We are excited to bring you another post in a comprehensive series on the practice of Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda Life’ is a weekly series of posts from some of the most influential Ayurvedic authors and organizations. We are proud to partner with Banyan Botanicals and hope that you enjoy and share these posts with your communities.
“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that developed together and repeatedly influenced each other throughout history. Yoga and Ayurveda work together to enhance their great benefits on all levels”.
“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley
WHAT IS YOUR TONGUE TELLING YOU ABOUT YOUR HEALTH?
When I was a little girl, my parents, who both were doctors, always asked me to show my tongue if I complained of not feeling well. I don’t know if you remember, but several decades ago doctors in Western hospitals also examined patients’ tongues as one of the first diagnostic steps.
More than 10 years later, I finally started to learn exactly what my parents and doctors were looking for. The tongue is a detailed health map. Our tongues change colors/shades, shape, and surface texture, providing a current health status update. Tongue analysis is an ancient health assessment technique that is still used in Chinese medicine and by Ayurvedic practitioners.
Much as in reflexology, different parts of the tongue correspond to different organs. As a mirror of the body’s digestive system, the tongue can reflect the toxicity level in the gut, show potential food sensitivities or a weak digestive fi re, point to malabsorption of nutrients, and reveal the health of other organs in the body.
Trained Ayurvedic practitioners will be able to provide a complete health analysis by examining a patient’s tongue. Dr. Vasant Lad, the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and one of my favorite Ayurvedic teachers, encourages everyone to learn the basic tongue diagnosis principles as they can serve as a useful health analysis tool.
Our tongues contain a wealth of information, and learning how to interpret the looks of our tongues can be very helpful in understanding our bodies on a deeper level. It is a great way to build a closer mind/body relationship. Any trusting healthy relationship has to be based on mutual understanding.
A daily look at the tongue helps us to become more aware of the effects of food on our body. The tongue doesn’t lie. It provides the feedback about last night’s dinner with full honesty first thing in the morning. This is your free daily health report.
The beauty of a tongue diagnosis is that its basics can be learned and applied by anyone to monitor their own health. While it might take years to learn the intricacies of tongue diagnosis, there are some general guidelines that anyone can use to evaluate general health and digestion.
Dr. Lad advises you to look at your tongue in the morning before brushing your teeth.
There are a few factors that are worth noting when you look at your tongue: shape, shadings, markings, wetness, texture, and coating. A healthy tongue should look like a kitten’s tongue or a young baby’s tongue: symmetrical and evenly pink. It should not tremble. It should have a thin, transparent coating. All the taste buds should be flat, orderly, and free from bumps, lines, cracks, and patches. It should not have foam, hair, fur, be too dry, or too wet, or have a foul odor or taste.
As a beginning tongue explorer, there are a few things you should pay attention to:
Tongue coating. Excessive coating usually means sluggish digestion and toxins in the colon. Depending on the food that you eat, coating will change from day to day. If you have a late night heavy dinner of pasta and wine, your tongue is more likely to be swollen and have a thicker coating. This is the way your body is trying to tell you that the digestive system might be overburdened. Knowing that your colon is full of material that doesn’t belong there, that spreads toxins into your blood, makes you sluggish, your skin dull, and your head foggy might be exactly what you were waiting for in order to change your diet. If you wake up with a heavily coated tongue, take a break from heavy, oily, and processed foods and choose foods that are easiest to digest until the coating clears up.
Dr. Lad strongly encourages the use of a tongue scraper on a daily basis. Why walk around with a ton of toxins if you can just scrape them off?
Scraping the tongue first thing in the morning removes overnight build-up of bacteria and toxins. Rather than brushing the tongue, which will only push bacteria and toxins into the tongue, scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper or spoon. You can use a metal or a copper one. To scrape your tongue, extend it out and place the scraper as far back on the tongue as comfortable.
Using one long stroke, gently pull the scraper forward so that it removes the unwanted coating on the tongue. Rinse the scraper and begin again if necessary. I usually do this five or six times.
Teeth imprints. Teeth imprints around the contour of the tongue can mean malabsorption of nutrients, inflammation, or too much salt in the diet. If your tongue has teeth imprints, your digestive system is not very happy. Most likely it is overloaded and weak. To stimulate digestion in a natural healthy way, add fresh ginger tea, avoid iced drinks, and start paying attention to food combining, which we will discuss later in the book.
Trembling tongue. This is a sign of anxiety or fear. We live in such a high-stress society that anxiety can crawl over you without you even being aware of it. It might even be your permanent state and you are so used to it that you can’t tell the difference. Time to take a break from caffeine, have some chamomile tea, and nourish your nervous system with warm and easy-to-digest light soups.
The changes on the tongue will show the effects of changes in your diet. You will be able to watch the changes on your tongue as you begin improving your diet and healing your digestion.
Nadya Andreeva is the author of the #1 Amazon best-selling book on digestive health for women Happy Belly: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Vibrant, Light, and Balanced. Professionally trained in mindful eating, yoga, and positive psychology, Nadya helps women create a healthy relationship with food that honors their body’s unique chemistry and eliminates bloating and irregularity. To learn more about improving your digestion, check out Nadya’s free Happy Belly cookbook
**Tongue Diagram images reproduced with permission from Ayurveda: Science of Self Healing, by Dr. Vasant Lad. Lotus Press, a division of Lotus Brands, Inc., PO Box 325, Twin Lakes, WI 53181, USA, lotuspress.com ©1984 All Rights Reserved.