Three Daily Rituals from the East
One of the big things I care about in my travels is health. That’s probably the top priority for any nomad! But outside of that, I believe that the West knows very little about health. In an emergency, the West is king. But what about every day? That is what Eastern medicine is about.
I still remember when a manager told me to take some pills and come to work when I asked for a day off for being sick (spoiler: I did not come to work). In the West, there is a pill for everything! We’re used to instant-gratification pills that solve any problem FAST. BTW, these pills have a ton of super bad side-effects, but it’s the fast results that matter - right?!!!
In contrast, Eastern medicine is long-term. If you follow it, you likely won’t get sick in the first place. But there is a big catch. It is A LOT of work that YOU have to do. That’s right - there is no magic pill. You have to take responsibility to get educated and carry out your own health.
Many families in the East already do these things by default - they have that ancient knowledge. And I want to learn from it!
So over the past year, I’ve incorporated three daily rituals that I haven’t been exposed to growing up, but that I now can’t live without.
The Tongue Scraper
I’ve never heard of scraping my tongue, but I learned that this is a common practice in India… I was skeptical until I read more about it:
“The tongue is a major absorber of pure chee from food and drink, which it detects as “flavor” and extracts by prolonged contact during salivation and mastication of food in the mouth. Ever wonder what happens to the “flavor” of food chewed for a long time? It is the most volatile element in food, and it can be absorbed only in the mouth.
Those who bolt down their food in half-chewed lumps miss not only the flavor but also the purest form of its energy. Many people miss this flavor and energy even if they do chew well, because their overall dietary habits and internal pollution leave a perpetual sticky film on their tongues.
To remove this film from your tongue, simply scrape the tongue’s surface from back to front with the edge of an ordinary teaspoon. You’ll find a foamy white or yellow residue in the spoon, which is invisible when spread out over the tongue. This residue clogs the taste buds and leaves a constant sour taste in the mouth. Scrape the tongue clean each time you brush your teeth, and you will not only enhance your tongue’s ability to absorb chee from food and drink, but you’ll also increase its capacity to savor flavors.” ~ The Tao Of Health, Sex, and Longevity: A Modern Practical Guide to the Ancient Way
After reading that, I immediately asked my friend in India to get me an official tongue scraper (and show me how to use it):
It wasn’t easy at first - as you read, it could be gross… But I worked through it, and now I love the fresh feeling of my tongue every morning. I can’t believe I went without cleaning my tongue all my life!
Hello taste buds!
The Neti Pot
I’ve heard of it… but this seemed super weird and I never looked into it. But for some reason, last year, I did come across more information about the benefits of the nasal irrigation:
“By far the best way to keep your nose clean and your nasal passages clear and unobstructed is to give yourself a regular nasal douche, known in yoga lore as the “neti.” The neti nasal douche is a particularly important form of hygiene for deep breathers, especially in this age of air pollution, smoking, and mucus-forming diets.
The neti loosens and flushes away encrustations of dried mucus; dissolves and expels dust, grease, and other pollutants; and thoroughly washes the sensitive olfactory endings, enhancing their capacity to extract and assimilate chee from air.” ~ The Tao Of Health, Sex, and Longevity: A Modern Practical Guide to the Ancient Way
Ok, that convinced me… but it is still a super weird thing to do. I’ve never been exposed to it, so I had no idea how to do it. So I asked them to show me at the Tao Gardens resort when I stayed there (get the nasal cleansing treatment)…
It was weird and difficult for me to conceptualize that water should go into one nostril and come out the other, but eventually I sort of got it… I kept practicing in my morning shower with the large bottle of saline solution they gave me and the benefits became clear quiet fast.
In Thailand, I finally found my own neti pot to buy!
If you live in a stable location, you can find these on Amazon. I’m sure you can also google instructions for how to use it…
It’s amazing to have clear nasal passages in the morning! Perfect preparation for meditation :)
As a Pitta Kapha in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian medicine) terms, my skin is prone to problems and irritation.
When I have gone to dermatologists in the West, they didn’t bother to ask anything about me (like my diet, stress, travel habits), but instead just gave me a pamphlet full of intense hormonal treatment options. Sometimes I tried the creams they gave me, and while they worked at first, they ended up burning my face after repeated use. I gave up!
In contrast, when I went to the Ayurveda resort in India and told them about my problem, they simply attributed it to my diet and stress level - something I already intuitively knew, since my skin does become better when I treat my whole body better!
Nevertheless, in addition to good diet, I have now added one daily ritual for keeping my skin healthy - a thanaka powder mask at night:
“Thanaka is the name of a slow-growing tree that thrives in the arid central parts of Myanmar. It is widely said that the trees must mature for at least 35 years before becoming viable, but many newer thanaka ‘farms’ are able to put product on the market after just 3 to 7 years of growth. The eponymous paste is made from grinding the bark against a flat, wet stone and then applied to the face. Although parts of the thanaka tree are used medicinally in other parts of Asia, it is only in Myanmar that it is used cosmetically. It is said that Burmese have been using thanaka this way for 2,000 years, but the first written evidence of it comes from a 14th century poem.
Why use thanaka? To hear locals tell it, it’s a good protection from the sun, lightens the skin, and even works against acne. In addition, it can be very cooling (as any liquid drying on your skin would be). Understandably, not a lot of research money has been poured into studying thanaka, but one 2010 Thai study found that “extracts from thanaka bark showed strong anti-inflammatory, significant antioxidation, mild tyrosinase inhibition and slight antibacterial activities.” (Inhibited tyrosinase would indirectly have a lightening effect on the skin.)” ~ Thanaka: The Secret to Burmese Beauty
I’ve recently been combining thanaka (which is easy to get in Thailand or on Amazon) with a cooling Ya Nang spray. But I’ve also combined it with Rose Water in the past, and it works great - you also smell like roses!
Unlike the synthetic and harmful creams that I have been prescribed in the past, thanaka powder is one of the few things out there that I can consistently put on my face without burning it. Problems I didn’t think would disappear have cleared up (with a combination of healthy diet).
I’m still learning everything I can about health and spirituality of the East. It is truly a wealthy source of time-tested ancient knowledge that still applies heavily to today, but that we’re missing in the West in lieu of untested side effects of new pills, foods, and medicines.
Let the learning continue!