Everyday Ayurveda: Abhyanga, Neti, and Nasya

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

While we sleep, our bodies do their natural work of clearing toxins out of our system. As they leave the organs, these toxins travel to our colon and skin—which is why, according to Ayurveda, it’s important to take care of personal hygiene first thing in the morning to prevent reabsorption. The following routines are effective in clearing these excesses from our body and preventing toxic buildup.

Abhyanga (Oil Massage)

Choose an oil blended especially for your constitution (vata, pitta or kapha) or get a good organic cold-pressed base oil—sesame for vata and kapha, coconut or sunflower for pitta.

Keep your oil in a bottle or jar in your bathroom. You can warm it if you like by soaking in warm water in the sink, or apply at room temperature. Start your application before your shower or bath. Begin at the feet, making circular motions around the joints and up-and-down strokes on the long bones and torso. You can also apply the oil to your scalp if you intend to wash your hair that day. Once it’s applied, let it stay on for a few minutes before you get into the shower or tub. Once in the warm water, don’t soap off the oil—allow the warmth of the shower to drive it into your skin. You can soap and wash your hair, and just pat dry with a towel when you get out.

Neti and Nasya (Nasal Rinse and Oil/Herb Lubrication)

Neti: Fill a neti pot with lukewarm distilled water and add a pinch of sea salt. Bring to sink. Tilt your head over the sink and place the spout into one nostril, breathing out of your mouth. Allow the water to flow into that nostril and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. Blow your nose if necessary and gargle with a little salt water.

Nasya: You can use a formulated nasya oil, ghee, or sesame oil. Apply by placing the oil on your small finger and inserting into one nostril while closing the other nostril. You can also use a dropper or a squirt bottle. Sniff the oil up into your nose until you feel it drip into the back of your throat a bit. Repeat the procedure on the other side.

Ginger Paste Nasya: This can be done when you're feeling some sinus congestion coming on. Combine 1/8 teaspoon dried ginger, 1/4 teaspoon raw sugar, and 2 tablespoons water, and boil until the mixture is reduced by half. Coat your nostril with sesame oil first, then put the ginger drops in one nostril at a time. This should not be practiced longer than two or three days in a row.

Get Your Digestion Moving

Drink a full glass of room temperature or warm water (you can add lemon) upon rising. Do some gentle yoga or stretching and twisting to stimulate the body and circulation. Leave yourself enough time to use the bathroom without feeling rushed—and try waking up earlier if necessary so you won’t need to hurry through your morning routines.

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