Ayurveda: Exploring the Five Senses

Ayurvedic practitioners and yoga teachers both agree that you are likely to feel healthier in your mind and body when your senses are being properly nourished. The five senses I speak of are taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell—each one helping you experience this rich and colourful world in a new and different way. It’s quite natural to have more affinity for one sense or sensual experience over another; for example, some people are really drawn to eating for pleasure and satisfaction and don’t enjoy listening to music, while others live for music and have no vibrant appetite for food.

In order to experience more in life and in your environment, consider stepping out of your usual “sense routines.” First, become aware of which senses you naturally gravitate towards. Do you love eating and trying new foods? Is hearing your strong sense and you can’t wait for a new song from your favourite band? Do you crave human touch or love tactile sensations, like feeling a warm towel wrapped around you? Is smell your strong sense and you can still smell the inside of your Grandmother’s house without being there? Or, does the sight of the sun setting over the ocean profoundly affect you?

Once you have some awareness around which of your five senses are most robust, you can begin to strengthen your connection to the other senses. Depending on which of the senses you would like to explore, this month, consider trying new foods, massage, colours, sounds and smells in order to become more familiar with your whole self. It may help to try these new sensual experiences with a friend.

For starters, you might begin with a simple walk outside in your neighbourhood. Eventually, your short walk might grow into spending more time outside in green spaces, city parks, beaches, or a wilderness area where you are completely surrounded by nature. Spending this time away from cars, computers, people, city noise, and pollution can help you drop into a slower rhythm where you can better connect with your senses, like noticing how things look in natural light and smell outdoors in their own ecosystem. You can experience what food tastes like when eating outdoors as well as focus on the feeling of your skin as your pores drink in some of nature’s Vitamin D. I bet you can imagine how you may feel more like your natural self by spending time outside, more calm and peaceful. Slowing down is an essential step to balancing all five senses.

Following are some thoughts and ideas around the five senses and how to explore a deeper connection with each of them:

Taste – Food

During the winter months, explore some new foods with bitter, pungent, and astringent taste. Examples include (but are not limited to): arugula, dandelion greens, beet greens, beets, carrots, apples, cranberries, pears, squash, millet, quinoa, chickpeas, red lentils, tofu, soaked almonds, cardamom, cayenne, curry powder, allspice, and turmeric as well as chamomile, jasmine, and peppermint tea. If eating is what you are drawn to when stressed, emotional, or tired, try to engage with one of your other sense organs first then come back to food if you are still not satisfied.

Touch – Massage

Start your day with a head-to-toe warm oil massage. Self-massage is called abhyanga in Ayurveda and is one of the most valuable and celebrated tools to bring your dosha back into balance. Rubbing warm oil into your skin before showering will help nourish and repair dry skin, calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and improve circulation. After the oil is massaged into your skin, enjoy a hot shower to allow the oil to be absorbed into your skin and cells. Once you feel comfortable doing this yourself, consider giving this gift to another as a Valentine’s Day treat. There are many varieties of oils to choose from. For starters you might try raw organic sesame oil. After that you may want to explore your local health food store or natural pharmacy to see which Ayurvedic aromatherapy/medicinal blends they offer and which seem appealing to you.

Smell – Aromatherapy

Experience the healing power of nature via the sense of smell and essential oils. Whether you use the oils in a diffuser, mixed with oil or bath salts, or in a spray, tune into the subtle changes in your mind, body, and spirit when you inhale nature’s treasures. Let the smell take you on a journey into your subtle channels (nadis), imagination, and heart for satisfaction and sukha (good space).

  • Energising smells for winter include: eucalyptus, peppermint, pinon pine, rosemary, and tea tree
  • Anti-depressants: bergamot, clary sage, mandarin and patchouli
  • Warming oils for winter: cinnamon, ginger, thyme, oregano, tulsi or sage(If you’re looking for a recommendation, I love Floracopeia’s line of essential oils.)

Visual – Colour

Do you notice that certain colours make you feel dull or depressed while others make you happy? If you are not sure, pay close attention to the colours you are attracted to this month and see how you feel when wearing black vs. wearing colours. Wearing warmer colours like orange, yellow, and red often help lift the spirits in winter and may help balance or reduce any S.A.D. symptoms if you struggle with this. Experiment with the colour of your clothing during winter and begin to notice the effect of colour and visual stimulus on your mood and emotions.

Sound – Music

Listening to music is one of my all-time favourite tools to bring myself into balance. Begin to notice what type of music you like to listen to when you are happy, sad, depressed, or confused. Does your music change as your emotional state changes? Consider the “like increases like, opposite decreases” sutra here and experiment to see if your version of “happy music” helps to lift your spirits on a cold rainy day or whether you feel more centred and peaceful listening to heavy, grounding music on a wintery day. For the month of February, notice what music you listen to and what craving might behind your Pandora station or playlist.

Written by Melina Meza, BS Nutrition, 500-RYT, has been exploring the art and science of yoga and nutrition for over 18 years. She combines her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, whole foods nutrition, and healthy lifestyle promotion into a unique style called Seasonal Vinyasa.