When we consciously begin the day by observing nature, its rhythms and experiencing their effects on life and us, we can align our senses with the natural elements and forces connected to them. Yoga and Ayurveda offer us a few simple beneficial adaptations for a morning routine that nourishes the five senses or Indriyas.
The five sense organs or Gyan Indriyas, according to Yoga, are more than just the anatomy and physiology of the Nose, Eyes, Ear, Tongue and Skin. They are instruments with which to perceive true and real knowledge. Our Indriyas are an interactive tool connecting the outer world and our inner purpose of living. They serve as mediums to see, taste, smell and sense all of the creation around us and the knowledge we perceive.
The five sense organs of our body interact with the five master elements on the planet. These energies, from the subtlest to gross (densest) are: Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Our five sense organs pick up the subtle energies and matter and translate them through our mind and its language into our consciousness through forms we can perceive. Hence the sense organs, the five Indriyas, interface our mind and soul with the world.
Overstimulation leads to trappings such as addictions while under-stimulation leads to withdrawal, depression, and a lack of connection. Self-care of our Indriyas, during the transformative time of the early mornings, teaches us how to take care of our own health. It is a way of knowing ourselves in relation to nature and not as something separate.
Tanmatra Chikitsa: Sensory Healing
Ayurveda shares with us Tanmatra Chikitsa or sensory healing. In Ayurveda, the five senses correlate with the five elements – Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. A fundamental Ayurvedic principle, in the words of Dr Claudia Welch, is that “the entire manifest world, humans included, are composed of varying proportions of these five elements. Therefore, it makes complete sense that we can heal and nourish our entire elemental being through our five senses. The pathway to health is through the body, not in denial of it”.
A reflection of beauty is by observing hygiene and care of the sense organs. When our five senses are clean and function optimally, the face is open, harmoniously ready to receive and thus attractive.
Here’s a list of a few Dinacharya or morning rituals for the senses that you can adopt without a big investment of time. Adopt one ritual that appeals to you and work on it every day until it becomes a part of your morning schedule. We can learn to fully experience the subtle aspects of life and that’s what really gives life fullness and greater depth. As you rise from bed and before setting your feet down, touch the ground and connect with the element of earth. It’s a simple act of a) stimulating the elimination system b) setting an intention of feeling grounded through the day.
Ayurveda shares with us Tanmatra Chikitsa or sensory healing. In Ayurveda, the five senses correlate with the five elements – Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
Sudhristi: Eyes & the Fire element (Sight)
The sense organ of the eyes correlates to the fire element. What we look at and what we expose our eyes to is food for the soul. Here are some ways in which we can nourish the eyes.
- Looking up at the Sun as it rises. This also helps set the circadian rhythm of your body and resets it to the sun.
- Using a cooling eye drop such as Sunetra or a spray of pure Rosewater can gently lubricate the eye and clear it of allergens.
- Patting cool water over your eye lids after each meal is extremely calming to the Pitta Dosha that is responsible for the eyes as well. This is the reason that sometimes Tratak meditation, looking without blinking to help cleanse the eyes, is recommended as a technique. It helps us to sharpen what we see at a subtler level. To be able to look beyond what there is, sharpening the third eye, the intuitive energy within us.
- Also, you can put a drop of Castor oil in each eye, even twice a day, if you have dry eyes. Castor oil is also good for taking off any residual eye makeup off and to nourish the eyes before you sleep.
Sugandha: Nose & the Earth element (Smell)
The predominant element for the sense organ nose is earth. Stepping outdoors to smell the earth, trees, rain, the grass or a flowering plant is nourishing for this sense. Or you can light an incense or an aroma candle. The transitory time of the morning is the best time to walk in the grass, tend to your garden and be close to nature. The practice of Jalneti is also extremely useful for taking care of the sense organ of nose. The nerve endings inside the passages work optimally as there is no excessive mucous lining covering it and it helps with the brain and its functions. The use of oil in the nose is also very helpful, especially if you live in a polluted environment, as it gives protection and does not let the nose dry out after the salt wash of the Neti Kriya. Ghee, Sesame oil, Coconut oil or Nasya Oil are used depending on the climate and need.
Sukatha: Skin & the Air element (Touch)
The sense organ of skin is predominant in the air element. Conscious movement of the body - by stepping off your bed and touching the ground to stimulate the sluggish lymphatic systems or the raising of your arms and feeling the stretching sensation in your skin are for this organ. It is also good to expose your skin to the rays of the early morning sun for 5 minutes.
Personal Abhyanga is one of the most valuable things you can do for taking care of and nourishing the skin. The touch, the oil, the direction of the massage are a few of the factors that help the flow of energy. The lubrication and the calming strokes to keep the lymph moving helps release toxins. Often after travel when you are feeling disoriented or dull because the Vata dosha (air) is off balance, massaging the feet or joints can help bring the balance back.
We can heal and nourish our entire elemental being through our five senses. The pathway to health is through the body, not in denial of it.
Sushabda: Ears & the Ether element (Hearing)
For the sense organ of ears, the predominant element is ether. The power of Nada or the pure vibrations from the uttering of a Vedic mantra or the sound of a chant falling upon your ears nourishes this sense. To empower the sense of sound we should learn to use it in nature, hear the birds, the bugs, the wind, the rain and the leaves. Through this alone we can learn to cultivate satva - balance within us.
Also experiencing quiet in the morning daily is going to allow the mind to settle down and to listen to voice within us so as to keep us even-tempered and equanimous through the day. This makes us more discriminating in our listening and we learn not to listen to any negativity. This helps us get to know the workings of our mind.
It is important to avoid loud speakers or jarring sounds. Traditional doctors use warmed Sesame oil for its anti-inflammatory property and its calming effect when poured into the outer ear canal. This procedure is called Karnapurna. Neuroscience shows that pure oil penetrates the brain through the nerve of the ear and carries nutrients to the nerves of hearing. It is prescribed usually for a patient suffering from dizziness or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). For easy self-care rubbing the inside of the ear with your finger with good quality Sesame oil is great for daily care.
Sumukha: Tongue & the Water element (Taste)
The predominant element for the sense organ of taste is water. For this sense organ it is good to chew on a few Tulsi leaves or have a tea infusion of herbs. Start with a tisane or Tulsi tea. Or water with Honey and Lemon. An easy way to take care of the sense of taste is a process called Gandusha, which is to rinse the mouth with sesame oil and then gargle with water.
Kavala or oil pulling is nourishing for the mucous membrane of the mouth and for the gums and teeth and it helps to relax the jaw. Sesame oil is recommended for its special absorptive qualities.
Tongue scraping, Jiva Nirlekhana, is another great way to take care of the tongue and the sense of taste. It helps digestion and removes toxins from the mouth, preventing them from entering the stomach. This will help you pay attention to your tongue coating and your stomach issues. It can be gently done twice a day.
To often eat things that are extremely sweet, extremely spicy, extremely salty, is to dull our sense of taste. Moderation will allow us to discern and experience all the six tastes. So, saying no to cravings and strong tastes gives you a broader experience of taste.
Take a moment of pause and attention in the mornings, before the world takes over, by choosing to consciously invite and honour the five senses or the Indriyas for the real work they do.
Treating my senses and treating myself better by taking care of my senses and sense organs, by being in tune with the natural rhythm of nature was a life changing and health and mind-altering change for me.