Monday, March 31, 2014

Swish for Health!

I’m going to let you in on a weird and wonderful part of my morning routine. In addition to the typical activities you might expect a yogi to engage in—asana, pranayama, mantra, and meditation—there is something else I do every day upon waking. It’s called “oil pulling”, and it’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice for detoxifying the body and maintaining good oral health.

I first learned about oil pulling in a teacher training retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA. The traditional Indian healing art of Ayurveda and the practice of yoga are considered to be “sister sciences,” and therefore it is recommended that students of yoga adopt some of the simple yet powerful Ayurvedic self-care routines that can have potent beneficial effects on one’s health.

Most of us have probably noticed a film of “gunk” that coats the tongue upon first waking up. This coating is full of bacteria and toxins from your body that end up in the mouth, causing “morning breath” and can contribute to poor oral health if not properly cleansed.  The swishing of oil in the mouth acts as a magnet that absorbs these toxic waste products, which you then spit out.

For oil pulling therapy, all you need is a tablespoon of raw, unrefined, organic sesame, coconut, or cold-pressed sunflower oil. If you use coconut oil, which stays solid at room temperature, it will take a minute or so to melt in your mouth and become liquid. If you use sesame oil, make sure it is the raw kind, NOT the toasted!

Here’s the procedure:

1) Using a tongue scraper (a U-shaped piece of metal with handles --you can find these in any health food store), remove the film by gently scraping it off the tongue. Do this upon first waking, before drinking, eating, or brushing your teeth.

2) Take 1 tablespoon of oil and swish it around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. You can do this while you are in the shower, getting dressed, or preparing your breakfast. Swish until the oil turns milky white in your mouth.

3) Spit out the oil. Do NOT swallow it! I recommend spitting into a cup and then pouring it outdoors, so as not to gum up your sink drain. Some people spit into the toilet, but I’m not sure whether that can do damage to pipes over time. Best to save it in a jar and offer it to the earth.

It’s important to actively swish and “chew” the oil. When you move your chin, the mouth will create saliva as part of digestion. The poisons are drawn from the body through the mucous membranes of the mouth. That is why it’s important not to swallow the oil because it has become poisonous from all the swishing.

4) After spitting out the oil, the mouth should be rinsed with water and the teeth brushed thoroughly. I usually do a couple more scrapes of the tongue before brushing my teeth.

If we were to take a drop of this liquid and view it under a microscope, we would see all kinds of moving fibers, which are microbes in the first stage of their growth. Our mouths are the home to billions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other parasites and their toxins. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in our mouths. It is these types of germs and their toxic waste products that cause gum disease and tooth decay and contribute to many other health problems, including arthritis and heart disease. Oil pulling has a very powerful detoxifying effect by literally pulling out disease-causing elements from the body and restoring vibrant health.

Oil pulling is most effective first thing in the morning, before breakfast. To enhance the healing process, it can be done three times a day –but always before meals and on an empty stomach.

It is possible that, in the beginning, there might be a slight worsening of symptoms (a healing crisis), especially in those who suffer from several illnesses at the same time. This mainly occurs when the pathogenic agents begin to disappear, or when one inflamed part of the body interacts with another. According to Ukrainian physician Dr. F. Karach, A worsening of symptoms is only a sign that the illness is disappearing and the body is recuperating.

Obviously, if you have a serious condition that is not improving, please see a health care professional!

Dr. Karach says that oil pulling therapy helps to heal headaches, bronchitis, tooth pain, thrombosis, eczema, ulcers, intestinal diseases , heart and kidney diseases, encephalitis and gynecological diseases. It can prevent the growth of malignant tumors and, in some cases, reverse cancerous growth. Chronic blood diseases, paralysis, diseases of nerves, stomach, lungs and liver and sleeplessness are also cured, as well as reverse the damaging effects of chemical drugs.

I can’t vouch for all of those claims, but I can happily say this: I’ve been swishing with sesame oil every day now for over two years. I had previously suffered from chronic periodontal disease, and have had several surgeries and extractions. Since I’ve made oil pulling part of my daily routine, the periodontitis has completely stabilized, and my gums are free from any infection.

Oil pulling has been an easy practice to add to my morning regimen. I typically follow it with using  a neti pot filled with warm salt water to cleanse the nasal passages (the subject of a future article…).

If you decide to try oil pulling yourself, give it a few weeks before deciding whether to stop or continue. Have fun (this is one of those things where you really have to have a sense of humor). May you swish your way to radiant health!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Holi--The Festival of Colors

On March 17th, many Americans, and especially those of Irish heritage, will be puttin’ on the green for St. Patrick’s Day.  But in India, March 17th will be a day to burst out in a rainbow of many colors, as is traditional during the Hindu festival of Holi.  This “Festival of Colors” has been described as “the world’s happiest event”  as it breathes an air of joy and merriment. People “bury their hatchets” with a warm embrace and throw their worries to the wind. Every nook and corner presents a colorful sight. Young and old alike are covered with colors (red, green, yellow, blue, black and silver). People are seen singing, dancing and throwing colors on each other.

Holi welcomes the beginning of the new season, spring. In 17th century literature, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture, commemorated good spring harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. Holi festivities mark the beginning of new year to many Hindus, as well as a justification to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and accumulated emotional impurities from past.

Celebrated with unstoppable energy, Holi in India transcends all people-created biases and differences of caste and gender. The fervor of Holi festival takes into its grip everyone, especially the youngsters. Reflecting the heightened spirit of the Holi festivities, a strong sense of revelry is overly obvious on this day. People express their emotions and demonstrate their affections and friendliness with complete freedom. This openness is apparent in Holi celebrations such as home get-togethers, Holi evening parties and card-game night-outs.

Holi is observed with special importance in the North of India. It solemnizes the love of Radha and Krishna, one of the many Divine couples in Hinduism. The spraying of colored powders recalls the love sport of Lord Krishna and His devotees.

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