I’ve gotten into a lot of bizarre rituals since becoming a yoga teacher; however, bizarre is quite relative, no? For instance, I do not find it strange that I kick-start every morning by swishing coconut oil in my mouth for 10-20 minutes. My family and occasional house guests, do.
It’s become a household joke actually; my mom’s husband claims this is the best time for him to bring up controversial discussions, to which I reply with a mock squish of my cheeks with my fingers. My mom tried once and really wanted to like it, but she was overcome with gag reflex instead. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
It was last year during Spark Yoga’s first 40-Day Detox that I decided to finally give oil pulling a try. I tell you what, I couldn’t bring myself to stop! Almost instantly I started getting compliments on the whiteness of my teeth, which has never ceased to astound me. I continue to feel clear-headed and my mouth is fresh like crisp Himalayan mountain air.
Abhinav Singh and Bharathi Purohit are practioners and advocates of traditional Indian medicine, or Ayurveda. They are associates from the Department of Public Health Dentistry and the People's College of Dental Sciences and Research Centre in Bhopal, India, and they claim a slew of benefits may result from oil pulling. According to Singh and Purohit, “oil therapy is preventative as well as curative” for a number of chronic illnesses, including asthma and digestive issues, as well as acne, gingivitis, allergies, flu, headaches and so on. The premise on which this method works is the Ayurvedic assertion that the “tongue is connected to different organs such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine”, similar to the principles of massage or reflexology. Moreover, Singh and Purohit assert that the “exciting aspect of this healing method is its simplicity”--- score!
- Spoon a small-ish tablespoon of either (cold-pressed, unrefined) coconut or sesame oil into your mouth upon waking. Do not drink, eat, or brush anything beforehand! This should be the very first thing you do.
- Gently roll the oil around in your mouth for a period of time, working up to 20 minutes.
- Spit the oil into preferably the trash as the oil will solidify at room temperature and possibly clog sink pipes.
- Scrape your tongue for any gummy residue using either a spoon or an actual tongue scraper. This is my favorite part; it is super gross, but incredibly gratifying.
- Brush, brush, brush!
- Say, “Ahhhh” and smile. You just gave your mouth the gift of sparkle.
So, no need to start with 20 whole minutes a day. Start with five and increase gradually until you don’t even notice the time anymore. Personally, I use this time to prepare my morning smoothie and hot beverages, check emails, or figure out which yoga pants I’ll be wearing for the day.
If gag reflex is a thing for you, try less oil. My mom had a hard time with the semi-solid state of the coconut oil in her mouth; I personally like chomping on it for a few seconds until it melts. But maybe I’m weird. So try heating the oil jar in a pot of hot water until it liquefies before pouring the oil onto a spoon.
- Erin Nichole
Singh, Abhinav and Bharathi Purohit. Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health. J Ayurveda Integrative Medicine. 2011 Apr-Jun; 2(2): 64–68. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131773/