in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine the whole body is mapped out on the ear (just like reflexology on the foot and hand). So massaging the ear not only does feels divine, but it nourishes the whole body including the digestive organs. Turn your head the other direction, let the oil drain out and repeat on the other ear.
Mahavakya: Great Truth Practice To purify the inner ear, especially when damaged by negative self talk or verbal abuse, practice repeating over and over again a great universal truth. Maha means “great” and vakya means “truth” in Sanskrit. Examples of Mahavakya’s: All I need is within me; All is one; I am the whole; There is perfection in everything no matter how it seems; I am love itself; I love myself.
Skin & Touch
Our sense of touch and skin can be dulled or aggravated by unnatural fibers, toxic skin care products, too much sun, lack of nourishing touch and physical abuse or neglect.
Oil Self Massage Our skin is the largest organ of our body constantly interacting with the external world, and it is not a barrier but rather a permeable, dynamic, receptive surface. Anything we place on our skin penetrates into our deeper tissue (and consciousness). To keep this amazing organ nourished and healthy lather up your whole body with oil (coconut, sweet almond or sesame) and let it soak in. This is food for the skin and will keep it supple and strong as well as energetically ground you. Do this daily if you can or at least once a week.
Eyes & Sight
In our modern culture we experience so much visual stimulation and spend a ton of time looking at screens, often leading to strain and over use of the eyes. We also tend to hold back our tears, which is considered abuse of the eyes in Ayurveda.
Trataka: Candle Gazing A traditional yogic practice for purification of the eyes and concentration is gazing at a candle flame. Simply light a candle and stare at the flame as long as you can without blinking. The effort will likely cause your eyes to water as well as focus and calm the mind.
Last Monday morning we had a beautiful impromptu Trataka practice in class when the electricity went out, the energy in the room felt magically calm. I was reminded of an article I read recently about a couple who lived a month by candle light only and reported improved sleep, digestion, connectivity with each other and mindfulness. Simply reducing electric light and screens can give our eyes a needed rest and calm the entire nervous system.
Mouth & Taste
The tongue is a tricky temptress often craving or avoiding particular tastes. But, according to Ayurveda we need to eat all six tastes on a daily basis for optimal health, and avoid or over indulging of particular tastes creates distortion in our tastebuds. Many food chemicals (MSG, artificial flavors, coloring) also create distortion of the tastebuds. And when we lack proper oral care this tremendously powerful sense organ becomes even more dull.
Tongue Scrapping It’s so easy there’s no reason not to do this on a daily basis. Tongue scrapping first thing in the morning (before drinking anything) is one of the basic daily habits recommend by Ayurveda and can be done with a spoon or tongue scrapper (found at any health food store). This practice will clear the build up of bacteria as well as toxicity the body pushes out through the tongue overnight. Done regularly it will improve sense of taste, bad breath and oral health.
Oil Pulling Another Ayurveda tradition, oil pulling further clears the mouth of bacteria and residual particles simply by swishing a tea spoon full of oil around the mouth for 10-20 minutes. That’s right, those zeros are no mistake, it may seem like a long time but after the first or second attempt it flies by. Try oil pulling while showering or making breakfast. The oil will penetrate the cylindrical pores of the teeth pulling out deep seated bacteria as well as nourish and moisturize the gums. I recommend using organic virgin coconut oil because it tastes the best. Spit the oil out in the trash when finished and brush teeth.
Nose & Smell
Neglecting the hygiene of our breath channels and sinus pathways leads to serious impairment of oxygenating our brain and body not to mention limiting our receptivity of Prana. We also commonly neglect this sense organ by eating without smelling. Notice how much more you salivate when you really smell the food your eating. Saliva contains digestive enzymes and is the first process in digestion.
Neti Pot This practice is one of the traditional Yoga Shatkarmas or purification practices. Neti Pots look like small tea pots with long spouts designed for pouring warm salt water up your nose. I know, it sounds terrible, but like the oil pulling after the first attempt it’s really not so bad.
I struggled with sinus infections since childhood and when I first started practicing Neti Pot sinus cleansing I’ll admit it was a bit intense, I think I had a lot of built up mucus that needed to be removed. But after doing it regularly I noticed the darkness under my eyes clearing, a greater ease of breath and fewer and few sinus headaches. I can happily say I haven’t had a sinus infection in well over 5 years now and I attribute it to this practice.
Nostril Oiling Overly dry nostrils can also reduce our sensitivity to smell and create discomfort while breathing. To keep the nostril soft and supple simply dip your little finger in sesame or vitamin E oil and lube up the nostrils. That’s right, I’m giving you permission to stick your finger up your nose. Enjoy!