True story: Last year (2020) I started having idiopathic seizures. I saw all sorts of specialists who all told me I was just fine (according to the bloodwork and scans) – so there was nothing they could do to help me. Through journaling, I was able to isolate the combination of triggers that would lead to an episode: stress + lack of sleep + not eating well or enough + not drinking enough water + working too much = scary seizure. I also learned that these trigger points take a few days to build up in my system before I get knocked down.
For a while, however, I was so sensitive that eating almonds would start me spinning, and the smell of bleach would make my blood pressure tank. Super weird, right?!
The worst part was feeling delicate and vulnerable all the time, and being forced to slow down and really, REALLY take care of myself. During that intense health crisis, I added these five DAILY cleansing routines (also called “dinacharya“) from Ayurveda to recover. Now I feel much better, am 5 months siezure free, I have more energy and I truly feel like these simple routines saved my life.
The best part about sharing these Ayurvedic routines is they are considered “tri-doshic” meaning they will balance and tonify all three doshas. (What’s a dosha? Why does it matter? What’s my Ayurvedic constitution? Read Spring Cleanse Day 1)
Try these for a few days and take note of the difference!
#1: Gentle Yoga
The word “Yoga” actually means to “yoke” or tether two things together. What are we tethering together in yoga? The body, the breath, and the mind. These three are meant to work together in every yoga class – but you can also transform everyday activities into a yoga practice. How? First, notice your body in space and time: posture, comfort/discomfort, your environment, sights, sounds, smells, tastes & textures. This awareness is already linking the body with the mind. Now, notice your breath. Bringing your intention to breathing, release the lower abdomen, and practice breathing deeply into your belly. Notice how it expands and relaxes with each breath. Voila, this is the foundation of yoga.
Now start moving: if you are sitting, set an intention to stand. As you are standing, notice the muscles and joints involved in the process, and use your inhale at the beginning of standing, and a big exhale once you are fully standing up. Bring your hands to your heart and smile.
My friend and yoga teacher Holly Lanthier created this 30 minute yoga class for our Winter Retreat, the gentle, slow and grounding movements are a perfect compliment to our transitioning from Winter to Spring!
Read Gentle Yoga, Joyful Cleansing for more ways to incorporate yoga into your cleanse.
Pranayama is a way of literally expanding (yama) the life force (prana). The most common Pranayama is nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril cleansing breath. I posted a video demonstration of the nine-fold cleansing breath from the Tibetan yogic tradition on Day 2: Use what you have.
The important points are to breathe deeply and fully on both the inhale and exhale. You can try counting as a way to expand your lung capacity: 2 counts to inhale, 3 counts to exhale; 3 counts to inhale, 4 counts to exhale; and so on.
#3: Neti & Nasya
“Neti” is the saline nasal rinse that loosens and helps expel mucus and balances the pH in the sinuses. Pro tips: use “medical grade” pure salt, or salt that is specially packaged for use with a Neti pot. And not too much! Use a small amount of hot water to dissolve the salt, and then fill the pot until the water is room temperature. Try saying “ka” while you are pouring the solution in your nostril to close off the back of the throat. For anyone who suffers from chronic sinus infections, try adding a few tiny granules of baking soda to the solution. This will balance the pH in your sinuses making an inhospitable environment for bacteria or yeasts and reducing inflammation.
Immediately after cleansing both sides, try some gentle stretches where your head is inverted for a few breaths (like triangle pose, alternating sides). This will assist in proper drainage.
“Nasya” is an herb-infused oil that is used directly after Neti. Saline can be very drying to the sensitive sinus tissues, and nasya is not only lubricating but anti-bacterial. Tilt your head back (preferably with a pillow for support) and place just one or two drops far up the nostrils. Then use the tips of your fingers to gently massage the oil through the sinuses.
#4: Tongue Cleaning
Ayurveda considers the tongue the “roadmap” to the health of the body. As we sleep, our body is working to metabolize and eliminate toxins accumulated from the previous day. Have you ever noticed a coating on your tongue first thing in the morning? The color, thickness, and consistency of this coating reveals a lot about your health. For example, Kapha dosha tends to have a white coating, Pitta is generally yellow, and Vata can even be brown (before your first cup of coffee, of course!).
Clean your tongue first thing in the morning with a special stainless steel tool called a “tongue scraper” by gently scraping from the back of the tongue toward the front, and make sure to sanitize by dipping or rinsing in boiling water between uses. Scraping prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into the body, helps alleviate bad breath and enlivens the taste buds!
Abhyanga is Ayurvedic self-massage – and is probably my favorite routine of all. When doing Abhyanga, you use a warm body oil formulated to balance your dosha and using long stroking motions toward the heart, and circular motions over the joints, you work the oil into your skin from head to toe (or toe to head, depending on your preference).
The main benefit of Abhyanga is circulating lymph – mostly white blood cells and fat – so that it can be metabolized and eliminated rather than stagnating
My Ayurvedic constitution is generally somewhere between Pitta and Vata, depending on the season and time of day. Because I tend toward being chilly and dry (Vata qualities), I love to incorporate Abhyanga after a long hot shower, working from toe to head. I give extra love to my belly, massaging in a clockwise motion around my belly button to increase circulation and proper digestive movement. I also have kidney and adrenal deficiency (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) so I spend time offering heat, moisture, and pressure to my kidney area, which feels so good. Then I let the oils soak into my skin all day.
A Kapha dosha would benefit from practicing Abhyanga before getting into the shower, because Kapha tend toward oiliness. This way, the oils wash off and there is no residue. Kapha can also use less oil, while a Vata type would use more.