Did you know that almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue? The tongue is a vital part of our anatomy and acts as a mirror to all the organs of the body, however few of us think about cleaning it.
The ancient Indian Ayurveidc self-care ritual known as tongue scraping (Jihva Dhauti in Sanscrit) is an oral hygiene practice that removes bacteria, food debris, fungi, toxins and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. That “furry” sensation you feel in the morning is a thick layer of white (Ama) that accumulates on the tongue and is waste build up after our digestive system has worked through the night to remove toxins from our body. If we don’t remove these toxins by scraping the tongue clean (a tooth brush is not nearly as effective), then they can reabsorb into the body and lead to respiratory difficulties, digestive problems and a compromised immune system.
Tongue cleaning eliminates waste products from the body’s metabolism that remain on the tongue and by doing so improves digestion and the perception of taste so communication between the taste buds, the nervous system and an appropriate production of gastric juices is improved. Remember that the perception of your senses is what allows you to communicate with the outside world and a correct perception of taste helps you to balance your general health.
Removing build-up from the surface of your tongue will open up its pores and better expose your taste buds, allowing for greater enjoyment of food flavours, and helping your body digest and assimilate food. By increasing your taste reception, not only do you eat less, you also eliminate the need to add more sugar, salt, or excessive spices to food to make it more flavoursome. Many of the beneficial phytonutrients that your food contains are first interpreted by the mind-body upon contact with receptors on the tongue. You want to improve this communication between your food and your body by removing any coating that is interfering with that connection. Also, many herbs have their beneficial effects from the initial contact with receptors on the tongue, therefore you need a clear tongue to receive this healthy information. Since the oral cavity is one of the main gateways between your mind/body and the environment, maintaining the health of this connection is critical to general well-being.
So how do you scrape your tongue?
This daily routine for maintaining oral health should be done on a regular basis, in the morning upon rising and on an empty stomach.
After brushing your teeth, scrape your tongue by simply holding the two ends of the scraper in both hands, stick your tongue out and place the scraper as far back on your tongue as possible. With firm but gentle pressure, scrape the surface of your tongue in one long stroke (from back to front). Rinse the scraper and repeat until your tongue feels clean and is free of coating (usually 5 to 10 times).
Cleansing the nose
Neti or nasal irrigation is a traditional yogic practice and has been in use for thousands of years to help maintain the nasal passages clean and clear of obstruction allowing breathing to be more effortless. The nose is what manages our life, and air is our most important nutrient. In order to manage air and energy efficiently we need our nostrils to be free so we can ingest large amounts of oxygen into the body, improve the removal of carbon dioxide and experience better health.
Large quantities of pollutants, contamination and irritants enter our nasal passages every day as a result of our modern lifestyle, which in turn can lead to an increase in sinusitis, allergies, asthma and nasal congestion. Regular use of the practice of neti can greatly alleviate these symptoms and restore balance, health and ease of breathing to your nasal passages. It is also wonderful to help reduce the likelihood of colds and flu in the winter months.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2.30)
“Neti: cleanses the cranium and bestows clairvoyance. It also destroys all diseases which manifest above the throat”.
The cold virus flourishes in nerve tissues, particularly in the olfactory nerves. Neti greatly helps by removing the accumulated mucous in the nose. Regular practice of neti when you don´t have a cold keeps nasal passages working at optimum efficiency and thereby helps to prevent colds and flu and maintain a healthy body. Breathing through the mouth or insufficient treatment of the inhaled air prior to entry into the lungs due to nasal blockage and congestion can encourage the onset of disease by allowing germs to infect the lungs or by generally weakening the state of health in the body.
Neti also helps in curing sinusitis, ailments of the eyes, nose and throat, tonsillitis and inflammation of the adenoids and mucus membranes. Neti has a subtle influence on the various nerves which end in the nasal passages such as the olfactory bulb and other adjacent nerves which innervate the eyes and ears. It has a very soothing influence on the brain and can help to relieve such ailments as migraines, epilepsy, depression and tension and is effective in removing headaches, insomnia and tiredness.
Neti helps to prevent and cure lung disorders like asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary tuberculosis.
How do you practice Jala Neti?
Fill the neti pot with luke warm water and add in small quantities and in equal parts of salt and bicarbonate of soda. Tilt your head over the basin and allow the tepid water to run up one nostril and out the other, taking with it all the irritants that can accumulate within the nose. Repeat on the other nostril.
Tongue cleaners and net pots can be found here: