Ritual allows us to enter sacred space with awareness to flow. There is often a point of focus at the center of a ritual in present time that helps us to reclaim our spirituality. Performing rituals is simply a tool to reawaken this aspect of our being. Carrying out rituals provides a signal to the body to begin physiological and energetic changes to initiate change by aiming for an altered state of consciousness conducive to self-exploration and reprogramming.
Ancient cultures have used dance rituals for many purposes, including health. Traditionally, members of a village would dance to experience communion with each other, their ancestors, spirits, the earth and the cosmos.
During a dance ceremony, participants have experienced visions, healings and even ecstasy. Dance therapy is a form of movement therapy that is often used to help both health professionals and individuals dealing with illness.
The movement and expression of emotions through dance rituals, creates positive changes in their attitudes and even their will to live. The best thing about dance is that you can do it anytime and without training or spending a lot of money.
Oil Pulling Ritual
Oil pulling is very popular right now, but it is actually an ancient Ayurvedic ritual. It’s a pretty simple process. You simply put a teaspoon of oil in your mouth, then you swish it around pulling it through your teeth for about 15-20 minutes. The oil – you can use coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil – cleans your teeth and mouth by activating enzymes to draw out the toxins.
Be sure to spit the oil out when you are done. Don’t swallow it! Spit into the trash or outside in the grass so you won’t clog your sink.
Then, you can gently massage your gums and teeth with your finger. A side benefit of oil pulling is that you may notice whiter teeth.
Burning sage, or smudging, is a cleansing ritual that you can use to purify your personal space, such as your home, office, or your body.
It has been said to provide wisdom, clarity and spiritual awareness. Again, smudging doesn’t have to involve an elaborate ceremony. Simply set your intention to purify your space, then place your sage in an abalone shell or clay pot, light the sage stick and walk around taking the smoke throughout your space. White sage is best for this practice.
If you like the idea of yin-yang balance, you can burn incense after saging. Sage has a yang/masculine quality and the incense brings in the feminine/yin qualities to balance your space. Dispose of any ashes with intention. For example, you can take them outside and offer them to the Earth.
You can also use bells or simply clap your hands as a way to end the ritual.
Try doing this once per week at the beginning of a new week to cleanse the old week’s energy. Then, after a few weeks notice if the energy of your space has become lighter and calmer.
Fire ceremonies exist in many medicine traditions. They are typically held around the full or new moon of each month. Fire is symbolic of letting go of the old drama and birthing a new story.
Before your fire ceremony, create an offering to burn. This can consist of small sticks that represent whatever it is you need to let go of. Or, you could burn pieces of paper on which you’ve written what you want to release. You can even burn pictures. Use your intuition here.
When you place your old beliefs into the fire, you honor them as your lessons then turn them over to spirit. Fire takes the solid form of matter and transforms it into smoke, which wafts away in the air. This process allows you to heal deeply at the level of the soul. Pay attention to how the ashes go up into the air.
It can be pretty magical and dramatic!
Meditation is another popular ritual these days – for good reason. The health benefits of a daily meditation practice are significant, including decreased cortisol, weight loss, decreased anxiety, lower heart rate, and even less pain. So basically any health condition that is worsened by stress – which is all of them! – can be helped with meditation.
Again, your meditation practice does not have to be a long or involved ritual. Just sitting with your eyes closed or slightly open and focusing on your breath for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes before you go to bed will benefit your health.
Breathing exercises can be a form of meditation. The physical benefit of bringing more oxygen into your body helps on many levels.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing brings increased amounts of oxygen into your lungs and helps to give your body more vital energy. Belly breathing massages your internal organs and helps improve digestion.
Kapalabhati breath is a yogic breathing technique that can help you release stress and toxins. To do this, you use your abdominal muscles to pull in your belly and then force your air out in repeated short exhalations until all your air is expelled. This can actually tone your abdomen! There are many other forms of breathing exercises you can try as well. You may want to ask a knowledgeable yoga instructor for more information.
Buteyko breathing has been shown to improve asthma and allergies. You’ll find information on YouTube for how to do this.
Sweat lodges are an ancient form of sauna where people sweated to heal physically, mentally and spiritually. From a physical standpoint, your skin is the largest organ of detoxification. Sweating allows toxins to be released from your body through your sweat glands. Of course, today you don’t need to go to a sweat lodge to benefit from this practice. Try a sauna or take a hot Epsom salt bath.
Rituals of Pleasure
In his research on hundreds of healthy centenarians all over the world, Dr. Mario Martinez found that every one of them participate in daily rituals of pleasure. This could be enjoying your morning coffee, savoring a small glass of whiskey at 5PM daily or a cigar every Saturday with friends, or breaking bread with family at dinner.
Though we tend to think of some of these rituals as distinctly unhealthy, it’s hard to argue with someone who is thriving at age 100 plus. But remember, none of these individuals over-indulge. They simply enjoy their drink or their smoke at the same time of day in community. And stop with just one!