What is Ayurveda? Self-Care Lessons from the Ancient Practice

by Madison Garner January 11, 2019

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 11, 2017.


By now, you’ve most likely heard of oil pulling and its many benefits, but do you know where the practice originates from? The ancient medical system of Ayurveda is the point of origin for a ton of today’s buzzy wellness trends—oil pulling, tongue scraping, and turmeric, just to name a few. As practices like these become mainstream, we think it’s high time to actually understand the 3,000-year-old tradition they’re built on, and how it can help us live a more vibrant, healthy life.


What is Ayurveda?


Literally translating to “the science of life,” Ayurveda was first developed by Indian monks and is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. It focuses on using prevention and lifestyle habits—as opposed to Western medicine’s emphasis on treatment—to maintain tip-top physical and mental health. In Ayurveda, wellness depends on the balance between the mind, body, and spirit, and each person is made up of three unique energies called doshas that control your body. (If you want to find out your dominant dosha, this quiz can help!)


In Ayurveda, wellness depends on the balance between the mind, body, and spirit.


Ayurveda says that when one of these three doshas is out of balance, we can experience physical and mental manifestations, like ulcers or anxiety. Ayurveda offers dietary and exercise guidelines based on your dominant dosha, but there are a few practices you can pull into your daily routine that are universally recommended. Try starting your day with this easy under-30-minute self-care routine to experience a wealth of benefits from increased energy to a brighter smile.



Oil Pulling (20 Minutes)


Probably the most well known of Ayurvedic practices, oil pulling involves swishing oil in your mouth for around 20 minutes a day. Think of it like a heavy-duty, all-natural mouthwash that pulls bacteria and toxins from the nooks and crannies of your mouth. Reported health benefits include whiter teeth, healthier gums, and more energy.


Step 1: Warm a teaspoon of oil (unrefined sesame, coconut, or sunflower are recommended)

Step 2: Set a timer for twenty minutes. Try very hard not to swallow any oil, since you would also be swallowing the bacteria caught in it.

Step 3: Spit the oil into the trash rather than down the sink (the oil can clog your pipes).

Step 4: Rinse out your mouth with water.


Tongue Scraping (3 Minutes)


Tongue scraping involves using a tool to scrape off buildup on your tongue and removing AMA—toxic residue in the mind-body. You can buy a tongue scraper at most neighborhood pharmacies now (we recommend a copper one like this), and they’ll only set you back around $10. Simply take the curved scraper and move it down the surface of your tongue back to front around seven times in the morning, then rinse out the buildup. That whitish gunk coming off your tongue is combination of bacteria and food debris and is a big reason you get bad breath and cavities. Daily tongue scraping improves oral health and can even enhance your ability to taste food.


Daily tongue scraping improves oral health and can even enhance your ability to taste food.


Pranayama (5 Minutes)


This less-than-five-minute breathing exercise helps bring more oxygen into your blood and brain, detoxifying your body and boosting your energy levels to get your day started on the right note. Here’s what to try based on your dosha type—or, of course, try it all to find what works for you.


  • Vata: Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Exhale then inhale through your left nostril. Use your ring finger to close your left nostril. Exhale inhale then through your right nostril. Repeat for five minutes.
  • Pitta: Breathe in through your curled tongue. Close your mouth and press your tongue to the top of your mouth, exhaling through your nose. Repeat for two minutes.
  • Kapha: Do this on an empty stomach. Breathe in deeply, focusing on pushing your ribs open and out. Fully exhale. Keep your spine straight as you do this. Repeat for twenty seconds.


Have you tried any of these Ayurvedic practices? Let us know in the comments below.

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