Many ideas and practices that were once confined to the fringes of Western society are getting more and more mainstream, and Ayurveda is no exception. An ancient system of medicine originating in India, Ayurveda is a holistic approach to life, encompassing diet, preventive health, wellness, and hygiene.
While the Ayurvedic system is complex, many of the practices it espouses are simple. And even if you’ve never heard of Ayurveda, you might be familiar with some of these common techniques.
1. Tongue Scraping
We all brush our teeth as a habit (hopefully!) and ideally floss too, but tongue scraping is a step many people skip, or maybe have never even heard of. It might surprise you to hear that this oral hygiene technique, called jihwa prakshalana, is equally endorsed by Ayurvedic practitioners and Western dentists.
It simply entails running a handheld scraper over the surface of the tongue, and should be done once or twice a day. Tongue scrapers cost just a few dollars and can be made of steel, plastic, or copper, though the stainless steel ones are generally of higher quality.
Tongue scraping is the most effective way to remove bacteria from the tongue, which helps prevent cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and dental decay. Not only that, it helps improve our sense of taste. Pretty impressive for something that takes under thirty seconds.
2. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling, known as kavala graha, is another Ayurvedic dental hygiene practice that has gained popularity in the West. It consists of putting about a tablespoon of oil in the mouth, swishing it around for five to twenty minutes (making sure to pull it between the teeth), and then spitting it out. Many different types of oil can be used, but coconut and olive are usually recommended. The idea is that it “pulls” bacteria from your mouth, while also increasing saliva production, moisturizing the gums, and reducing inflammation.
While some dismiss oil pulling as pseudoscience, research has shown it to be an effective natural replacement for mouthwash. People who oil pull as part of their regular dental hygiene regimen claim to see benefits including improved breath, reduced TMJ symptoms, less dental decay, healthier gums, and whiter teeth. It’s completely safe, so there’s no reason not to try it out and see if it works for you.
3. Dry Brushing
This one isn’t oral hygiene-related, and it hasn’t gained as much popularity as the two techniques listed above. But dry brushing, called garsahana, is another way Ayurvedic practitioners remove impurities. There are special dry brushes made for this purpose, but you can also use a sponge or a piece of linen. Simply rub the brush or other tool in upward motions over the skin, beginning with the feet. The whole process should take about five minutes, and it should be done a few times a week, right before showering.
Dry brushing increases blood circulation and provides full-body exfoliation, meaning it sloughs off dead skin cells, which prevents dryness and leaves the skin glowing. Because the practice is so calming, it also reduces stress. Sounds like a win-win!