Ayurveda Practices

Through the years I have found many tools to be helpful in clearing the body and the mind and opening the heart. Many of these tools are Ayurvedic in nature, based on the traditional Hindu systems of medicine which use diet, herbs, and yogic breathing to restore and balance the systems in the body.

JC Raulston Arboretum – image – Anita Avent

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and study Ayurveda principles with Dr. Sasu, a classically trained Ayurvedic Physician who runs HealthWorks of Ghana (West Africa).  On several occasions, he was lecturing and teaching in Raleigh, NC where I reside. Ayurveda is the health and healing system focused on balancing our individual constitutions through how we live our lives to create vibrant health and well-being.

What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?

The ancient Indian medical system, also known as Ayurveda, is based on ancient writings that rely on a “natural” and holistic approach to physical and mental health. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medical systems and remains one of India’s traditional health care systems. Ayurvedic treatment combines products (mainly derived from plants, but may also include animal, metal, and minerals), diet, exercise, and lifestyle.

Below are a few of the daily practices Dr. Sasu teaches in his wellness classes to keep the body healthy and balanced, including Mind, Body, and Spirit.  I’ve added some text from WebMD to explain the research and scientific details supporting the Ayurvedic practices as I was more focused on Dr. Sasu’s energy and intentions.


I began practicing yoga in 1992 to balance and align the body.  Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means aligning the movements of the body with the breath in order to calm the central nervous system and quiet the thinking mind. There are physical as well as a psychological links and pathways between the central nervous system and the thinking mind.

Five days a week, upon arising, I went to the yoga mat to move through five sets of the Sun Salutation, or surya namaskar, to energize the body and stretch and strengthen all of its major muscle groups.

There are a multitude of videos and DVDs devoted to Sun Salutation exercises so find an easy routine that works for you. Perhaps you’ll start with an easy version of the exercises used by pregnant women or senior citizens to stay healthy and fit.  Be sure to check with your doctor before undertaking any new exercise program.

Oil Pulling – A Deep Cleanse for your Mouth

Oil pulling is a traditional Indian wellness technique and health remedy that has been used for centuries to maintain good health. The process involves swishing oil around your teeth, tongue, and mouth for at least three minutes. Oil pulling is believed to help flush and remove toxins from your body, leaving you healthier, cleaner, and revitalized.

This oral therapy dates back 3,000 years and involves swishing approximately 1 tablespoon of oil — typically coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil — in your mouth for about 3 to 5 minutes and then expelling it, rinsing the mouth with clean water, and then brushing the teeth. I use and prefer coconut oil.

Recent studies show that oil pulling helps prevent gingivitis, plaque, and microorganisms that cause bad breath. Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth naturally adhere to each other and are pulled into the oil since the oil is denser than saliva.

Required Tools:  Vegetable, Fruit, or Seed Oils, and three minutes of your time. I also use very small 2-ounce Dixie cup to hold the used oil from my oil pulling.  Do not reuse the oil once you spit it out of your mouth as the oil will harden around the toxins.

Once I have finished the oil pulling, I spit the oil into my little paper Dixie cup and leave it on the bathroom counter for several hours until the oil solidifies and then I toss the cup with the dirty oil into my mulch pile or garbage can.

Purchase a variety of cold-pressed organic oil.  Some oil pullers suggest that sesame oil is the most effective oil for oil pulling, while others prefer the taste and texture of coconut oil. Consider alternating oil varieties every couple of days to get the full benefit of all the oils and see what works best for you.  Virgin olive oil and sunflower oil are also commonly used for oil pulling. Avoid canola oil and other oil varieties processed with additives.

How to do Oil Pulling

Upon arising each morning, measure out 1 tablespoon of the oil. It’s important to do a pulling before you’ve consumed any food or drink in the day and also before you’ve brushed your teeth. You’ll have the opportunity to clean your mouth out afterward, and it won’t take long to complete the routine. I have also used oil pulling just before bed and it also works well for me. May sure you have at least four hours without food before oil pulling so you are not slowing down your digestive juices.

Swirl the oil around your mouth for 3-10 minutes.  The oil will mix with your saliva and as the oil is swished around the mouth, teeth, gums, and tongue, it is thought to absorb toxins. Usually, it will turn somewhat viscous and milky.  The health benefits of oil pulling, including whether they absorb toxins, are still being studied and require more evidence to know if it is effective.

Spit out the oil and rinse your mouth out thoroughly with warm water. It’s important to spit out the oil when it starts to feel thick. Oil pulling usually takes somewhere between 3 to 10 minutes to cleanse the mouth and gums, and no longer than 15 minutes.  When I am in a hurry I swish for about 3 minutes and then rinse well and brush my teeth as usual.

When you are finished the oil pulling practice, simply spit into the trash can and rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water, which tends to do a better job getting the oil out than does cold water. Make sure not to spit the oil into a sink or toilet, because it may clog the drain.

Switch up the variety of oil every couple days if you like. If you want extra power, try adding other ingredients – some people like a bit of mint or some apple cider vinegar for whitening, although results may vary. I prefer the simplicity of using only coconut oil.  You may want oil pulling with several different oils to see what works best for you.

Some studies have shown that regular oil pulling reduces the amount of s. mutans, a common oral bacterium responsible for a variety of oral diseases and a major contributor to tooth decay, plaque, gingivitis, and cavities. The lipids in the oil may help kill bacteria and keep bacteria from sticking to the walls of the mouth.

Vegetable oils can increase saponification, which could account for the cleansing, soap-like texture you may notice when doing an oil pulling.

Consider oil pulling to remedy bad breath and improve oral health. Halitosis is caused by bacteria and fungus in the mouth and on the tongue and using virgin oils regularly to oil pull will reduce these bacteria and fungi, fighting bad breath and contributing to a clean, healthy mouth. If you struggle with bad breath, work oil pulling into your morning routine.

Use oil pullings to contribute to all-around holistic health regimens. Some people attribute oil pulling to the general detoxification of the body and a diversity of positive effects, including reduced hangovers, reduced pain, headache relief, insomnia relief, and other cures.  The benefits of oil pulling are not currently supported by studies and should not take the place of any dental or medical treatment.  Please continue to brush and floss your teeth twice a day or according to your Dentist’s recommendations.

When you spit the oil out at the end it should look like milk, and this is normal.  Do not spit the oil in the sink–it may clog your drain.  This us especially true if you use coconut oil, as it is solid at room temperature.

Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots 

In the search for relief, many sinus sufferers have turned to nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages.  i found this wonderful tool in 1994 and have been using it since.

Although several methods of nasal irrigation exist, one of the most popular is the Neti pot — a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp. i purchased my Neti pot at Whole Foods but i notice now they are also available in most drug stores.

Although nasal irrigation using the Neti pot has been around for centuries, its use is on the rise in the U.S. Just like the practices of yoga and oil pulling, the Neti pot originally comes from the Ayurvedic/ yoga medical tradition.

Does the Neti Pot Work?

Ear, nose, and throat surgeons recommend nasal irrigation with a Neti pot or other method for their patients who’ve undergone sinus surgery, to clear away crusting in the nasal passages. Research backs up these claims, finding that nasal irrigation can be an effective way to relieve sinus symptoms when used along with standard sinus treatments. For some people, nasal irrigation may bring relief of sinus symptoms without the use of medications.

The basic explanation of how the Neti pot works is that it thins mucus and helps flush it out of the nasal passages.A more biological explanation for how the Neti pot works has to do with tiny, hair-like structures called cilia that line the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities. These cilia wave back and forth to push mucus either to the back of the throat where it can be swallowed, or to the nose to be blown out. Saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia so that they may more effectively remove the allergens and other irritants that cause sinus problems.  The Neti pot certainly works for me and I never travel without it!