Why is Caring for our 5 Senses a KEY part of Ayurveda’s Daily Routine?

Why is Caring for our 5 Senses a KEY part of Ayurveda’s Daily Routine?

Ayurvedic Insights on Nurturing Your Senses for Health and Happiness - By Joanna Webber

Reading time: 4 minutes

We are constantly absorbing information via our senses. Ayurveda, the ancient ‘science of life’, understands that we can use sensory impressions to both maintain balance and treat health issues.

The Ayurvedic sages understood that we’re intimately connected with the universe as we are all made up of the same 5 core elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth. Humans can be thought of as a microcosm of the universal macrocosm. Each element is also linked with a sense organ, helping explain how misusing them has the power to affect our core being and cause disease. The most subtle element, ether, relates to hearing, air with touch, fire with vision, water with taste and earth relates to our ability to smell.

So, how can we look after our senses to stay happy and well? Ayurveda offers “three pillars of life” which must be respected to be healthy. These are proper digestion, sleep and Brahmacharya (proper management of sexual activities, the senses and energy).

This is often understood as maintaining celibacy but is a form of regulated lifestyle in which we use energy in a balanced way. A major cause of disease is known as Asatmyendriyartha samyoga (overindulgence and wrongful use of sense organs). It’s not hard to imagine how this might occur as:

  • Straining your eyes looking at screens can cause headaches (overuse)
  • Listening to very loud music and sounds can lead to hearing problems (misuse)
  • Lack of sunlight can trigger lethargy and a vitamin D deficiency (underuse)

However, there are many forms of positive sensory exercise in the Ayurvedic Dinacharya (daily routine). A big one is the practice of Yoga, the aim of which is to still the mind and senses, allowing us to get in touch with our inner selves. Indeed, one of the most important limbs of yoga is Pratyahara, the withdrawing of our senses from negative environmental influences.

Here are some simple ways to care for your sense organs each day:


Every sound influences our physical and mental health and music and mantra are valuable therapeutic tools for healing. You may have enjoyed classes with teachers who use the power of sound to calm the mind. So, enjoy chanting Om at the end of a class, tuning into some mantra recordings, listening to soothing music or get outside to enjoy birdsong?

Ayurveda advises Karana Purana (ear oiling) as a simple home remedy for your weekly routine. Simply put a few drops of warm sesame oil into each ear to balance the flow of Prana Vayu (one of the sub types of Vata dosha) which helps us feel calm at a deep level. This also maintains the health of the small bones of the inner ear, keeping our sense of hearing healthy and supporting cognitive function. It can also support with conditions such as insomnia, tinnitus, and vertigo.


We all know the power of a good hug when we need it. Ayurveda places great importance on a regular warm oil massage. Traditionally children were massaged weekly- indeed the Sanskrit word Sneha is translated as both ‘oil’ and ‘love’ as it is believed the effects of a good massage are the same as being saturated with love!

This is because it triggers the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals that produce feelings of wellbeing. Stress hormones are also reduced which, in turn, supports immunity. You may have noticed that regular massage allows you to do yoga postures that were previously challenging as it improves the flexibility of joints, helping Prana (life-force) flow in the body.

An Ayurvedic self-massage is best first thing in morning and takes about 20 minutes. If time is short, just focus on the head and feet, both of which contain many Marma (vital points) that connect with the rest of the body. Ayurveda favours ‘cured’ sesame oil for massage that has been heated to make it lighter, more easily absorbed and with a greater antioxidant effect, but you can use any oil.



What we see has an immediate effect. Just think about how you feel watching a scary movie, compared to gazing at a peaceful landscape. Ayurveda recommends we surround ourselves with uplifting scenes and nature. Colour therapy is also popular in Ayurveda with blue and green being seen as calming which is strongly supported by modern research.

Ayurveda has a soothing treatment for eyes, known as Netra Basti, whereby the eye is bathed in warm ghee which is incredibly restorative. Candle gazing is also to support eye health, based on the idea that the eyes are the instrument by which the mind and soul are reached. Parts of the brain not normally used become active, increasing our perception. It strengthens eyes, supporting weak eyesight and is an antidote to screen use.

Simply gaze at a steady flame without blinking. The candle should be placed so your head doesn’t look down. Breathe slowly to steady the mind. Its normal for your eyes to water a little when you first start - this is beneficial and cleansing for the eyes.


Ayurveda has a unique way of looking at nutrition in dividing food into six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these has a unique effect on our mind-body physiology. For example, the sweet taste found in complex carbohydrates brings a sense of contentment. By having the right balance of each taste, we are nourished and feel completely satisfied.

If one or more of the tastes are missing however, we may feel full but unsatisfied and snack between meals. We tend to favour sweet, sour, and salty tastes while neglecting pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, so make sure to include green leafy vegetables, herbs spices and pulses in each meal to ensure you’re getting these tastes.

Cleaning the tongue each morning is an effective way to enhance taste. Use a copper or silver tongue scraper, starting from the back and slowly scraping to the tip five times. This removes the coating of bacteria, plaque and oral debris, supporting oral hygiene. Ayurvedic texts also recommend daily morning Gandusha to enhance taste. Simply hold sesame oil in mouth for 1-2 minutes, gargle then spit.


Most of us take our noses for granted unless there is a problem, but the nose is essential to health and wellbeing. Smell connects us directly with our memories and emotions through the limbic (reptilian brain). You can think of your sense of smell as a healing tool. That’s one of the reasons why most of the spas and yoga centres use aromatherapy and incense to create a soothing, atmosphere. In Ayurveda, the main use of these essential oils is through inhalation to treat a variety of health issues. So, find which scents work for you and use them regularly.

Using a Neti pot* is a useful part of the morning routine to look after our sense of smell. This involves washing out the nasal passages with warm salt water. Ayurveda advises to put a little ghee or sesame oil in each nostril afterwards to help protect the delicate membrane. This is an especially important step as if the body senses dryness in the mucus membranes, it can form more mucus to counter this.

Your daily routine can really influence the way you feel and make a notable impact on your well-being. Making tiny shifts in the way you receive information through your senses, and how you look after them, can make a big difference in your health and happiness.

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joanna webber

Jo is an Ayurvedic practitioner, Yoga teacher and Co-founder of the Ayurveda Academy offering a range of engaging on-line courses.