Our bodies have their own natural defenses, but need some support.
Here are four super effective Ayurvedic techniques.
You wake up in the morning and one of the first things you do is brush your teeth, but are you doing any thing for the tongue? Get in the mirror and take a good look at it, their are lots of things that can be learned about our health from the mouth. Benefits of tongue scraping include: reduction of bad breath, toxic residue, bacteria, and stimulates digestion. It only takes a few seconds, an can be easily fit into your routine. It is said to improve mental clarity and reduce ama.
The neti pot is extremely useful is clearing the nasal passages. This is good in the case of not only sinus infections, dirt, dust and pollen removal, but also contributes to fresh breath, and improved sinus health. Nasal irrigation is said to help clear the cobwebs from the mind and promote clear thinking. You will want to use purified water, and a measured amount of salt, or you might not be as happy with the result!
Ever watched a dog after it gets toweled off from a bath? It’s stimulated! Using a stiff bristle brush, make short rapid strokes from the extremities towards the heart center. Dry Brushing moves lymphatic fluid, and exfoliates dead skin particles. Try this little experiment- do it on one whole side of your body and see if it feels different fro the other side. I am willing to bet it feels more alive and awake. A similar effect can be felt using just your hand if you want to test the waters before shopping.
Abhyanga is a nurturing practice, and feels oh so luxurious. It’s just like putting lotion on after the shower, but using oil like coconut, almond, jojoba, or sesame. It is incredibly grounding, and provides a layer protection of protection between you and the outside world. Self massage is a great way to connect to your body, work out a few kinks, even improve sleep. My favorite time, is actually before getting into the bath/shower/sauna…and frankly it’s when my skin looks it’s best.
All of these techniques may seem foreign and unusual, but have a profound effect. ‘Saucha’, or cleanliness is part of one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. They will not only help to keep your physical body pure, but it will also have a noticeable difference in your overall well being. I encourage you to make one or all part of your routine.
Have you ever heard of ancestral or generational healing? Or seen a family where the same trauma pattern seems to mysteriously develop generation after generation? The Ayurvedic idea of samskarasalong with the science of epigenetics may shed some light on this mystery.
According to Ayurveda, physical, behavioral, mental, and emotional traits can be carried through generations. If mom or dad carries stress, the associated behavior traits can be passed on for generations. These are called samskaras, imprints, carried to offspring.
Samskaras are defined as:
An impression, or under the impulse of previous impressions. The imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives, which then color all of life, one’s nature, responses, states of mind.
Today, new Western studies are beginning to understand how these traits may be passed down.
While the environment and behavior rarely change the DNA sequence of a gene, they can cause epigenetic changes in the regulation or expression of the gene. This new genetic expression may be what we mean by samskaras!
A 2014 study shows that when young male mice are stressed, their behavior is affected as adults. The stressed mice are resistant to exploring new environments and give up more quickly when given a challenging task. When sperm from these stressed males is injected into eggs, the offspring exhibit the same stress behaviors, without any contact with dad.1
In another study, rodents are trained to fear the smell of peppermint before they become pregnant. When the offspring of these peppermint-fearing rodents are exposed to piped-in peppermint oil, infant rodents show the same fear. Remember, the fear of peppermint oil was recorded in the memory of the mother before pregnancy, suggesting that the infant carries this impression, or peppermint samskara, from the mother prior to fertilization.2
This research suggests that stressful behavior is passed through generations. Stressors alter the expression of genes without changing the DNA sequence. Scientists suggest that if your grandparent lived through heavy stress, such as the Great Depression, certain gene expressions may be turned on or off for generations, affecting the way you behave.3
Understanding how inherited fears, stressors, or samskaras can affect the health and behavior of a family for generations is fundamental in the Ayurvedic roadmap of health. Interestingly, we are only now beginning to understand the subtlety and profundity of epigenetics.
Reversing Epigenetic Traits & Samskaras
Reversing these epigenetic traits is also discussed in Ayurveda. One of the most powerful tools to enhance self-awareness and make deep epigenetic samskaras is the practice of meditation and breathing.
While meditation boosts awareness, it is not a complete therapy unless it is followed up with action steps. Action based on heightened awareness changes negative neural patterns in the brain. The goal of Ayurveda is to be free of old emotional patterns that negatively impact health, happiness, and longevity.
With emphasis on the importance of reflection and self-awareness, Ayurveda claims we can remove samskaras imprinted in our DNA from childhood or our parent’s childhood.
One study suggests that up to 95% of the things we think, say, and do as adults come from impressions from the first six years of life.4 We call these unconscious behaviorsbecause they are drawn from the unconsciousness of old samskaras or impressions. The cure, according to Ayurveda, is to become conscious. This requires becoming more self-aware and then taking intentional action based on your true nature rather than old emotional patterns of behavior derived from childhood.
I have also developed the Transformational Awareness Technique (TAT) to teach people not only how to be successful meditators, but how to take transformational action steps based on the heightened awareness meditation offers.
Most meditation practices leave out what I believe to be the most important part: taking awareness-based action steps. It is the action that lays new neural pathways in the brain and frees us from old emotional patterns and behavioral samskaras.
Royal Wedding Reflection
Bryan and I got engaged the eve of Thanksgiving 2017. Harry and Meghan announced their engagement that same weekend. During the period of time I was preparing for my own life transitions a lightbulb went off in my head. Marriage is the ultimate ‘Yoga’. It is a sacred union. The root word of yoga means to ‘yoke’ together like oxen…Or like a beautiful horse drawn carriage seen in fairytales.
My wedding was a union of families, Harry and Meghan’s united a global community. As I watched this event I felt as though I was taking part in a moment of history. That the sum of all moments in time have lead to this very one. Not just for them, but for all of us. Now more then ever, the people of the world can recognize that we are sharing these moments as a whole. Each breath we take as individuals, is shared on a much large scale. We all breath together, even the Earth.
It just goes to show how our everyday experiences really are part of a greater whole regardless of whether there is a Royal Wedding taking place or not…each of our actions as individuals lead us to actions as a whole. From backyard, to city, state, country, earth, to the universe…I am reminded how even the smallest of actions have a grand impact. This keeps me mindful, present, and always believing that dreams really do come true.
Use the highest quality water you have, strategically pick your vessel, and begin to heat the water. Listen to the sounds the water makes at it heats.
Pick the tea that you wish to use. Be mindful when picking your tea, pondering the desired flavor and effect that you wish for it to cultivate within you.
Once the tea has been picked, take a good look at it, before it goes into the water. If it is loose leaf look at the colors, shapes, and textures. If it is in a bag, look at how it is packaged and notice these same qualities.
Then, close your eyes and smell it. If it is not very strong, give it a squeeze to release some of the aromatic oils. Do you have a physiological response, like your mouth watering? Perhaps a memory or a feeling arises?
As you place the tea into the cup, watch carefully as you begin to slowly pour the water over it. See how the water changes colors, gaining new characteristics. Watch your tea steep for the proper amount of time. While this is happening watch the steam rising, feeling the warmth of the cup, and soaking up the smell in your nostrils. Take a few long inhales letting the scent pervade your being.
Take the tea out of the cup allowing it to cool a bit. At first sip just take in a small amount of fluid. First noticing it initial taste. Swirl it around your mouth a few times as the digestive process begins. Does the flavor change? As you swallow notice of there is an after taste? Does the tea change from when it enters your lips until the time you swallow? After you swallow, does it leave you with a feeling?
Take your time in consuming your glass of tea. Let all of your senses be part of this experience, for the entire experience. After the tea is gone, take some time to reflect on the process, and how you are feeling now.
Anything can be a meditation by being fully present in whatever you are doing. The simplest of activities can be made into a connection.
About the Photos
Top: I attended an event at Costal Retreat to watch the wedding, and my friend Abby Rose made scones, whipped cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam. YUM!
Bottom: Friends Jen Kock of Physically Fitch and Aundra Anderson of Fit with Aundra had a ‘non-bachelorette’ evening for me, and bestowed me with beautiful tea cup, tiara, sash, Magic Mike, and so much more…:-)